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A crowd of employees gather to watch bank leaders cut a ribbon at the new Hancock Whitney Bank headquarters at 701 Poydras St. in New Orleans, La. Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. After 108 years, the 600 employees of what is now Hancock Whitney Bank are leaving the company's iconic St. Charles Avenue complex and moving to 701 Poydras St. which was formerly known as One Shell Square and is now renamed Hancock Whitney Center.

Ernst & Young said Monday it will more than double its workforce in downtown New Orleans, adding another floor to the space it is leasing in the Hancock Whitney Center at 701 Poydras St. to house the additional 200 white collar workers.

EY, one of the "Big Four" accounting firms, with its headquarters in London, in the United Kingdom, said 175 of the new jobs will be part of its "National Executive Assistance Team," which will make it one of five such centers in the country that provide back office support for the firm's functional lines of business, such as audit and transaction advice. The other 25 jobs will be in EY's "risk services" division, adding to the firm's 180 jobs already located in the Hancock Whitney Center.

New Orleans was tapped for the new back office center, which will require lease of an additional 41,000 square feet of space, because of "the city’s exceptional pool of qualified and diverse talent, its strong sense of community, and its attractive economic conditions," EY said in a statement.

The firm's senior partner in Louisiana, Brian Rotolo, added that "the opening of our NEAT center, as well as the renovation of our office space, underscores our firm’s commitment to this market and to our people.”

The EY expansion did not come with any specific tax incentive package, such as was negotiated for the location of DXC's "technology center" in the Central Business District last year, according to state officials. They will be eligible for job-creating tax breaks under Enterprise Zone and similar programs, which are widely available.

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The news will come as a relief to some real estate analysts, including Corporate Realty, which had expressed worry that the Central Business District's big office developments maybe running out of momentum, after being supported by a number of upgrades by companies — including Hancock Whitney Bank — into the bigger downtown offices from smaller premises that are earmarked for conversion to hotels and condominiums.

The move was welcomed by state and local politicians and business leaders as a sign that the local economy continues to diversify.

“I’m proud to see a global powerhouse like EY investing in New Orleans this way,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell said, adding that placing the NEAT center here and more than doubling the workforce is a vote of confidence in the city.

Governor John Bel Edwards also praised the move and said he expects further expansion of the professional services sector after the EY decision. Louisiana Economic Development, the state's business support agency, estimates that the additional EY expansion will create 97 indirect jobs.

EY already has closed its entry-level administrative assistant recruitment drive for the NEAT center, which it advertised two weeks ago.

The company was looking for people with a bachelor's degree and one year of experience and described the work of the executive assistant as providing "diversified administrative support to a variety of client-serving and 'core business services professionals.' " Specific tasks would include managing calendars, setting up calls and meetings, processing expense reports and fielding clients' requests, all in a remote, digital environment.

"These investments will encourage our people to grow as professionals and to produce their best work," creating opportunities for advancement, said Rotolo.

“We are pleased to work with EY as they continue to expand in the New Orleans market, providing even more professional opportunities for greater New Orleans residents,” said President and CEO Michael Hecht of Greater New Orleans Inc., which coordinated the talks with EY. “The firm’s growth and commitment to the city is another example of the excellent environment that New Orleans provides for businesses, including its skilled workforce, low operating costs and outstanding quality of life.”


Follow Anthony McAuley on Twitter, @AnthonyMcAuley2.