By Ian Berry
The candidates for Hamilton County Commission District 2 have different views on economic development in the region and on the future of Enterprise South.
Richard Casavant, the Republican incumbent, said the county should tend to its small businesses, but that it’s much too soon to give up on a major tenant at Enterprise South. The industrial park recently has been put into play as a possible site for a major manufacturer.
“You have to kiss a lot of frogs to meet the prince,” Dr. Casavant said during a meeting with the Times Free Press editorial board.
His opponent, Libertarian Joe Dumas, said in a separate meeting that right now the county is focusing too much on “that one big fish” rather than on developing smaller companies.
“We shouldn’t be trying to catch a shark,” said Dr. Dumas, who will be on the ballot as an independent. “We should be trying to catch a lot of trout.”
He said the county’s future lies more with small to midsized companies and start-ups. But he said it’s “always good to have a hook out for Toyota, in case they bite.”
Both candidates live on Signal Mountain and work at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; Dr. Casavant is dean of the business school, while Dr. Dumas is a professor of computer science and electrical engineering.
Dr. Casavant said the area’s three different agencies focused on tourism need to be “at least” consolidated. Asked how others view Chattanooga, he said the problem is they don’t view us at all.
“Winn-Dixie are the beef people because they say they are,” Dr. Casavant said. “What do we say we are? The answer’s not clear.”
But he said the region does a better job pursuing business now than it did three or four years ago. Dr. Casavant also said he thinks the market will define Chattanooga on its own.
Dr. Dumas said he would like to see the region pursue high-tech businesses that provide synergy with each other and UTC. He also emphasized protecting small businesses here, and he said the county can’t tax or regulate them out of business.
“I think first of all, more important than anything, we need to keep our existing businesses,” Dr. Dumas said.
He said any employer wants to locate in an area with good schools, but he said in Hamilton County’s case that doesn’t mean increased funding. He noted he has a brother-in-law who works at a Hyundai plant in Montgomery, Ala.
“Do you think Hyundai located in Montgomery, Alabama, because Montgomery, Alabama, has great schools?” Dr. Dumas asked. “I promise you they’re not as good as ours.”
District 2 represents Signal Mountain and Lookout Mountain, as well as parts of Red Bank and North Chattanooga. The county general election is Aug. 3. Dr. Dumas will be on the ballot as an independent.
E-mail Ian Berry at firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: To hear podcasts of Richard Casavant’s and Joe Dumas’ meetings with the Times Free Press editorial board, go to tfponline.com