published Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Chattanooga officials develop economic growth plan


* Volkswagen — 2,000-2,500

* VW suppliers — 525

* Amazon — 1,249 full-time; 1,500 to 2,000 part-time

* Erlanger — 35-45

Source: Companies, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce

Grappling with growth caused by companies such as Volkswagen, Alstom and Amazon, Chattanooga area economic development officials and political leaders Wednesday laid the groundwork for a long-term strategy.

"It's taking Chattanooga to another level," said Tom Edd Wilson, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's chief executive. "Success is a wonderful thing. It also can bring challenges."

About 150 people showed up at a meeting to kickstart an effort which Chamber officials say could lead to a 35- to 50-year road map to sustainable growth.

The first-ever Hamilton Countywide initiative is part of the Chamber's new job-growth program dubbed "Chattanooga Can Do: Building Tomorrow Today."

Robert Grow, founding chairman emeritus of the regional visioning group Envision Utah, said the aim of such efforts is to help members of the public and decision makers understand the long-term consequences of choices being made now.

"There are cities all across America that would change places with you to have this challenge of growth," he said.

Grow said Chattanooga already has a strong history of visioning programs, citing the Chattanooga Venture effort and Vision 2000 initiative in the mid-1980s that helped spur riverfront and downtown redevelopment.

Mayor Ron Littlefield called Chattanooga "the most transformed city in America."

"We're facing an unprecedented season of change," he said. "We will either do it right or it could go very, very, very wrong."

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Chattanooga, said it's key to sustain growth in the area, and true growth will come from businessmen and women.

County Mayor Jim Coppinger said he wants to "sustain the momentum" of the area.

Wilson said that while the Chamber is only earmarking $185,000 for the effort, it plans to raise over $1 million from the private sector.

The initiative wouldn't just deal with long-term, land-use planning, but with issues such as population density, growth patterns and future road infrastructure and the financing of it, officials said.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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