published Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Developing ‘Chattanoogaland’


Greater Chattanooga Regional Growth Initiative has named a task force to pick a planning consultant:

• Corinne Allen, Benwood Foundation president

• Brian Anderson, Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce CEO

• Mike Babb, Whitfield County board of commissioners chairman

• Bruz Clark, Lyndhurst Foundation president

• Pete Cooper, Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga president

• Jim Coppinger, Hamilton County mayor

• D. Gary Davis, Bradley County mayor

• Gary Farlow, Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce CEO

• Ron Harr, immediate past Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce chairman

• Beth Jones, Southeast Tennessee Development District executive director

• Ron Littlefield, Chattanooga mayor

• Tom McCallie, Maclellan Family Foundations representative

• Tom Edd Wilson, Chattanooga Chamber CEO

Source: Greater Chattanooga Regional Growth Initiative

After German automaker BMW set up a plant near Greenville, S.C., in the mid-1990s, officials said the region grew so fast that developers were paving over land equal to almost one mall every day.

With Volkswagen’s new Chattanooga plant and other key companies helping fuel faster growth in this region, officials in a 16-county area are eyeing how to avoid a fate like Greenville’s while still spurring economic momentum.

“Long-term, we need to be looking at the transportation system and other ties we have with each other — financial, the labor market, education systems and how they interact with each other,” said Gary Farlow, who heads the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.

The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce included creation of a 35- to 50-year growth plan in its newest jobs initiative unveiled late last year dubbed “Chattanooga Can Do: Building Tomorrow Today.”

A consortium of area leaders, looking for a long-term blueprint unlike anything the region has seen, has sought qualifications from planning consultants nationally. It has drawn 17 responses, said J.Ed. Marston, the Chattanooga Chamber’s vice president for marketing.

He said a committee is culling through the responses, and by late summer officials of what’s known as the Greater Chattanooga Regional Growth Initiative hope to bring on board a consultant.

According to the effort, planning is expected to be completed in 36 months or less. While the plan is to have about a 40-year horizon, the most critical period will be the next 10 years.


Marston said the consortium makeup is about equal parts government, business and philanthropic.

“We’d been hearing from people in the community from different perspectives about the realization we’re going through a time of opportunity,” he said. “We want to maintain the momentum and preserve the things we love about our community.”

Chattanooga led other major Tennessee cities in job growth over the past year, thanks in large part to the VW auto assembly plant, a state economist said earlier in the year.

The Chattanooga metropolitan area’s employment growth rose nearly 1.5 percent during 2010, University of Tennessee economist Bill Fox told a legislative group in Nashville.

But, the Chattanooga area still is recovering like the rest of Tennessee and the country from the Great Recession.

So far, Tennessee’s economy has gotten back about half the 212,000 jobs lost during the recession and it could take another two years before all the losses are erased, officials said.

At the same time, the Chattanooga area has captured not just VW but more than a dozen of its suppliers. In addition, other major firms such as Alstom, Wacker Chemical and Amazon are creating jobs.

Additionally, Chattanooga has completed what officials said is the nation’s largest 100 percent fiber-optic network, providing homes and businesses in the region with hyper-fast Internet speeds seen as attracting technology investments in coming years.

Brian Anderson, who heads the Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce, said he’s a big supporter of regional planning.

“Chattanooga is ... potentially one of the faster-growing communities in the Southeast,” he said. “We’re a part of the economy of the region even though we’re in Georgia.”


Anderson said he sees the planning initiative as an effort to ask the right questions and bring in an analysis and data from which officials can learn.

The group will look at ways to improve education, economic growth and roads, utilities and other infrastructure, he said.

“Our chance to be a part of the process is a breath of fresh air,” Anderson said.

Farlow said there are commonalties in the region, with its work force as a major one.

“There are a lot of things like that which I see as something that can be looked at from a regional level,” he said.

Farlow said that by drawing major employers such as Volkswagen and Wacker, that changes the perception about regionalism. The shift should help prevent territorial turf wars in the tri-state, 16-county region, he said.

“With VW and Wacker and other bigger industries, our local leaders are beginning to view themselves as regional more than in the past,” he said.

Farlow said he views that as a positive.

“We still have to take care of business at home, but it’s a good thing to work together,” he said.

Anderson said developing the regional plan gives officials a chance to talk about economic development when entities are not competing for a project.

“It’s easy to become territorial and protect turf,” he said.

The Whitfield Chamber chief said the regional initiative can look at what land is available for big projects.

He said, for example, Chattanooga may not have another huge greenfield site, but McMinn County, Tenn., or Walker County, Ga., might.

“If a plant goes in Walker County, people [who work at the plant] may live in Chattanooga or shop in Chattanooga .... Chattanooga still wins,” Anderson said.


To fund the effort, the Chattanooga Chamber’s “Can Do” plan is to earmark $185,000. The business group also aims to raise $1 million from the private sector.

Also, officials hope to garner federal Sustainable Communities grant funding in the range of $3 million to $5 million over three years starting in 2012.

“Fundraising is a work in progress,” Marston said. “We’ve got initial commitments from a number of funding partners.” He said it’s too early to reveal their names.

At a recent meeting between federal and local officials, a senior adviser at the U.S. Housing and Urban Development said that Sustainable Community grant overseers want to view a good effort to garner the money.

“Though this region has prospered, everybody would attest to the fact that there is unfinished business,” said Salin Geevarghese, a Chattanooga native and the HUD adviser.

HUD is looking for the winner to adhere to six “livability principles,” which include more transportation choices, affordable housing, enhanced economic competitiveness, support for existing communities, coordinated policies and investment in safe neighborhoods.

If the Sustainable Communities grant doesn’t come, the planning effort is to continue on a scaled-back level, according to the initiative.

Officials said that slipping back into the complacency that marked Chattanooga in the middle of last century isn’t acceptable.

“I don’t think we’re in any danger of being overconfident, because the struggle to get here is still fresh in many minds,” said Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield.

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 ...

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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marystalcup said...

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June 12, 2011 at 1:27 a.m.
heneh said...

Planning for the future is very important and I am glad Chattanooga is working on this but would like to mention one word of caution. Lots of cities across the country are running into problems with “expert planners” who want to use government to control private property rights and restrict choices we have been given under the Constitution to conform to their vision of “Smart Growth and Sustainable Development” Not everyone wants to live in an apartment, condo or in a small house with 1/16 of an acre in the city. Some people enjoy living in the suburbs or on five or ten acres of land. It is called individual freedom to choose what makes them happy. That was one of the main things the Founders of our country had in mind in writing the Constitution. George Washington stated “Private property and freedom are inseparable.” So planner take notice property rights are important to the people of Hamilton County and we expect you to keep that in mind while doing you planning of the future.

June 12, 2011 at 2:01 p.m.
nucanuck said...


Property rights should be respected, but so too should costs for services be higher based on density and distance that services must be run. ie Someone wanting a building permit for a large outlying site should pay vastly more for that permit than someone in a dense,close-in neighborhood. Utility,road and public services cost far more to install and maintain the further they must be run.

Currently that cost differential is most likely being averaged and absorbed by the cheaper (closer in) to service properties, creating a form of subsidy for outlying lower density areas.

That should be corrected.

June 13, 2011 at 2:18 a.m.
heneh said...

So it that the plan? We will be prevented from living outside the city by way of taxes? If we have a septic field, pay for our own garbage pickup, pay the volunteer fire department and drive our children to school or homeschool then what is the big expense? We would be paying county taxes as we do now. Whatever your plan is just be plain about it from the start and let the people vote or do we get to vote on any of this? I have done lots of research on this and know where it's going.

June 13, 2011 at 2:08 p.m.
Galactus said...

Interesting perspectives from Hehe and Nananuk. I guess what it boils down to is what one wants and what believes are the principles of this country. Under the mantra of 'Sustainability', looks as if anything is a good idea. Like urban settlements and forcing mass transit. Looking closely at our great successes in urban developments (Detroit, Los Angeles, etc. ), not much to crow about there. Taking a close look at the Constitution (formerly understood by Americans as the law of the land and foundation of the nation), it appears as if individual rights are paramount. If a person or family chooses to live outside of the urban box city, perhaps for personal safety or quality of life, that is a personal choice not a burden on society. It just amazes me that people like Nananuck believe freedom should somehow cost more. We should charge those in rural areas more for electricity or police protection or whatever. That's what the free market economy can handle. We do not need so-called leaders who most often have made a mess of anything they ever tried to lead dictating policies that remove liberty or promote 'Save Our Earth' nonsense. But if you choose that, well maybe the rural folks shouldn't burden the highway system or use fuel by sending in food to all those urban utopia dwellers. Bottom line is that it's all about forcing change on people to further control what the do, where they live and where they go. The problem with those promoting these ideas is that they can never be truthful because if they are, they would be lose. So, they deceive their way into people's lives under false pretenses. It's now so fashionable for city mayors, politicos and 'sustainables' to care less for preserving liberty rather than fostering their own aims and further gaining control. Many, I suspect, have little real clue the cost of liberty or the ones who have helped provide it. Wake up!

June 13, 2011 at 3:08 p.m.
chestnutt said...

Residents need to be leary of these "Plans". I don't believe the likes of Jim Coppinger to be savvy with the overall UN-based plan that he seems to be aspiring to. Agenda 21 is real and is now in our face. Your freedoms and choices are slowly being eroded a chunk at a time, seeminly with no uprising or boycott. EPB has begun forcing "Smart Meters" upon us without choice. That is the first step towards a total government takeover. You laugh and say that's silly. Ask the folks in California with Pacific Gas & Electric. It's here to stay. Demand your officials to know what they are leading us into and, by the way, STAY ENGAGED yourself. This is a very slippery slope that we're on.

June 13, 2011 at 5:59 p.m.
nucanuck said...


You don't have to be an economist to understand that to construct and maintain roads and utilities for a 60' road front costs less than a 100' or a 400' front. My point is that a rural road costs about the same to build and typically has a smaller number of homes contributing to the common costs. The lower the density the more each property owner's fair share would/should cost. Front footage should probably be part of the tax equation for property taxes.

Also, of course, in Hamilton County, city tax payers pay to keep up county roads, but county residents don't return the favor. This can only be considered a subsidy/welfare contribution by city residents to their county neighbors.

Sweet deal for now.

June 13, 2011 at 7:09 p.m.
Galactus said...

As to the taxes, the city, as typical of most 'urban' governments fritters away money on arts and other such agenda items while when you need ambulance service, that is not a city service, it's county. Interesting. Now as for costs of the roads, the city does nothing to care for the roads out in Harrison. Also, amazing how hungry the city was for money when it decided not to continue the tax sharing agreement. But it sure can continue to fund arts and tree planting, etc. I think folks who just aren't capable of making decisions for themselves and need government to tell them where to live, when to travel, what to drive and so forth should live in those communes. If only they could do so without needing the money from all those in suburbs to fund their bondage and bankroll their masters. With such thinking, this nation would still speak with a British accent and serve the crown. Unfortunately, this pipe dream they embrace would be dead without capitalist money. I can understand how some people can be fooled, but if they would do some honest searching, they may just be able to see what a coming tyranny they are pushing. Even sadder is so-called journalists who don't even tell the truth and are more culpable in fostering our demise. I'll keep liberty. All the socialists (every state ever who tried it has failed) who foolishly want the government and organizations like the UN to dictate their lives will just keep holding their hand out and wanting more. Hope and change indeed. Look at the former Eastern Bloc countries which I have seen many times - what you're planning is just a newer version.

June 13, 2011 at 9:14 p.m.
Galactus said...

Oh yeah, you did forget these rural neighbors pay property taxes for the land they own and still are the ones who feed the urban utopiates. Maybe, the city can invest in a bunch of 'Topsy Turvies' and the food shortage would no longer be an issue. I ask you to think before you buy into this plan. It will result in a bad end, but I feel many are just too brainwashed to see it. As to the unconsiousable agenda and plans of the city leadership, another time.

June 13, 2011 at 9:21 p.m.
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