published Saturday, September 8th, 2012

Thrive 2055 gets director for the Chattanooga region

Ron Harr talks about his vision for job growth in the region. Harr is to be the new CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.
Ron Harr talks about his vision for job growth in the region. Harr is to be the new CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.
Photo by Tim Barber.

PLANNING PANEL

• Brian Anderson, Greater Dalton Chamber of Commerce

• Steve Anglea, Georgia Power

• Becky Barnes, Hamilton County Health Department

• Dan Bowers, Allied Arts

• Diana Bullock, EPB

• Daniel Carter, University of the South

• Bruz Clark, Lyndhurst Foundation

• Eliza DeLaughter, Alliance Physical Therapy

• Steve Dillard, Dillard Construction

• Bob Doak, Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Bureau

• Chuck Dobbins, Shaw Industries

• Gary Farlow, Cleveland Bradley Chamber of Commerce

• Vicky Gregg, BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

• Stacy Johnson, La Paz Chattanooga

• Jill Levine, Normal Park Museum Magnet School and Normal Park Museum Magnet Upper School

• Betsy McCright, Chattanooga Housing Authority

• James McKissic, Chattanooga Urban League

• Denny Mobbs, attorney

• Mike Moon, Don Moon Building and Developing

• Jeff Myers, Hamilton Health Care System Inc.

• Jeff Pruitt, Top of Alabama Regional Council of Governments

• Honna Rogers, Signal Mountain

• Matt Ryerson, United Way of Bradley County

• Janet Spraker, UTC

• Jack Studer, Lamp Post Group

• Edna Varner, Public Education Foundation

• Connie Vaughan, McKee Foods

• Tom Edd Wilson, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce

Ex-officio staff representatives:

• John Bridger, Regional Planning Agency

• Beth Jones, Southeast Tennessee Development District

Source: Chattanooga Chamber

A first-ever 16-county planning effort for the Chattanooga region, dubbed Thrive 2055, is picking up speed with the hiring of a director and naming of a key oversight panel.

Aimed at creating a 40-year growth plan for the area over the next three years, Thrive 2055 has raised more than $2.5 million of a proposed $3 million budget, officials said.

"We're definitely moving ahead," said Ron Harr, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's incoming chief executive.

Newly hired project director Bridgett Massengill said it's important to engage people in the wide area that includes counties in Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama.

A 28-member coordinating committee will gather regularly, she said. The group's meetings will be open to the public, Massengill said, and it will aid in communicating with officials in the region.

Possibly starting later this year, working groups of people will convene, she said. They'll discuss topics the plan is to examine such as transportation, workforce, education, economic development and environmental sustainability.

Massengill, 37, formerly was executive director of the Development Authority in Johnson City, Tenn., and headed her own consulting firm.

To aid Massengill and the new initiative, a Cincinnati-based consultant, McBride Dale Clarion, will help gather regional data and facilitate the working groups.

McBride also will handle social media outreach, which is seen as another way of spurring dialogue.

J.Ed. Marston, the Chamber's vice president of marketing, said the final product will include an "action plan" for the 16-county area.

"It's very much like a business plan for the region," he said.

Chattanooga and Hamilton County each have committed $500,000 to the planning effort while local foundations are investing $1 million, officials said. The Chamber also has raised $540,000 from the private sector. Work continues to reach the initiative's $3 million budget.

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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