published Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Berke: A recovery for the middle class

Andy Berke

With his visit to Chattanooga, President Obama could not have picked a better place to highlight the economic recovery already in place and the need for all of us to work together to bolster the middle class. The president’s plan ignites a needed discussion on how we spur a renaissance in manufacturing, make strategic investments in technology, education and infrastructure, and create new ladders of opportunity for Chattanooga, for Tennessee, and for the nation.

In many ways, Chattanooga is not very different from industrial cities throughout the nation. We boomed in the 1950s and 1960s only to see sharp economic declines in the 1970s and 1980s. Good jobs in steel and textile mills went overseas. In the 1980s, Chattanooga lost more than 10 percent of our population, and we headed the way of dozens of other U.S. cities where economic decline foreshadowed abandonment.

But we came back. With a strong partnership between local government and our civic sector, Chattanooga began its rise again in the 1990s — becoming the only U.S. city with more than 100,000 residents to lose 10 percent of its population in the preceding decade and begin to gain population in the 1990s.

Our comeback has continued. Manufacturing jobs have begun to return, with major new investments by VW and Wacker as well as the new Amazon distribution facility that President Obama is visiting today. At the same time, we have seen new jobs and new investment across all sectors of the economy. And with access to the fastest Internet connections in North America, Chattanooga’s 21st century economy will be driven by the investment in the Gig — an investment made possible with the support of funding under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

We have weathered the Great Recession and are on the road to recovery. There are now more people working in Chattanooga than when President Obama took office. But we know that is not good enough for those still without a job or for those who need to work two jobs. It is not good enough for parents and students struggling to pay for college.

By creating manufacturing hubs and networks, a better bargain for the middle class recognizes that our greatest asset – and the key to new manufacturing jobs — is the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of our people. We need to continue investing in research and development in manufacturing here because we know that for every new job in manufacturing, there will be nearly two additional jobs created by suppliers and others.

At the same time, the President recognizes education, innovation and opportunity are inextricably linked. Tennessee and Hamilton County leaders from both parties have worked hard to fix a broken public school system. But real reform requires a strong and active federal partner. As a co-sponsor of the legislation that brought $500 million into our state, I know the importance of Race to the Top to school reform. Continued federal leadership and support for education is critical, from the president’s proposal for universal early child care to the administration’s efforts to lower the cost of higher education.

And just as we need to grow our human capital, we need a strong federal partner who recognizes that investment in physical capital — infrastructure — creates both middle class jobs and long term opportunity for growth. Nearly 75 years ago, another President — Franklin Roosevelt — came to the Tennessee Valley to lay the cornerstone of the Chickamauga Dam. It is inconceivable to think of what our region would be like today without the past, transformative federal investment that was the TVA. We need to place new cornerstones for our budding economy.

Finally, ladders to opportunity and reducing poverty are critical to building a bigger and stronger middle class. For individuals living in neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty, the president’s efforts through Promise Neighborhoods and Choice Neighborhoods — and now through Promise Zones — recognize that opportunity requires federal, state, local and nonprofit partners to create jobs and great communities. Through the Administration’s Strong Cities, Strong Communities effort, the federal government promises to work with cities to overcome the same challenges Chattanooga once faced.

For people who live in places like Chattanooga and the Tennessee Valley, we understand the challenges and the opportunities moving forward. I am confident we will build a stronger middle class, with our best days still ahead of us.

Andy Berke is a former Tennessee senator and is now mayor of Chattanooga.

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MyGen said...

Mayor, As a city resident, I followed your campaign of empty promises. We're all watching your empty promises do nothing now that you're elected. Safe neighborhoods? Infrastructure? I see a whole lot of similarities between you and the President. You have a whole lot to say, you move a lot of paper around, but nothing done. The street that I moved from this year averaged 2 break-ins weekly. A nothing burger for a nothing mayor to welcome a nothing President.

July 30, 2013 at 8:48 a.m.
BigRidgePatriot said...

Berke and Obama seem to be cut from the same cloth. They offer Flowery Platitudes with no substance.

July 30, 2013 at 2:53 p.m.
aae1049 said...

Berke and the Chamber of Commerce trickle down economic model has failed miserably. The economic measure for a community is in property and sales tax revenue, which are FLAT for the city of Chattanooga both pre and post VW, Amazon...and the 50 corporations that receive corporate welfare from the working poor in Chattanooga. Pam, please show us the great rise in property tax revenue that is not from annexaiton or ending sales tax agreements with the county.

July 30, 2013 at 3:58 p.m.
TheCommander said...

Well said aae1049. Watch out when he keeps calling for "partnerships" between government and big business. This is the heart of sustainable development and will lead to corruption and ultimately move Chattanooga toward the same condition as Stockton, CA. Does everyone on this thread realize that all of that property and equipment of these corporations is owned by this invisible government known as the Industrial Development Board? The assessed values of these properties is $0. Not only did we subsidize these corporations, now we have continue to make up for that lost property tax revenue that they should be paying. They consume services and do not pay for it. This leads to budget shortfalls which leads to tax increases. Notice how many counties and cities around us are announcing property tax increases while touting their job growth at the same time. Like aae asked Pam: why is all this growth not bringing in new property tax revenue?

Andy Berke is the father of Tax Increment Financing in the State of Tennessee. He sponsored the legislation. Don't you think he can't wait to start diverting your tax dollars into new projects in the name of job creation? Just look at Aetna mountain to see how well this is working already. This guy is going to destroy Chattanooga with redevelopment schemes.

July 30, 2013 at 11 p.m.
TheCommander said...

"For example, the county plans to spend $819,000 funding nonprofits and economic development agencies."

This above is a quote from the article here in the TFP concerning the pending property tax increase in Catoosa co.

Is that not a perfect example of what we were talking about in the previous posts above? Spend our tax dollars in economic development because this development will generate jobs and ultimately tax revenue. Sounds good, however neither is accomplished which means the only avenue left is raising taxes.

Bradley County will propse a property tax increase on Aug 5th. We need to keep up the pressure to halt ALL government directed economic development activities. Let's try capitalism in our country once again before it is too late (though it may be already).

July 31, 2013 at 10:16 a.m.
TheCommander said...

JonRoss, isn't it amazing the continuity of policy across the span of recent Chattanooga mayors? I am not a great hisorian of Chattanooga but I do know (regardless of party) each person who has occupied that office since the early 90's had the same adherence to the doctrines of redevelopment, business attraction and economic development by use of PILOT agreements, TIF and federal grants. They all are in bed with the Chamber of Commerce and other powerful NGO's and non-profits. I understand Littlefield was an urban planner by background. That explains him. Correct me if I am wrong about his background. In any event, they all come from the same cesspool of failed social and economic ideas that have their origin in sustainable development. It cannot be just by accident that they all act and think the same way once in office.

July 31, 2013 at 2:24 p.m.
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