published Sunday, May 12th, 2013

Harr: The Chattanooga way: Leadership Tennessee embodies city's can-do spirit

By Ron Harr
Ross's landing and the Tennessee Aquarium in downtown Chattanooga.
Ross's landing and the Tennessee Aquarium in downtown Chattanooga.
Photo by Doug Strickland /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

People from all over the globe come to Chattanooga to study our transformation from a city on the decline to the thriving tourist and manufacturing hotspot we are today.

So what’s our secret? I believe it’s in the way we collaborate — Chattanooga is different because we learned how to pull together to get big things done. We even refer to it as “The Chattanooga Way.”

Gov. Bill Haslam recently cited this very model of problem-solving in his State of the State address, calling Tennessee’s history of collaborative leadership a distinguishing quality that has allowed our state to leverage the strengths of every sector — public, private and nonprofit — for the common good.

We know it works, and that’s why the Chattanooga Chamber spends 10 months out of every year training a diverse cross-section of 40 emerging leaders in collaborative problem-solving. As a result, our Leadership Chattanooga program has become a local hallmark of civic engagement, just as similar programs are in cities like Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis.

Legendary Nashville businessman Nelson Andrews started the first community-based leadership program, (Leadership Nashville) in 1976. I knew him well, so I am very proud that Lipscomb University’s Nelson and Sue Andrews Institute for Civic Leadership is expanding the concept behind this leadership model with the launch of Leadership Tennessee. This 10-month program is designed to provide collaborative learning and dialogue that spans the state’s three grand divisions and offers issue-specific education to a diverse representation of parties. Participants will include demonstrated leaders in the business, nonprofit, education and government sectors.

As my career took me around this great state, I had the opportunity to graduate from both Leadership Chattanooga and Leadership Knoxville. Having worked in Tennessee’s four major metro areas in various capacities over the last 35 years, I got to see first-hand just how the issues vary from city to city. I think the formation of a statewide leadership program is a great idea.

Chattanooga is not Knoxville, and Nashville is not Memphis. That’s a good thing, because it means we bring different sets of expertise and challenges to the table. Our diversity is a toolkit we can use to solve problems.

As Leadership Tennessee participants come together to experience the unique cultures found throughout our state, our communities will benefit from leaders who share a deeper understanding of the context surrounding the issues and challenges that bind us together. This creates a wealth of opportunities to strengthen civic life and productivity at every level of the state.

For more information on Leadership Tennessee you can visit its website: Participants will be announced in May and will begin classes in September. The cohort will meet five times throughout the program and will also participate in additional research and projects outside of class.

We’re fortunate to live in a state that makes creating infrastructure for civic collaboration a priority. In Chattanooga, it’s part of our culture. In Tennessee, it’s the way our communities are moving each other forward.

Ron Harr is president and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

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aae1049 said...

The "can do" model for the Chamber of Commerce is one of corporate welfare. The local Chamber's vision includes local taxpayers giving the Chamber corporate welfare of $1 million a year from city and county property and sales tax revenue, to fund top heavy $200K plus salaries, and sightseeing trips oversees under the color of commerce. It's all fun with other people's money.

The Chamber of Commerce is an umbrella of converting public resources to private corporate welfare. We pay taxes for infrastructure, and public services, and our local government gives our taxes to the Chamber of Commerce from the working poor, middle class, retired, and small business.

PILOTs, payments in lieu of taxes exempts the A list of Chamber membership from paying for services, that the rest of population retired, working, and small business must pay for these rich corporations.

The Chamber of Commerce has wealthy corporations as members that do not need $1 million a year from mandated property taxes from citizens.

Bottom line, Chattanooga has a poverty rate that has increased to 31 percent, and the corporate welfare koolaid is making Chattanooga more impoverished in the Chamber's economic principles of exempt all the largest corporations from property taxes.

Finally, Why do our elected officials give the Chamber $1 million a year in property taxes? Answer: Lobby, not real need. Corporate welfare is making Chattanooga poor, 31 of each 100 people in Chattanooga live in poverty, while the Chamber eats cake.

May 12, 2013 at 9:01 a.m.
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