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Scenic City pops up on national stage
by Louie Brogdon
Friday, March 28, 2014    |   
President Barack Obama waves to Amazon employees and guests as he leaves the Amazon Fulfillment Center.
President Barack Obama waves to Amazon employees and guests as he leaves the Amazon Fulfillment Center.

The Scenic City made big news in 2013. President Barack Obama showed up in summer touting his jobs plan at one of the area's major employers; Chattanooga's ultra-quick Internet connection earned national attention year-round and a controversial vote at Volkswagen took the union debate full tilt onto the national stage.

Local business groups say the spotlight is good for Chattanooga's growing economy.

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    Bins containing orders are rushed to packaging at the Amazon Fulfillment Center.

■ Obama came to town on July 30 to pitch his vision of helping expand middle-class jobs. After he visited the 1 million-square-foot Amazon Fulfillment Center in Chattanooga, Obama described a plan to cut corporate tax rates in exchange for more spending to create more middle-class jobs.

Before a 2,000-person crowd at the plant, the president praised Amazon and called on other parts of the country to create jobs that pay decent wages.

The job plan hasn't yet panned out, but Amazon is going strong.

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    Shayne Woods, president of Chattanooga-based healthcare technology startup FwdHealth, talks about the company’s integration of health tracking apps during the Gig Tank Demo Day.

■ The story of "The Gig" -- EPB's Internet connection that outpaces everything in the Western Hemisphere -- continued to earn the attention of major media across the country. Stories about the Gig City ran in the New York Times, on CNBC and other media. And its defenders rose up after the Scenic City's Internet connection was slighted in the major summer blockbuster "Iron Man 3."

The Gig story continues, and players in the public and private sectors hope it attracts big investors to the area.

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    Larry Mutz dusts off a Volkswagen Passat at the Southern Automotive Conference at the Chattanooga Convention Center.

■ A two-year courtship between the United Auto Workers union and Volkswagen's plant in Chattanooga continued through 2013, although the relationship fell apart in early February 2014 when workers at the plant voted UAW down. After a three-day vote, 712 employees said no to the Detroit-based union, while 626 were in favor of representation.

VW previously spoke of starting a European-style labor council at the Chattanooga plant. UAW officials hinted at trying to contest the vote because state Republicans loudly lobbied against the union, threatening to suspend future incentives packages and hinting a new vehicle come be assembled here if the workers rejected the union.

But those same GOP members immediately started working on incentive packages to offer VW to add an SUV to its line in the Scenic City.

J.Ed Marston, the vice president of marketing and communication for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, says getting the city's name in the minds of people abroad is a win on its own.

"People are not going to invest in a community or bring their skills to a community unless they've heard of it and they're familiar with it," Marston said. "We've had a national and international public relations campaign at the chamber for more than 10 years."

Back in 2002, Chattanooga didn't have much name recognition outside the region, Marston said. But now, he says its brand has penetrated markets across the globe. He expects that trend will continue.

"The chamber's PR efforts reached 153 million worldwide from 2012 to 2013. Our goal is to keep building on that world-wide audience with additional stories. We're very fortunate to have a community that continues to generate good stories," Marston said.