Chattanooga vies for 'smartest city' tag

Chattanooga vies for 'smartest city' tag

April 12th, 2011 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

The skyline of downtown Chattanooga bathes in mid-evening sunlight.

When a leader for a New York think tank meets today with Chattanooga health care officials, he'll talk about the idea of leveraging EPB's hyper-fast Internet service to create paperless hospitals.

John G. Jung, chairman and co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum, said Monday that how cities use technology to aid people is a factor in picking the world's so-called "smartest city."

"It's really about what they do with it," he said.

Chattanooga, already named one of the Forum's seven most intelligent cities, is trying to move from the short list to the top.

On Monday, leaders hosted Jung to meetings that included a helicopter ride over Chattanooga, a talk with former mayor and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a visit with city police and a roundtable with more than a dozen entrepreneurs and others. More meetings are slated for today, said J.Ed. Marston of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

Jung said Chattanooga is the last of seven cities officials are visiting leading up to a June 3 decision. Reports will be written, then about 100 jurors worldwide will perform an evaluation, he said.

On June 2, Intelligent Forum officials will meet with Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield and his six counterparts in New York, leading to a June 3 decision.

"It's sort of a little like the Oscars," Jung quipped.

Jung met entrepreneurs and others in the city Monday to gain a better feel for Chattanooga's technology efforts and how those are affecting people.

Jack Sayed, chief executive of Apollo Energy Storage Corp., said he decided to land his energy efficiency consulting business in Chattanooga rather than Nashville because the Scenic City fosters a better support system and environment.

"They were open for renewables," he said. He said locals told him, "We want companies from outside to come here and try something totally new and chase your dream."

Jeff Averbeck, president of the data management company Airnet Group, said the Chattanooga area is "a mecca for outdoor activities." That has attracted a lot of young people who are entering the entrepreneurial arena, he said.

"Quality of life is so important," Averbeck said.

Jonathan Bragdon, who helped form Tricycle Inc. almost a decade ago to create an environmentally friendlier alternative to the way carpet manufacturers market samples for their commercial customers, cited the cooperative attitude among local businesses.

"We tend to collaborate a lot more than compete," he said.

Chris Daly, director of technology development and transfer at the city's Enterprise Center, said Chattanooga is a gateway to technology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Thanks to EPB, people here can connect to Oak Ridge's supercomputer, he said.

"It's a super-fast connection to the super-fast computer," Daly said.

The Forum selected Chattanooga and the six other cities in January from 21 it named last year.

Chattanooga's ranking was bolstered by EPB's fully-accessible, 1-gigabit residential Internet service - about 100 times faster than most broadband Internet connections, officials said. Also mentioned by officials were improved air quality, downtown revitalization and better standards for secondary education with integrated career training.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-747-6318.