A top Alcatel-Lucent official on Wednesday called Chattanooga a showcase for innovation as the technology giant pledged $100,000 to a competition to attract entrepreneurs here.
"People are watching ... not just in the U.S. but abroad," said Robert Vrij, the company's president overseeing North, South and Central America.
Called the Gig Prize, entrepreneurs will compete using the nation's fastest Internet service from EPB to create and test applications and launch businesses.
Harold DePriest, EPB's chief executive, said the Alcatel-Lucent commitment should help the competition draw startup businesses to Chattanooga to show what they can do using the fastest Internet speed in the country.
Tom Edd Wilson, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's CEO, said that having a global technology company such as Alcatel-Lucent involved in EPB's pioneering Gigabit service enhances the city's reputation.
"I think that's huge," he said.
Rules and details regarding the competition will come soon, officials said.
J.Ed. Marston, the Chamber's vice president of marketing, said officials are looking at additional partners to build the purse. He said the money is in addition to $50,000 pledged by Lamp Post Group for an similar program directed at college students.
In addition, Marston said plans are to brand Chattanooga as "Gig City" when it comes to marketing its entrepreneurial efforts surrounding the gigabit-per-second Internet.
Vrij said Alcatel-Lucent will be "part of the evangelism system" on a global basis for Chattanooga's innovative high-speed network. The Paris-based company, which has revenues of $20 billion annually, provided equipment to EPB's network. In 2008, EPB approved a $66.9 million contract with the company.
Vrij said other cities are looking at Chattanooga because of a correlation between building out technology infrastructure and economic development.
"We're very pleased to say Chattanooga, the gig city, is the model and vision for communities of the future," he said.
Vrij cited education and health care benefits coming to Chattanooga because of the high-speed Internet offering. He cited programs at Erlanger and Brown Academy.
"The benefits are wide ranging across all aspects of life," he said. "The mission of EPB is to use the technology to touch quality of life for every individual in the Chattanooga area."