Survey: Half of Chattanooga companies planning expansion

Survey: Half of Chattanooga companies planning expansion

January 10th, 2013 by Mike Pare in Business Around the Region

Ron Harr, CEO of the Chattanooga Area of Commerce, speaks during a Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

FAST FACT

Some 57 percent of companies surveyed have plans to expand in the next three years, according to the Chamber.

More than half of the Chattanooga companies in a new survey plan expansions that could create more than 1,200 new jobs and add more than $130 million of new investment in the next year.

But weakness in the educational system and difficulty finding skilled and qualified workers were two reasons cited by companies which don't have plans to expand, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce survey said.

The survey, dubbed Chattanooga IQ, offers a snapshot of the status of existing business as well as the area's strengths and weaknesses from the perspective of local companies.

Some 86 percent of the 100 companies surveyed had a favorable growth outlook, according to the survey.

Also, 77 percent of the businesses reported they would be more likely to expand in Chattanooga than elsewhere because they view the city as "a good place to do business," according to the Chamber.

Steve Hiatt, the Chamber's director of existing business development, termed the survey taken last year "very good news indeed."

He said in a statement that the last survey done three years ago showed that actual job creation by companies far outpaced the projected level.

Hiatt said that when the Chamber published the survey in 2010, responding companies hoped to create 1,151 new jobs. Since then, the Chamber has assisted existing companies in creating 2,560 new jobs, Hiatt said.

Concerning education and work force training, the Chamber's chief executive said Chattanooga has employees that "can make a company successful, but it needs to rapidly ramp up a set of workers to staff new projects by businesses.

"We're working on that," said Ron Harr, the Chamber's CEO, noting Chattanooga is part of a state pilot project to provide post-secondary training and advanced skills to workers.

Harr said the Chamber would like to see a couple thousand people come out of that program over the new few years.

The survey was conducted by the Chamber's Business Retention and Expansion Visitation team.