Planned Thrive 2055 regional meetings:
• June 5 -- Bessie Smith Cultural Center, Chattanooga, 6-8 p.m.
• June 10 -- Dalton State College, Dalton, Ga., James Brown Center, 6-8 p.m.
• June 12 -- Kimball Community Center, Kimball, Tenn., 6-8 p.m.
• June 17 -- Goose Pond Colony clubhouse, Scottsboro, Ala., 6-8 p.m.
• June 19 -- Walker County Civic Center, Rock Spring, Ga., 6-8 p.m.
• June 24 -- Graysville Community Room, Graysville, Tenn., 6-8 p.m.
• July 8 -- Cleveland State Community College, George R. Johnson Cultural Heritage Center, Cleveland, Tenn., 6-8 p.m.
Source: Thrive 2055
• 40-year plan
• 3 states
• 16 counties
• 79 municipalities
• 1 million residents
Does the 16-county Chattanooga area need a regional branding or marketing plan so it can better carry out economic development?
To answer questions such as this one, the Thrive 2055 growth initiative is crafting strategic plans in regional economic development and in three other key areas on which it has decided to focus -- education and workforce training, transportation and natural treasures.
Bridgett Massengill, who's overseeing the first 40-year planning effort for the region, said Thrive 2055 will take its show on the road over the next few months to gain more public input.
"People will tell us what they like and what they don't like," she said. The Thrive 2055 coordinating panel will take what it hears at the sessions and start proposing regional plans in each of the four areas.
The first of the so-called public "input incubators" is slated for Chattanooga's Bessie Smith Cultural Center on June 5 from 6 to 8 p.m. Six other sessions will take place in the tri-state region in coming weeks, Massengill said.
She said officials will offer the public several "scenarios" looking at choices and outcomes in each of the four study areas.
For example, she said, the economic development group is looking at the benefit of coming up with a regional brand.
"It hasn't decided that's the way they want to go but that's what they'll be looking at to determine how to proceed in wrapping their hands around economic development," Massengill said.
Gary Farlow, who heads the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce and is a coordinating panel member, said they want to make sure they're asking the right questions.
"What do we want in a branding or marketing plan?" he asked. "Where do we come up with the money?"
Also, Farlow said, the group is looking at creating a regional agreement or compact of interdependence.
"How are we going to behave in the region when it comes to economic development?" he asked, noting the group is eyeing a sustainable long-term strategy.
"Who's doing it? Who does a prospect call when [a company] wants to locate in this region, rather than call three states or 16 individual counties?"
Farlow said the group is talking about visiting other regional economic development entities and is especially interested in those which encompass more than one state.
"It would help us ... not to reinvent the wheel," he said.
Massengill said the second year of the three-year Thrive 2055 process will end early this fall with the strategic plans for each of the four study areas.
The last year of Thrive 2055 will look at how to implement the plans, she said.
Dan Jacobson, a BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee executive who is chairing the initiative's second year, said he has found a lot of interest in the 16-county, three-state footprint for the growth plan.
"We're touting the value of Thrive and why we're doing it and what we're doing," Jacobson said.
Thrive 2055 has a $3 million budget and is managed by the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.
About $2.5 million has been contributed to the effort so far, with Chattanooga and Hamilton County each committing $500,000. Private area foundations have committed $1 million and area businesses another $540,000. Officials said more contributions are expected.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.