Chattanooga's downtown skyline took on a new look in 2017 with the tallest new building erected in decades added in the central city and several signature structures taking on new owners and uses.
But far more than just the built environment was altered during the past year as a growing and shifting economy and workforce continued to change the way business is done in Chattanooga.
The individuals who helped lead such changes and did the most to reshape the regional economy are our Most Valuable Players in business in 2017. The top 10 list includes those leading everything from volunteer programs to Chattanooga's biggest business and reflects the diversity of our changing economy.
In two of the past three years, Tennessee has led all states in new foreign investments, which have brought billions of dollars, thousands of jobs and many foreign managers and immigrants to Chattanooga.
Gladys Pineda-Loher, a Columbia native who came to Tennessee nearly two decades ago, has worked to make Chattanooga a more international city and aid foreigners and new immigrants who have come to Chattanooga in recent years.
Over the past four years as director of international community outreach at Chattanooga State Community College, Pineda-Loher has helped develop two local Latino festivals as well as a cultural ambassador program and a Bridges to Success training initiative.
"Being an immigrant myself, I appreciate all the stages that people have to pass through and the need for a community to embrace diversity," she says.
Pineda-Loher has been active in creating a number of Latino organizations in East Tennessee since coming to Tennessee nearly two decades ago. While working for Tennova and its corporate predecessors in Knoxville, she worked to help establish the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of East Tennessee, the Latino Task Force and Centro de Hispano de East Tennessee. As a Chamber of Commerce volunteer in Knoxville, she worked on a task force to help recruit Volkswagen to the state.
When VW landed in Chattanooga, Pineda-Loher and her husband, Dr. Terry Loher, decided to move to Chattanooga, where Gladys Pineda-Loher worked for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce for the next two years. At the Chamber, she helped develop the International Business Council, the International Ambassadors Program and other diversity initiatives.
At Chattanooga State, she has also organized the Latino Festival and CultureFest – two major events that combine the Latino community with the broader community — while serving as a volunteer member of the boards of numerous local civic and education groups.
"I see my job as a kind of ministry in helping students to find their passion and help them develop their skills, whether that is through a traditional academic degree program, a credentialing program or continuing education," she says. "My interest is to show people the pathways that are available so that if they are willing to do the work, they can really achieve what they want."