Chattanooga Forward pitches new committees, boards

Chattanooga Forward pitches new committees, boards

March 21st, 2014 by Ellis Smith in Local Regional News

Andy Berke

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

Brace for a big jump in the use of words like "committee," "task force" and "action plan."

Mayor Andy Berke's Chattanooga Forward initiative has released the first of six reports to the Berke Administration, publishing a 21-page document that calls for the creation of six new committees, an executive committee and a new board to lead a public-private partnership in promoting Internet technology and entrepreneurship.

"Perhaps the greatest weakness associated with local efforts to ramp up and promote our advances into the innovation economy is the lack of an effective and adequately resourced entity to lead and manage our efforts," members of the task force on Internet technology and entrepreneurship initiative. "All efforts thus far have been largely reactive, ad hoc, and driven by disconnected opportunities or crises. The potentially broad and deep benefits of a coordinated technology, gig, and entrepreneurship strategy are too great to leave to chance."

In its reccomendations, the group called for concentrating innovative efforts in certain districts, while simultaneously working to ensure access to digital tools for all citizens.

The city's entrepreneurial and technological efforts thus far have largely been led by private and nonprofit groups, such as the Lamp Post Group or the Company Lab, with little central authority beyond the role of city-owned EPB in building the fiber-optic infrastructure that drives the city's marketing outreach.

Some of the task force's new plan will be recognizable to long-time Chattanoogans who participated in the last round of public-private partnerships that helped build the Tennessee Aquarium and revitalize the city's downtown. The idea of public-private partnerships, which was a new idea in the 80s and 90s, will make a return with a board made up of both civic leaders and chief executives, similar to the River City Co.

The plan also embraces the idea of touting Chattanooga, with its available 1-gigabit-per-second citywide Internet, as a destination for companies to test their products and develop applications, an idea that has flated around since 2010 with few concrete results that have been made public.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at esmith@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6315.