3 Chattanooga groups compete to run growth plan

A 40-year regional growth initiative encompassing 16 counties in the Chattanooga area is closer to picking a lead planning team, officials said Friday.

Three groups competing to oversee the initiative, which drew questions from Hamilton County commissioners recently, have been identified and officials will pick one after a Nov. 17 public meeting.

The competing teams are:

• Wallace Roberts & Todd; Gresham Smith & Partners; PlaceMatters; Ann Coulter; Neathawk Dubuque & Packett; Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness; Center for Neighborhood Technology; Leslee T. Alexander Consulting; Constructive Technologies Group; and RERC Strategic Advisors.

• McBride Dale Clarion; Clarion Associates; Fregonese Associates; Kimley-Horn and Associates; Brown Pearman Russell; BAE Urban Economics; Opticos Design, Inc; Ann Coulter; PlaceMatters; The Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies; and Neathawk Dubuque & Packett.

• Renaissance Planning Group; Cambridge Systematics; ICF International; Barge, Waggoner, Sumner & Cannon; Ann Coulter; Neathawk Dubuque & Packett; Robert Grow Consulting; and The Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies.

"Our goal is to create a kind of business plan for the region," said Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger.

But last month, there were questions about whether another study is needed and if Hamilton County is represented enough on the effort's governing body given its size.

All the teams named Friday have at least one local representative. For example, former Chattanooga mayoral candidate Ann Coulter is included in all three teams. Also, The Ochs Center for Metropolitan Studies is local and on two teams.

The planning process is to start in the first part of 2012, said J.Ed. Marston, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's vice president of marketing. He said the work could take 18 months or longer to complete.

Marston said the amount the winning team will earn will be negotiated after the selection.

The city of Chattanooga, Hamilton County government and area foundations have pledged $3 million for the effort.

Late last month, Coppinger received the OK to try for $2.5 million in federal grant money to help fund the project.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said the initiative is a continuation of the public visioning and community engagement processes that have transformed Chattanooga and the region since the early 1980s.

Bradley County Mayor Gary Davis said the time is right to broaden planning efforts to promote cooperation in the region.

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