Alcatel-Lucent joining with Chattanooga for business growth

Alcatel-Lucent today is expected to unveil a partnership with local economic developers on an initiative to woo top entrepreneurial talent to Chattanooga.

The Paris-based technology giant is to announce a financial contribution and other resources to join with local efforts at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's Spirit of Innovation meeting, sources said.

The aim of the company's support is to help the city take advantage of EPB's ultra-high-speed Internet service and the smart grid to grow business here, they said.

EPB and Chamber officials declined to comment Tuesday.

Robert Vrij, Alcatel-Lucent's president of the Americas, will address the Convention Center meeting. Company spokesman Charlie Guyer said in an email Tuesday that Vrij "is excited to be a part of [today's] event."

Guyer said the partnership with EPB and Chattanooga "is an important one for our company -- and for economic growth in your area."

Alcatel-Lucent has provided equipment to EPB's smart grid and fiber-to-the-home services. In 2008, EPB approved a $66.9 million contract with the company.

Chattanooga and Chamber officials have been trying to leverage EPB's fast-paced Internet to spur new business. The Chamber has carried out an aggressive public relations campaign about the gigabit service.

The Lamp Post Lab, a venture back by EPB, Lyndhurst Foundation and the Chattanooga Renaissance Fund in conjunction with the Lamp Post Group, is focusing efforts to attract top talent to the city.

Jack Studer, a partner with Lamp Post, said the lab is an initiative to reach out to college students with the question of what they'd do with Internet speeds of 1 gigabit per second.

"We've got a lot of interest," he said Tuesday.

As envisioned earlier this year, the winner would receive a sum of money and come to the city for a summer to develop his or her idea.

Meanwhile, the state also has announced its INCITE initiative, a $50 million effort to focus on innovation, commercialization, investment, technology and entrepreneurship.

While Chattanooga is currently the only municipality with citywide gigabit Internet, that advantage won't last forever.

For example, tech giant Google is working with Kansas City to finish an installation there.

Studer said no other city has caught Chattanooga yet and won't anytime soon.

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