Chattanooga ranks No. 1 for social well-being

Mayor Andy Berke stands in front of an aerial image of Chattanooga, on the wall of his conference room in this Nov. 17, 2014, photo.

How the rating is done

State of American Well-Being: 2014 Community Well-Being Rankings" examines the comparative well-being of the largest 100 communities in the United States. Results are based on telephone interviews conducted throughout 2014 with a random sample of 176,702 adults, age 18 and older, living in the top 100 metro areas.

photo Aerial shows downtown Chattanooga, the Aquarium, Market Street Bridge, Tennessee River and the Bluff View district.

Maybe this is the Chattanooga Way quantified.

According to a Gallup-Healthways poll conducted over the course of last year, the Chattanooga metro area is No. 1 in the country for social well-being.

That's No. 1 among America's 100 biggest metropolitan areas for people with support and love from friends and family, with encouragement to go bigger, do better and try new things.

And it's Chattanoogans being 6 percent more likely than the country as a whole to be on the receiving end of friends' and families' "positive energy."

Chattanooga also ranked No. 2 among the top 100 metro areas for community well-being, "liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride in your community," according to the poll.

To Kim White, president and CEO of River City Company, the city's latest accolade means the quest to build a better city is working.

"We've been working to build a great city for people who live here for 30 years," she said.

Terms like "Chattanooga Story" and "Chattanooga Way" are tossed around frequently in the city, at civic program kick-offs and business groundbreakings, and many seasoned residents point to the Tennessee Aquarium and talk about public-private partnerships and EPB.

So maybe being a place of social well-being -- "an end state in which basic human needs are met and people are able to coexist peacefully," according to the United States Institute of Peace -- is where the Chattanooga Way leads.

"I do think Chattanooga is a very special place," said White. "You can come into the city and feel like you can make a difference."

And "the people are proud," she said. "I think we've had community involvement, and civic involvement is part of our DNA now."

Jason Bowers and Matt Skudlarek, co-founders and co-owners of The Bitter Alibi, met in the Houston Street basement bar they would (unknowingly at the time) run someday.

Bowers, a Chattanooga native, said the city's social scene has morphed before his own eyes.

And he said operating a downtown bar has provided a window into the changes.

"For Matt and I, we've seen kind of the social part in this town grow a lot, especially with the early 20s, early 30s age group," said Bowers.

He said Bitter Alibi reaches across several demographics and draws young patrons, old patrons, young professionals and college students.

"We don't care who you are," he said. "We like when the place fills up. We like for people to get to know each other."

Friends in Nashville -- number 44 overall on the Gallup-Healthways poll -- have told him it's different there.

And Knoxville -- one of only three metro areas with a 59 overall score or lower -- can't touch the Scenic City right now, according to the numbers.

Chattanooga's East Tennessee neighbor came in at number 98 of 100 communities in the overall ranking of well-being, with Chattanooga coming in at 14.

It's second-to-last in purpose well-being, next-to-last in social well-being and dead last in physical well-being.

But while Chattanooga may fly high in terms of social well-being, the city has a lot of work to do climbing the financial and physical well-being ladders, coming in at number 64 and number 59, respectively.

And the city had 32 shootings, including eight homicides, year-to-date last year.

And 28 shootings, including five homicides, so far this year.

Contact staff writer Alex Green at or 423-757-6480.