Chattanooga leads state in business startups

Staff Photo by Angela Lewis Foster R. Platt Boyd, left, and Chris Weller, with Branch Technology, stand on the stage after receiving the Investor's Choice award at the Gigtank Demo Day Tuesday, July 28, 2015 at GPS.

When Platt Boyd quit his job to build a new 3-D printing company to construct buildings, the Montgomery, Ala., architect came to Chattanooga.

Boyd was among those lured to the Scenic City this summer to participate in the 100-day accelerator program for startups known as GigTank. His Branch Technology capitalized on the high-speed Internet service offered by EPB and the business support for 3-D printing offered at Chattanooga's CoLab.

During GigTank Demo Day last month, he and his team unveiled the largest free-form 3-D printer in the country to "print" walls and potentially revolutionize the way buildings are erected.

Business startups

In the second quarter of 2015:* Hamilton County, 438 new business filings, up 12.3 pecent from a year ago* Knox County, 542 new business filings, up 12 percent from a year ago* Davidson County, 1,471 new business filings, up 8.5 pecent from a year ago* Shelby County, 1,096 new business filings, up 6.6 percent from a year agoSource: TennesseeSecretary of State

Boyd is among a growing number of entrepreneurs who are coming to Chattanooga to try out their business ideas. Combined with local entrepreneurs who are starting businesses with the help of local incubators, venture funds and community volunteers, Chattanooga is picking up the pace of business starts.

"If you are searching for a place to open up a business and looking for a community to grow in, I think the very positive experience of our startups here and the rather unique network of support that Chattanooga offers (are) a really big advantage and draw for a lot of enterpreneurs," said Mike Bradshaw, executive director of The Company Lab, a nonprofit group that works to help startup ventures get off the ground. "Branch Technology, and many other similar companies, have found they can succeed in Chattanooga."

As a result, in the second quarter of 2015, Hamilton County led the state's biggest counties in the growth of business startups. Compared with a year ago, initial business filings in Hamilton County rose 12.6 percent over a year ago during the April-to-June period, according to a report released Tuesday by the Tennessee secretary of state.

Statewide, the number of new businesses starting during the second quarter was up 9.9 percent over last year. The Volunteer State recorded 8,317 new entity filings during the three-month period, marking the 15th consecutive quarter of positive year-over-year growth for business startups.

"Tennessee continues to be a hotbed for new businesses," Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. "These indicators tell us this momentum will continue well into the future."

Despite the overall growth, there were 4,398 dissolutions of Tennessee businesses filed in the second quarter of 2015, which is more than double the same time last year. But overall, the number of businesses continues to grow in the state.

"While we had more business dissolutions than we did a year ago, we also had a lot more new firms and we continue to grow the total number of firms in the state," said Dr. William Fox, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee which analyzes the business filings. "There is always a lot of churn in the economy, but it is the net change that matters and we're definitely seeing positive trends across the entire economy and especially in the level of entrepreneurship and business startups."

As of July 1, there are 241,381 active entities in Tennessee, which is 2.9 percent larger than the previous quarter's count.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfree or at 757-6340.