Chattanooga named as one of best places to start a business by Inc. magazine

Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Chatt Taste Food Tour founder Briana Garza gives her pitch during the Will This Float?: Female Founders Edition competition at Miller Plaza on Monday, Oct. 21, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Garza won the People's Choice award of $1,000.

The Scenic City is one of the 50 best places to start a business in 2020, thanks to its high-speed internet and variety of resources for would-be entrepreneurs, according to a list published by Inc.

"These include the Company Lab, a nonprofit accelerator that hosts Chattanooga's annual Startup Week, and the INCubator, a massive 127,000-square-foot complex currently housing 55 startups, including 3D printed builder Branch Technology, which has $9.5 million in funding," according Inc.'s report on Chattanooga.

The city came in at No. 36 on the list of 50 "Surge Cities." Nashville, which came in at No. 11, was the only other Tennessee city to make the list. Atlanta came in at No. 24, while Austin, Texas, topped the list.

Marcus Shaw, the executive director of CO.LAB, said the entrepreneurial spirit has long been part of the culture of Chattanooga, but the investment in high-speed internet 10 years ago launched an entirely new sort of startup scene.

'Surge Cities'

1. Austin2. Salt Lake City3. Durham4. Denver5. Boise11. Nashville22. Charlotte24. Atlanta36. Chattanooga37. Jacksonville50. Indianapolis

"The gig was the impetus for this next generation of entrepreneurship," Shaw said. "This modern era of entrepreneurship is less than 10 years old, and where we've come in 10 years is phenomenal."

By the end of the year, CO.LAB will have hosted its 1,000th participant in CO.STARTERS, a nine-week course that is designed to equip entrepreneurs with the tools and resources they need to get their businesses started. The program itself was born at CO.LAB, but the curriculum spun off a few years ago into a team planting CO.STARTERS communities and doing trainings nationally and even internationally, said CO.LAB program manager Tim Moore.

Briana Garza, the founder of the Chatt Taste Food Tour, called the level of support for her fledgling business "almost overwhelming." She officially launched the food tour in September, and won the people's choice award - and $1,000 - at a Startup Week pitch competition a month later.

"It was my first pitch competition ever," Garza said. "CO.LAB gave me pitch coaching, and they pretty much had an open-door policy for helping me with my pitch."

Chattanooga has drawn attention for its low startup costs, and for the 140-acre Innovation District in downtown Chattanooga, created five years ago to encourage innovators to live, work and play in an urban environment. The hub of the Innovation District is in the Edney building, which houses CO.LAB, Tech Town, Society of Work, the Enterprise Center and a variety of startup businesses near the Public Library, UTC, EPB and the Lamp Post startup venture.

For the 2020 Surge Cities Index, Inc. and innovation policy company Startup Genome analyzed data on seven essential indicators, including early-stage funding and job creation, to determine the 50 best areas for startup growth. Chattanooga was No. 13 in high-growth company density, No. 23 in wage growth and No. 25 in net business creation.

Contact Mary Fortune at or 423-757-6653. Follow her on Twitter at @maryfortune.