Contributed photography / Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce

About the Velocity2040 survey

The Velocity2040 survey drew participation from 4,816 residents representing every facet of our community. Survey results, including 4,765 comments, point to five major community goals for the Hamilton County of 2040.

Disclosing demographic data was optional. About 18 percent responding did not share their race and 13 percent chose to not share their age. Of those who shared age and race, about half of the participants were under age 49, and one in eight were under 30. African-Americans made up 16 percent of participants – almost a mirror of the population composition of Hamilton County, where African-Americans comprise 19.5 percent of the population. Four percent of respondents were Hispanic, closely approximating the 5.7 percent Hispanic share of Hamilton County’s population. The survey was offered in Spanish and English. Volunteers assisted with in-person canvassing in specific areas to ensure participation and inclusion. Participants fell across the income spectrum, and half work at full-time.

Imagine it's 2040.

What will life be like for Chattanooga and Hamilton County residents?

We can't know the precise future for our community, but we can expand on current trends and imagine.

Full velocity

To view the full report, full demographic information and survey results broken down by neighborhood, visit

Imagine if we watch and wait, riding the current wave of momentum and letting current challenges go unchecked. Our racial equity gaps will widen. Our housing prices will continue to increase and our traffic will worsen. We'll lack vision to make large investments and eventually headlines will ask, "What happened to Chattanooga?"

Now imagine our region at its best, using the same innovative tools that our region's startups have perfected — design sprints, user-centered design, AI, minimum viable products — to innovate and spread solutions across the public, nonprofit and civic sectors. What could our region become if talented people were working on big problems with adequate resources and community support?

That's what our Velocity2040 community-wide visioning survey explores. The results show five top priorities for the next 20 years in Hamilton County and Chattanooga as our community works together on a bold, new vision for our future.


* Vision: It's 2040 and Chattanooga is regarded as the smartest community in the South, a community focused on educational excellence and attainment for all students.

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"I believe we need to seriously look at [...] making high standards of education more accessible to all. We need to look at how to improve education for the majority of our students."

– Velocity survey participant

Imagine a community where all children arrive at kindergarten ready for school, where all students achieve at or above grade level and all adults have the education and training they need to pursue a rewarding career and a better way of life. A community where everyone, regardless of neighborhood or background, has the opportunity to succeed. Outfitting our kids today for the jobs they'll have tomorrow starts now. Year-round school, the flipped classroom, six and nine month certification programs, and competency testing will become the new norms. How can we invest in an education system that's as lean and agile as the startups and employers growing our economy?

By achieving key student success metrics like:

* 80 percent-plus kindergarten readiness

* 85 percent-plus reading proficiency in grades 3-8

* 85 percent-plus of students enrolling in postsecondary programs

* 75 percent-plus of Hamilton County residents of working age have a postsecondary credential

What’s next?

The Velocity2040 community visioning survey results will inform Chattanooga Climbs, Advancing Economic Development and Talent Initiatives, a five-year strategic plan for implementing steps and metrics focused on the jobs and talent goals of the Velocity2040 vision. Avalanche Consulting, nationally recognized for its work in this area, will facilitate this plan. Strategy development is underway and the Chattanooga Climbs plan should be complete in April. The Chattanooga Chamber Foundation, with the support of private sector investors, leads this work.

Participants in Velocity2040 were clear: students, workforce skills and career paths are three of the community's top four priorities.

Envision full implementation of Chattanooga 2.0, our community's collective collaboration centered on improving public education and career readiness with a focus on cradle through career talent development in Hamilton County.


* Vision: It's 2040 and every working-age resident of Chattanooga and Hamilton County is thriving—as an entrepreneur, as an employee or as a member of our gig economy.

"I believe all our schools must educate children on current and future technologies. All students should be exposed to robots and automated guided vehicles. At the same time, we must also focus on trades such as welding, electrical and plumbing. Show our children multiple career paths."

– Velocity survey participant

"I believe we need to [] encourage our youth to become business owners. A lot of people with college degrees graduate, work in a field they didn't get a degree in, only to be left with mountains of debt. Teaching our future generations to become business owners should be an initiative we should focus on now."

– Velocity survey participant

"College is not for everyone. Teach a kid to be able to make a good living."

– Velocity survey participant

What will it mean to be thriving economically in 2040? Jobs will change between now and then. By 2030, between 9 percent and 47 percent of jobs could be lost to automation. This tide will begin in 2021 and transform entire sectors of the economy including some of our region's largest employers. For example, health care and manufacturing anticipate significant disruptions from "med-tech," policy changes, autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence.

Residents sense that the economic game is changing. When asked, "What three things should we do first?" they ranked workforce skills, earning enough money to live and creating career pathways and job opportunities as very important.

How can we help residents thrive and meet their full potential by 2040? Let's start with entrepreneurship. The best way to find a job is to find a customer. And a growing number of studies show that entrepreneurship is the single most effective antidote to poverty.

Building on Chattanooga's reputation as a startup capital, and building on our amazing high-speed infrastructure, we can bring best-in-class entrepreneurship training and coaching to everyone in the region. Our entrepreneurs-in-training can have access to instructors, mentors and customers around the corner and around the world.

Not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship. We know that 80 percent of future jobs require training beyond high school. So, our middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities must step up to build certification and training programs that give graduates a strong foothold on the first rung of the economic ladder. The side benefit of our residents thriving is showing the world that we have the one thing every company and economy needs: a thick labor pool.

20 Minutes or Less

* Vision: It's 2040 and nearly 1.4 million people call the greater Chattanooga region home. How can we ensure people can get to where they need to in 20 minutes or less?

"We have outgrown our infrastructure."

– Velocity survey participant

By 2040, we'll have autonomous vehicles and drone delivery. But we'll still need to move children from their homes to daycare, school and activities; we'll have to move adults from home to work; and we'll have to move families across town or across time zones. Technology will change a lot of things by 2040 but it won't change the basic human need for people to gather. So how will we manage 1.4 million people moving throughout our region?

It starts with a vision that in Chattanooga, owning a car is not a requirement to participate in the economy. That changes the game. It means we'll need less parking, but better mass transit. It means that residents will pay less for car payments, fuel and insurance, and have more money for other necessities like rent, eating out and entertainment. It means that the region's most valuable property will be near transit stations, wherever they are in our region. It means we'll need a regional transportation and housing plan and it means we'll ease people's commute times, thereby increasing their productivity and happiness.

Between now and then, we can make hundreds of adjustments —some small and some legendary — to improve the region's transit ecosystem. Large employers can offer flex-time or adjust their start and end times to decrease rush-hour congestion. Employers can subsidize employees' mass transit fares rather than paying for employees' parking. The transit system can experiment with ride-sharing, bus rapid transit, express buses and other innovations. On-site child care can ease working parents' drop-off and pick-up schedules.

Investments in mass transit are expensive, and behavioral change takes time. But a solid mass transit system is one of the critical factors that reduces a region's generational poverty. So if we want better futures for all of our residents, this is an investment worth making. Imagine, it's 2040 and young people moving here from New York, San Francisco and Shanghai don't have to buy a car to make it.


* Vision: It's 2040 and the face of leadership in Chattanooga and Hamilton County is diverse, vibrant and engaged.

"We need to actively address systemic racism in our community in all of its manifestations."

– Velocity survey participant

Our region is becoming more diverse and younger. More women and people of color hold titles of CEO, manager, director, supervisor, elected official and neighborhood leader. It's time to demonstrate that all are welcome here, and all can succeed. By 2040, this will be expected, and places that demonstrate — at the highest levels of leadership — the mosaic of their communities — will be rewarded.

Diverse leadership is a competitive advantage for our region. What bold, positive disruptions could lead the way? One example is employers who agree to increase the percentage of people of color and women in leadership positions and report their findings to the public, year over year. (Best practices: Kansas City, Omaha)


* Vision: Trust. It's the secret ingredient in managing change, taking risks, collaborating and healing. Imagine it's 2040 and our neighborhoods, local governments, engaged citizens and major institutions have each other's backs. We live, work, play and learn in an atmosphere of trust.

"We need to look at how we might foster a shared sense of community identity such that people see the point of working, volunteering and investing their resources together to make our community a great place."

– Velocity survey participant

"We need to offer working mothers better child care and support. I am a single mother myself needing more support than I have."

– Velocity survey participant

Vision 2000 centered on building things — the Tennessee Aquarium, riverfront, industrial parks and infrastructure. But the most vibrant and innovative places to live and work in 2040 will have more than great physical infrastructure; they will share a new social compact, one that honors all citizens and balances the prosperity of some with the needs of all.

We envision a region that uses methods like these to forge a new collaboration process:

* Race and equity training like that offered by GARE, the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, to address the root causes of inequity and reshape policies for a community where all can thrive.

* Add Racial Equity Institute trainings as offered by the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga and Benwood Foundation.

* Collective impact that ties the community's large scale philanthropic investments to large-scale, multi-stakeholder initiatives. Chattanooga 2.0 is a living example of this.

Let's engage those impacted by a problem in the creation of solutions to that problem. Habitat for Humanity, green | spaces and the Bethlehem Center have all done this.

The Innovation District and the INCubator at the Hamilton County Business Development Center provide places for innovation to occur. Now we need to seed our community with processes that can move us from where we are to where we can be.

To achieve such a community, we need to be a place where institutional racism is confronted with compassionate and effective solutions, where the achievement gap is not measured by race, where the divisions that once defined us are addressed openly and graciously, making room for new cohesion based on a shared future.