The director of downtown Chattanooga's new Business Improvement District brings experience in such initiatives from Boston, Baltimore, and Santa Monica, California.
"I thought it was a great opportunity coming in and to lead and steer and guide it," says Steve Brookes, who began his Scenic City post in mid-April. "It's important to have a healthy downtown for a lot of reasons."
Brookes, 40, moved to Chattanooga from Boston, where he started the Business Improvement District's ambassador program, which is made up of people who act as the eyes and ears of the improvement district.
"It was a tremendous opportunity to start a program and be part of the transformation of a downtown area that was once thriving and successful," he says.
At a glance
Name: Steve Brookes
Job: Director of the Chattanooga Business Improvement District
From: Originally from Connecticut, Brookes has worked for development districts in Baltimore, Santa Monica and Boston
The Business Improvement District in Chattanooga is a private sector initiative to improve a portion of downtown, roughly bordered by the Tennessee River, U.S. Highway 27, 11th Street and a combination of Georgia Avenue and Cherry Street. The aim is to provide Chattanooga with enhanced cleanliness, safety and beautification made possible by levies on property owners in the district.
The Chattanooga Business Improvement District fees are expected to generate about $1 million annually.
Brookes, who is originally from Connecticut, didn't start his career in business improvement districts. He says he graduated from Elon University in North Carolina, where he majored in sports and leisure management with a minor in business.
From there, he interned in 2002 with American Hospitality Academy, working at a hotel in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where he did resort activities. He later worked in a supervisory role at the hotel before moving to Baltimore.
Brookes says he initially sought a job as a Business Improvement District ambassador in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. But when he interviewed for the job, he was offered a post managing the ambassador program, he says.
"Little did I know that launched my career," Brookes says.
After staying in Baltimore for two years, he left for Santa Monica outside Los Angeles for a Business Improvement District there.
"It was a much larger program and a chance to manage folks on the West Coast and get experience in a different part of the country," says Brookes, who started and managed the ambassador program.
Two years later, he says, he had the opportunity to start an ambassador program for a Business Improvement District in downtown Boston.
"It was sort of a return to home," Brookes says about going back to New England.
Brookes, who is married and has three children, says he sees the Chattanooga Business Improvement District as helping to keep downtown moving forward.
"It takes a partnership to make a BID successful," he says.
Brookes, who likes to hike and golf, says he was attracted to the Chattanooga area's outdoors scene.
"There's a longer season to do that here," he says.