Leadership Chattanooga’s November session convened at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce’s INCubator, the largest business incubator in Tennessee. “Economic Development and Transportation” was the day’s theme.
There’s evidence of the river being used for trade as early as the year 900. Much later, in the 1800s, Chattanooga became the “Gateway to the South” due to its central location and famous railroads.
Now, with multiple interstates converging, Chattanooga ranks No. 1 in all metropolitan cities in the volume of freight moving by truck. Not to mention the Gig: transporting data around the city at speeds fast than anywhere else in the western hemisphere.
Always a crossroads, Chattanooga has attracted business development to our area for well over a century. “Development brings more development,” said Kim White, president and CEO of River City Company.
Thanks to Chattanooga’s famous entrepreneurial spirit, as we have grown, we have always managed to stay one step ahead and remain competitive. “If you’re not ready, telling them you’re about to get ready is not the right answer,” said Charles Wood, vice president of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, regarding attracting new industry to our area.
In a twist on the normal Leadership Chattanooga protocol, we broke up into small groups and were tasked with exploring certain points of interest to get more of a hands-on feel of our local infrastructure.
For me, the highlight of the trip was a visit to Enterprise South Industrial Park, home of the Volkswagen assembly plant and Amazon distribution center, formerly the site of a TNT manufacturing facility constructed to support our efforts in World War II.
I had never seen Enterprise South in person and was immediately struck by the tremendous scale – I wondered out loud what sort of effort must have been required to construct such a huge operation.
One more thing that caught my attention was the Enterprise South Nature Park. The Nature Park covers 2,800 acres and contains many miles of walking and bicycle paths, existing side-by-side with the industrial park.
Seeing so much land being preserved for public use spoke to what I have come to recognize as a hallmark of development in Chattanooga: encouraging growth and opportunity while still preserving all the natural beauty that surrounds us.
As Ruthie Thompson, communications and outreach manager for Thrive 2055, said, “We want educated people with good jobs living in a great place.”
The huge success of Enterprise South truly embodies that ethos. As our area continues to grow, it will be all of our responsibility to ensure that we never forget those things that has made Chattanooga such a special place to begin with: our people, our natural treasures, and our vibrant communities.
Next month, one of the most challenging issues of them all: education. v