For a while now, Rob Praino has noticed all the newcomers in Chattanooga. But in May 2020, the data confirmed his observations.
“People are starting to see the benefits of a small market like Chattanooga,” said Praino, director of membership at the Common House Social Club. They came from all over the country, he said, from cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago and New York — and, of course, Atlanta and Nashville.
“There’s a lot to do here. There’s a lot of good people here – people get a sense of that when they visit.”
A big part of the appeal also has to do with the city’s community-wide high-speed internet, which makes working remotely easy, he said.
Common House works with several local businesses, large and small, that offer memberships as part of their employee benefit packages. In some cases, businesses pay for memberships; in others, employees buy their own memberships at a discount.
“I visit people here every week who are free to work and are looking for landing spots,” Plano said. “People want freedom. The pandemic period has taught us that we can get things done that we need to do and that we can go to the office at our leisure, which doesn’t have to be necessary.”
Plus, he said, Chattanooga is a great place to call home. “There’s a peaceful spirit here. It’s a special place.”
Chattanooga’s electric utility, EPB, has been a pioneer in high-speed Internet.
In 2015, they announced a 10 gig service – far more powerful than anyone had experienced at the time. Then last fall, they outdid themselves, announcing a super-powerful 25-show run.
Most recently, in December 2022, the company announced an initiative to create the first commercial quantum network in the United States, which city leaders hope will attract researchers and researchers interested in pursuing new quantum technologies in computing, cybersecurity and other fields. entrepreneur.
“For anyone considering where to move, there are a lot of places where you can’t get good Internet service and pay dearly for it,” said J. Ed Marston, EPB vice president of communications. “So the fact that we offer a world-class service at a reasonable price is great. It keeps the startup environment alive.”
He said the service not only attracted businesses and entrepreneurs from all over the world, but also improved the quality of life of thousands of local residents. Additionally, every household within a 600 square mile radius has access to citywide service. That means people can live almost anywhere, including rural areas, and still enjoy high-speed service.
“It also keeps companies alive, whether it’s in smart grids or fiber optics, depending on energy and connectivity,” Marston said. “In turn, attracting more businesses makes life in Chattanooga better overall .If there are more, higher paying jobs, that’s good for everyone.”
This mentality dates back to the 1970s and 1980s, Marston said. Chattanooga’s economy was devastated in those years, losing hundreds of industrial and manufacturing jobs, he recalls.
In response, local leaders came together to develop what became known as the “Chattanooga Way,” which he said is a long-term call to action to rebuild the city. Community-wide fiber optics emerged in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
“So the idea is to use fiber optics,” he said. “They’re much easier to update. The fiber optic cables themselves have incredible scalability without adding more cables. And the technology used to carry the information over the cables can be upgraded without having to be redone.”
Before moving to Chattanooga, Sybil Topel and her husband lived in Nashville and Atlanta. Ultimately, though, Chattanooga was a better fit for their careers and plans.
“We chose Chattanooga as a destination we were considering living in, and then we started looking for job opportunities,” said Topel, vice president of marketing and engagement for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce. “We love the new developments we’re seeing – especially the refurbishment of several buildings in the city center and south end. It’s real evidence that the city is embracing the influence of contemporary architectural design.
“We all love the trails being close to the river and downtown. Living here is easy. You can kayak or stand up paddle board on the river, or go hiking at Stringer’s Ridge for lunch or after get off work.”
In terms of attracting businesses, she points to the Greater Chattanooga Economic Partnership (GCEP), which fosters smart growth in the 16-county, three-state region surrounding the city. The region has become known as the South’s manufacturing magnet, as well as a growing hub for technology and entrepreneurship.
Chattanooga’s reputation as a “freight alley” is due in large part to the area’s top-notch logistics network, she said. Road, rail, barge, and air infrastructure provide easy, cost-effective transportation to key markets in the Southeast, Midwest, and Mid-Atlantic, as well as seaports on the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast. Companies located in the region are within a day’s drive of 40 percent of the nation’s population — or more than 131 million consumers.
Most importantly, she added, Chattanooga is “flyable.” Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport offers nonstop service to nine locations across the United States, which helps attract business visitors and tourists, many of whom become new residents.
In October 2022, Gail Loveland Barille was named the new director of the Chattanooga Outdoor Division, part of the City of Chattanooga Parks and Outdoors Division. Through her previous work, she had experienced the beauty of Chattanooga, so when she and her husband were offered the opportunity to call the city home – they took it.
The couple moved here before the pandemic hit in March 2020. That experience alone is enough to point to the benefits of public green spaces in urban areas, she said.
“[The pandemic]was a tough time for people to relocate,” she recalls. “How are you going to meet new people? But we explored the great outdoors.
“Just the simple act of being in a green space can do amazing things to improve mental health. (Part of our mission) is to make sure everyone in Chattanooga has access to the outdoors and parks.
Another factor that sets Chattanooga apart is its interest in promoting the natural and urban environment, she said. Instead of seeing the park as a space in the city, people are looking at the city as the park itself, finding ways to connect people, businesses and nature.
Across the country, she said, the trend is that people are looking for cities where they can live, work and play. They want to spend less time stuck in traffic and offices, and tend towards a lifestyle that offers more freedom.
“People have discovered the greatness of Chattanooga, so we’re trying to deal with the effects of population growth,” she said. “We are working with local community partners, businesses and nonprofits, and other government entities in the region to ensure we are pursuing sustainable growth.
“We’re thinking ahead so our natural environments can last, and the places we love live on for generations to come.”
Sell Scenic City
* The cost of living in Chattanooga is lower than the national average, and despite a higher sales tax, Tennessee is one of only nine states that does not impose a state income tax on personal income.
* Home prices in Chattanooga have risen by double digits over the past few years, but the median home price is still about 30 percent below the U.S. median, according to the National Association of Realtors.
* According to census data and national surveys, the cost of living in Chattanooga is 3% higher than the state average and 8% lower than the national average.
* Housing in Chattanooga is 11% cheaper than the U.S. average, while utilities are about 10% lower.
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