7 Ways The City Council Can Make Better Economic Development Policy Now

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

As Chattanooga nears full implementation of strategies for the riverfront, downtown, and Enterprise South, decisions on economic development priorities going forward are really quite simple. Chattanooga either commits its resources now to redevelop the long declining commercial and industrial areas the gangs fight over, or we devote all our economic development resources by default to paving our way to Cleveland. Chattanooga either continues doling out expensive favors to developers for urban gentrification and suburban sprawl at the taxpayers’ expense, or we learn finally how to truly grow from within. Chattanooga either begins to appreciate the strengths we already have and builds to make our economy, environment, and communities more sustainable, or city leaders resign themselves just to react to changes not of our own choosing. Chattanooga either begins to value and market the skills and abilities of its own people, all of its people, or we simply continue fulfilling the endless wish lists of things sought by a relative few. 

The city council has within its power to begin setting new economic development policies now. After all, the city council has the ultimate responsibility to decide where and how tax resources are best spent. The following are seven such actions the council could take. These are only dust offs from past plans too easily lost in the city’s short institutional memory: 

1. Convene a task force to redirect economic development incentives toward creating new community-based markets in Chattanooga’s long declining, blighted, and neglected commercial and industrial areas. Direct the task force to redesign incentive programs toward creating jobs (and training opportunities) with a family living wage, building and keeping wealth within communities, and encouraging capital investment in the products and services of homegrown businesses. 

2. Direct the planning staff to prepare a comprehensive plan for South Chattanooga (Main Street to the Georgia line) including improved I-24 interchanges that capture more business from interstate travelers, a new stormwater management system and wetlands restoration program for the Chattanooga Creek basin, greenways on both sides of the creek (East Lake and Alton Park), and public investments to make blighted commercial and industrial areas more marketable. Direct the staff to collaborate with the education system, nonprofit community organizations, and all entities involved in economic development to marshal and leverage resources to their greatest effect. 

3. Direct the planning staff to prepare similar plans on a smaller scale for the Central Avenue corridor and the blighted commercial and industrial areas of East Chattanooga. 

4. Resolve that Chattanooga’s number one business recruiting priority is a large centrally located grocery store to serve the food desert that has too long existed in Chattanooga’s urban core. Direct that tax incentives and public investments be tailored to remove the barriers and create the redevelopment synergies necessary to make this happen. (If Chattanooga can recruit VW, we can surely recruit a grocery store.) 

5. Direct the mayor and the planning staff to make Eastgate interstate access a part of any planning for improvements to the interchange of 1-75 and I-24. 

6. Direct the Department of Economic and Community Development to incorporate community-based solutions for preventing and ameliorating gentrification in all related HUD consolidated planning, including a review of programs that may have an adverse affect on the supply of housing affordable to people with low to moderate incomes. 

7. Seed an effort to establish a strong nonprofit economic development corporation to further facilitate all the above, creating new tools and partnerships a fit to the tasks (a large flexible micro business loan program for example). 

The communities affected are not without vision. Imagine Chattanooga Creek greenway, wetlands, and stormwater projects that are jobs and jobs training programs too. Imagine community-based code enforcement that includes a work force to help address problems instead of picking on Grandma whose grandson who mowed the lawn had to move away for work, or worse, stayed and landed in criminal justice system. Imagine new and creative community-based solutions to housing and food security, residential property appearance and livability, and micro business development. Imagine a nonprofit sector as committed to funding the administrative costs of a microloan program as the Choo Choo Terminal’s maintenance costs. Imagine communities where everybody’s vision matters. 

We once called that “the Chattanooga way.” 

Frank Wrinn
(career planner and policy analyst in local government as well as community-based strategic planning in high poverty areas nationally)



Rock In Peace, Tommy Jett

Rock In Peace, Tommy Jett. A bright, bright star shining  tonight  in rock and roll heaven. Bill Wallace Signal Mountain  (click for more)

If You Want More Obama Vote For Bredesen

Re: Roy Exum: 'We'll Lose The Senate!' Roy, I love you but on this issue you are wrong.  Very wrong.  You miss or avoid the only point that really matters for Tennessee and the country.  This is not about Republicans or the Republican Party.  This is about a Populist President who faces the most egregious opposition from the Democratic Party in the history ... (click for more)

McCallie Coach From 90s Who Is Now Deceased Is Accused Of Abusing Students

A McCallie School coach from the 1990s who is now deceased is being accused of abusing students at the private prep school. Two former students said Steven Lee "Steve" Carpenter sexually abused them. Carpenter was the basketball coach at McCallie for 11 seasons - through 1999. He was boys basketball coach at Ridgeland High School beginning in 2000. Carpenter was ... (click for more)

Famed Radio Broadcaster Tommy Jett Dies At 77 At His Flintstone Home

Legendary radio broadcaster Tommy Jett (Thomas Wayne Reynolds) died Wednesday in his sleep at his residence in Flintstone, Ga.   He was 77. The native of Smithville, Tn., first was heard on Chattanooga radio in 1961 when he joined WFLI. He was known for his gaudy rings and his "Hey Now" greeting. He switched to country on WDOD in the 1980s and later was on "The Legend" ... (click for more)

Cagle's One-Hitter Leads South Pittsburg Win

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. – South Pittsburg pitcher EJ Cagle is starting to refine his one-hitters.   For the second game in a row, the right-hander twirled a complete-game one-hitter, limiting visiting Lookout Valley to a bloop hit in the Pirates’ 10-0 shutout of the Jackets in a matchup of regular-season champions  Wednesday  night.   In ... (click for more)

Bradley Rides Bunch's 3-Hitter To 5-0 Win And 5-3A Baseball Title

Bradley Central’s opening 9-3 loss to Soddy-Daisy in a double-header to decide the District 5-3A regular-season champion on Wednesday, meant second-game starter Andy Bunch, a senior right-hander, needed to turn in a Herculean effort for the Bears. Bunch came through with flying colors at Tom Higgins Field. The hard-throwing Bunch fired a three-hit shutout at the Trojans ... (click for more)