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)



Am I Alone?

 Am I alone seems to be quite apt as I begin to form sentences, thoughts and concerns regarding the state of this country. I feel like I am alone trying, somehow, to justify Trump and understand why he is constantly in the middle of chaos.  Now coined as the Liar-in-Chief, Chief Foreign Affairs Coordinator acting for his pal Russian Dictator, Putin.  The silence ... (click for more)

Re-elect Joe Graham

Early voting time is here again and our choices couldn’t be more important.  It’s an easy choice though for the voters in Hamilton County District 6.  Joe Graham is the obvious choice.  I’ve known Joe for over 40 years.  I grew up with him.  He was a few years behind me at Lookout Valley High School but even then, I could tell there was something special ... (click for more)

Red Bank Approves Short Term Vacation Rental Ordinance On Final Reading

The Red Bank Commission passed an ordinance Tuesday night on second and final reading that regulates short term rentals within the city. "Our hands have been tied because of state law," said Mayor John Roberts. Many residents, both for and against allowing these rentals, have come to recent commission meetings appealing to the commissioners for their side of the issue, ... (click for more)

Firefighters Battle 2-Alarm Fire On Workman Road Tuesday Morning

Chattanooga firefighters were dispatched at 6:03 a.m. on Tuesday, to a commercial fire at 400 Workman Road. When the first firefighters arrived on the scene, flames were shooting through the roof and the request was immediately made for a second alarm response. The flames could be seen for miles as a total of 13 fire companies rushed to the scene. The large, two-story ... (click for more)

English, Ex-East Hamilton Coach, Hired To Lead Whites Creek Boys' Hoops Team

Rodney English, former boys’ basketball coach at East Hamilton, recently was named to a similar job at Whites Creek High School in Nashville. The move was made public Monday when English’s name appeared on the official Whites Creek school directory that is annually submitted to the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association. The hiring of English at Whites Creek was also ... (click for more)

Vols' Nigel Warrior Named To Bednarik Award Watch List

Tennessee junior defensive back  Nigel Warrior  has been named to the 2018 Bednarik Award Watch List. Warrior is the first Vol to be named to the Bednarik Watch list since the defensive trio of Derek Barnett, Jalen Reeves-Maybin and Cameron Sutton were named to the Bednarik's preliminary list in 2016.   Warrior totaled 83 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss ... (click for more)