Chattanooga Climbs: Rebuilding Our Momentum

By Christy Gillenwater, President & CEO, Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce

At our Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting on August 19 we will pause a few moments to honor our dedicated, hard-working volunteers and leaders and to reflect upon the past 12 months of work. I invite you to join us.

We will also look toward our future, a future that promises our work will remain laser-focused on rebuilding momentum for our area businesses.

Last fiscal year we launched Chattanooga Climbs, our five-year economic and talent development plan whose aspirational goals invite us to climb higher, while also staying grounded. Nearly 900 local residents gave more than 800 hours of time to sessions and surveys about talent resourcing, jobs and capital investment. From this and additional research, we built a plan that centers on:

· Future Ready, skills for the new economy

· Mobility for All, every resident thrives

· Gig City Wins, entrepreneurs lead the way

· Inclusive Economy, Collaborative Leaders

These areas of focus withstood the trials of multiple crises – pandemic and tornadoes – and they resonate even stronger after a spring and summer where economic and social justice became a rallying cry.

They may feel like insurmountable peaks now, but that’s not how we will approach them. As outgoing Chairman of the Board J.V. Vaughn said, “Sometimes when you’re climbing higher, you have to step back and try a new route.” In this case, that means rebuilding momentum.

Rebuilding momentum means that we will keep planning ahead for jobs and continue to engage our community in this work.

Over the past 12 to 13 months, many positive national news headlines featured Chattanooga and Hamilton County. The behind-the-scenes work it takes to garner these headlines and broadcasts continues as we collaborate closely with our city and county leaders to keep our Chattanooga brand highly visible.

We’ll keep showing the world how Chattanooga is a place where we grow companies that are strong and resilient, a place where working remotely is easy and internet access is reliable, creating a haven for remote workers. We’ll keep bridging the digital divide for our students and parents and we’ll share the knowledge we have about how to leverage Smart City technology – a true benefit for a city rebuilding from the pandemic. We will share our stories about how we remain committed to sustainability and how important we take our role as a shining light in the South.

Please join me on August 19 as we look toward our future and as we formally welcome Valoria Armstrong as our incoming Board of Directors Chair. She has long served our community in her role as Vice President, National Government and Regulatory Affairs, American Water Co. As well, we will recognize and honor J.V. Vaughn, Market President, SunTrust Now Truist, and immediate Past Chair of the Board of Directors, who approached all the year’s challenges with tenacity and courage, a role model for many.