Small Business, Big Deal: Signal Centers

By Amanda Ellis

Small businesses are a big deal for the local economy. That’s why we recognize some of the most outstanding with our annual Small Business Awards recognizing small businesses up to 300 employees as well as a nonprofit. Read on to learn about our 2019 nonprofit Small Business of the Year: Signal Centers.


Signal Centers empowers our community by focusing on early childhood education, self-sufficiency and supporting those with disabilities.

Donna McConnico, Signal Centers CEO, shares two stories that demonstrate Signal Centers’ impact. The first is Baby University helping a young mom get her GED and begin college classes.

“We walk alongside people to help them accomplish their dreams and their goals,” she says. “It's not our goals for them, it's their goals and dreams for themselves. We try to access all the resources they need to get there. So, if they need help leveraging financial aid, finding child care, need transportation, we help. But they're doing the work.”

She also highlights Signal Centers’ vision program for people with low vision. An Apple certified teacher who's blind teaches a program called Jobs Access with Speech. Wearing headphones, participants learn to navigate the internet, use email and more via touch and audio feedback.

“We even help work with employers or schools to install adapted equipment onto a computer, so people with impaired vision can work or attend classes,” McConnico says.

Signal Centers’ robust program offerings may leave you wondering what they don’t do.

Signal Centers offers the only social model day program in Chattanooga for adults with disabilities. Last year, 56 adults participated.

The organization is one of only five centers in the state to offer support with assistive technology, devices that help solve daily challenges related to disabilities. These might include a joystick computer mouse or various devices that alert with light instead of sound for individuals with hearing loss. Signal Centers served 711 assistive technology clients last year. 

Signal Centers Children’s Services include home programs for children with disabilities, and an Early Learning Center for both children who are typically developing and children with disabilities. Signal Centers served 202 children in the home and 172 in the Early Learning Center last year.

Last year, 40 clients completed Signal Centers employment programs and 27 clients who previously earned jobs celebrated one-year anniversaries.

“One of the great things about Chattanooga is that so many organizations, companies and philanthropic entities come together to make sure that resources are available,” McConnico says. “At Signal Centers, we're partners with everybody. The other two finalists, Creative Discovery Museum and the Food Bank, had both served our clients in the past week when we received this award. Nonprofits are where everybody comes together. Regardless of their political persuasions, regardless of their beliefs, everyone in our community wants to be a part of making life better for Chattanoogans.”


Learn more about Signal Centers here.