An Interview with WUTC: Christy Gillenwater & Charles Wood on Chattanooga Climbs

Holly Bonner

In an interview with WUTC, Christy Gillenwater, the Chamber’s President & CEO, and Charles Wood, the Chamber’s Vice President of Economic Development, discuss what Chattanooga Climbs means for the community.

“By encouraging family and friends to move to Chattanooga, making your neighbors feel welcome or helping your new coworker feel like part of the community, Chattanooga Climbs is something that every single resident can help bring to life,” Gillenwater says. 

Looking toward the future, the Chamber worked with over 5,000 people to develop Chattanooga Climbs as part of a 20-year vision known as Velocity 2040. Among other goals, the plan aims to bring over a billion dollars of capital investment and boost average pay in the area.

“I've been so impressed with how collectively business leaders, church leaders, neighborhood leaders and all walks of life have come to the table wanting to be a part of Chattanooga Climbs,” says Gillenwater.

Lead Gig City Wins

Chattanooga has the fastest internet in the nation and we don’t mind bragging about it. Our reputation as Gig City has made innovative and tech-savvy companies like Viget want to call Chattanooga home. As part of Chattanooga Climbs, the Chamber intends to continue meeting the needs of our growing startup community.  

“How can we continue to think through the other tools that are needed, like access to capital and mentorships, and open doors for more people who want to be entrepreneurs in our community?” Gillenwater says.

Become Future Ready

Wood notes that cities across the country are struggling more than ever to attract profitable talent. Communities are competing to lure in businesses using local opportunities as incentives.

“As we look at changing demographics, a large number of baby boomers are retiring,” Wood says. “So it is important to develop a strong pipeline for companies that are here and future companies that aren't here yet.”

During a time when unemployment is low, people need more of a reason to move than a job. Chattanooga Climbs identifies how Chattanooga can be the place to be for entrepreneurs and startups.

Create Economic Mobility for All

“We are being very intentional about thinking through the types of companies we hope to relocate here,” Gillenwater says. “Companies like Nippon Paint want to locate somewhere people can walk and easily access their jobs.”

The Chamber, alongside community partners, hopes to eliminate mobility barriers so career opportunities are more accessible for people from all walks of life.

As far as mobility in the literal sense, if you want to convince the rising workforce to move to your city, find a way to keep them out of traffic. Walkability is now one of the key features prospective employees look for when deciding where to land their next job.

Create an Inclusive Economy, led by Collaborative Leaders

Going forward, the Chamber plans to collaborate with leaders, like the Styles L. Hutchins Fellows, who have ideas on how we can be more thoughtful as a city.

“There've been many people who frankly haven't been able to take advantage of the success we've seen,” says Wood. “And so the idea around economic inclusion is to make sure that we're creating opportunities for people across the community from all different segments to have opportunity for jobs, training and economic mobility.”

Listen to the full interview here. 

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