Annual Meeting Awards Honor Community Champions

Business Education Investor: Rock City


They may have been around for the better part of a century, but Rock City is always thinking about the future. Their latest accomplishment? Partnering with the Howard School to open the See Rock City Institute of Hospitality and Tourism Management. That commitment includes not only a significant financial contribution, but also field trips, job shadowing, advisory roles and preferential part-time job availability for students. 

Rock City provides a variety of opportunities for students as they employ chefs, artists, accountants, marketers, maintenance technicians, horticulture specialists and professionals in guest service, event production and leadership. This forward-looking contribution to local education helps student succeed post-graduation and bolsters the talent pipeline for hospitality and tourism in our region.

Diversity & Inclusion Ally: The Mad Priest


The Mad Priest coffee and cocktail connoisseurs serve up a hefty dose of social responsibility with their beverages. They champion the displaced by working with Bridge Refugee Services to provide employment for resettled refugees in Chattanooga. Over the past few years, they’ve employed four refugees at Mad Priest’s coffee roastery and cafe and launched a curriculum to train them in English, customer service and other hard and soft skills.

Beyond supporting people in building new lives, they work to cultivate culture and celebrate diversity in Chattanooga on a broader scale with events that enable folks to experience the world’s tapestry of food, culture and tradition right in their own backyard.

Family Friendly Workplace: Unum


What’s more important than family? At Unum, not much. Just ask Forbes. They ranked Unum as one of America’s best employers for women based on the company’s efforts to prioritize pay equity and diversity among top executives. That’s in addition to extensive recognition they’ve received for parental leave policies, community-mindedness and being a great place to work for LGBTQ+ individuals and people with disabilities.

Unum offers six weeks of paid leave for all new parents, flexible work policies, lactation rooms, free Milk Stork services for traveling moms, a working moms network and more as they lead the way in empowering employees’ families.

Healthy Business: McKee Foods


Collegedale’s family bakery moves the needle on healthy workplaces with a robust corporate wellness initiative that incentivizes exercise for all fitness levels, including several guided fitness, wellness and nutrition initiatives that reward employees for their participation over the course of 12-week programs. In addition to providing state-of-the-art employee and family fitness and recreation facilities at each of the company’s locations, McKee Foods also maintains outdoor walking paths and has strategically placed several Breaktime Fitness Centers near work areas so employees have access to a quick cardio workout on breaks.

In the community, McKee Foods and their Little Debbie and Sunbelt Bakery brands are the major sponsors of Chattanooga’s premier IRONMAN and IRONMAN 70.3 triathlons, with large company teams represented in the races. McKee Foods is also wrapping up their OH! Outdoor Happiness Movement project. OH! committed more than $1 million to fund 50 projects in 50 states over a five-year period. These projects include trails, green spaces, playgrounds, park improvements — anything to encourage Americans to enjoy the great outdoors.

McKee Foods values the wellbeing of their employees and their families because healthy employees and healthy families contribute to strong communities. 

Sustainability Partner: The Crash Pad


Don’t let their name fool you. The Crash Pad has more to offer than a bunk and a beer after a day of climbing.

The first LEED Platinum certified hostel in the world, The Crash Pad has received a plethora of sustainability accolades. Their energy efficient building used all materials from the pre-existing structure, and partnering with the City of Chattanooga on a permeable paver system has helped address storm water challenges on Johnson Street.

A comprehensive Eco-Policy guides their daily operations and they’re one of the first green|light certified businesses vetted for sustainable operations in cleaning, water and energy efficiency, waste reduction and more as they focus on the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.

Velocity2040 Community Collaborators: green|spaces & EPB


A small nonprofit with six employees, green|spaces has built key partnerships with over 30 organizations to address community issues. EPB is one of those partners, working with green|spaces to raise over $3.1 million for energy efficiency improvements and education in low-income households. Today, more than 2000 families know the smartest ways to lower utility bills from attending a green|spaces’ Empower workshop and over 250 homes have received improvements like new HVAC systems, added insulation and efficient windows and doors through EPB’s Home Energy Upgrade program. 

Additionally, green|spaces, in partnership with Build Me A World, operates a 12-week paid training program for at risk young adults interested in pursuing careers in construction and energy service related industries. green|spaces’ green|light program supports local businesses like fellow honoree, The Crash Pad, in managing their environmental and social impact in addition to succeeding financially. green|spaces also fosters a new generation excited about engineering and alternative energy with over 30 local student teams building and racing electric vehicles in this year’s Chattanooga Green Prix.

green|spaces’ work embodies the pillars of the Velocity2040 vision: learning, thriving, leading, collaborating and getting from A to B in 20 minutes or less.

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