Highlights from GovCon23

This week in Chattanooga, government officials, industry leaders, and experts convened at the Tennessee Economic Development Conference, GovCon23, to discuss various aspects of economic development in the state. One of the highlights of the event was the Commissioner’s Luncheon, where Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly and Hamilton County Mayor Weston Wamp joined Tennessee Economic Development Commissioner Stuart McWhorter to discuss the region’s economic development initiatives and the mayors’ continued efforts to provide workforce opportunities for local high school students. The conversation emphasized the importance of collaboration between local and state governments in fostering economic growth and creating opportunities in Southeast Tennessee. GovCon23 featured sessions covering rural development, emerging technologies, foreign direct investment, and quantum technology. Read on for five key takeaways from the conference.

  1. Quantum Technology is the Next Frontier in Economic Development
    With EPB’s launch of America’s first commercially available quantum network, Chattanooga is well-positioned to recruit manufacturing and high-wage jobs associated with this rapidly emerging industry. Former U.S. Senator Bob Corker moderated a discussion between Mayor Tim Kelly, EPB’s president David Wade and Duncan Earl, co-founder of Qubitekk, about how the State of Tennessee is actively seeking ways to benefit from quantum technology and how Chattanooga and the surrounding areas could strategically position themselves to leverage the economic opportunities presented by the quantum tech revolution.
  2. Family-Friendly is Business Friendly: Childcare as an Economic Development Tool
    A panel of experts shared the positive impact of expanded childcare options on businesses within their communities. Garrett Dolan, Senior Manager of Human Resources at Tyson Foods, Inc., discussed the company’s incorporation of childcare solutions through the Tyson Learning Center, an employer-sponsored childcare facility located at their West Tennessee poultry processing complex. This nearly $5 million investment is designed to support more than 100 children under the age of five and employ a staff of 20, with KinderCare providing childcare services. Tyson Foods actively subsidizes tuition for its team members, recognizing the crucial role accessible and affordable childcare plays in workforce engagement and overall employee well-being.

    Panel members from left to right: Duncan Earl, Mayor Tim Kelly, David Wade, Bob Corker.
    Photo Credit: Dan Henry

  3. Workforce Development Goes Regional for Blue Oval
    In September 2021, Ford Motor Company and SK On announced a $5.6 billion investment to establish a 3,600-acre campus known as BlueOval City, slated for launch in 2025 and expected to generate 5,800 new jobs. This announcement served as the catalyst for the school superintendents of Haywood, Tipton, and Lauderdale counties to create HTL University, the first rural district collaboration of its kind in the nation, aimed at responding to industry investments through strategic partnerships. This collaborative effort is focused on strengthening K-12, post-secondary, and workforce partnerships to meet the talent demands of various industries, ensuring that every student within the three school districts graduates high school with a valuable credential: an associate degree, a degree from a Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT), progress towards a four-year degree, or a guaranteed apprenticeship opportunity.
  4. Tennessee Aims to be the Top Automotive and Mobility R&D Location in the Southeast
    A panel of statewide research leaders from Oak Ridge National Laboratory, University of Tennessee and Vanderbilt University unveiled the Transportation Network Growth and Opportunity Initiative (TNGO), a plan to strategically grow and sustain Tennessee’s future mobility innovation economy through research and development partnerships. By deploying statewide research and industry assets, the TNGO initiative represents a significant opportunity, making Tennessee the premier destination for the next generation of high-quality mobility jobs. At the forefront of this initiative is Chattanooga’s Smart Corridor project, which offers a multifaceted approach to urban development that combines technology, data, and sustainable practices to create safer, more efficient, and environmentally friendly Chattanooga.
  5. Connecting for Growth: Small Business Connections Make a Big Impact
    In many Tennessee communities, the growth of startup ventures plays a pivotal role in driving economic prosperity. Chattanooga’s entrepreneurial ecosystem was touted in a session about the importance of connecting entrepreneurs to the right resources by facilitating access to funding, mentorship, and expertise. Chattanoogans Kenyatta Ashford, Founder/Chef of Neutral Ground and George Yu, Founder and CEO of Variable, Inc. discussed Chattanooga’s startup scene and the opportunities it presents for growing a business.

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