WSJ and Bloomberg Talk VC and Tech Within Chattanooga

Chattanooga is catching some media attention for its industry trends. City of Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly and Cameron Doody, co-founder of venture fund Brickyard, were featured in a Wall Street Journal article about the Scenic City’s new identity as a tech and venture capital hub.

Read the full article, here.

Kelly also appeared as guest on the Bloomberg Businessweek Podcast to discuss the city’s attraction for newcomers, as well as the issues he is tackling as mayor to ensure the city’s boom is intentional and ubiquitous.

Here are the top three takeaways from the interview.

Chattanooga is a remote work destination. Boasting some of the world’s fastest Internet speeds, outdoor recreation and good ole Southern hospitality, Chattanooga has been at the top of relocation and tourism lists for several years. With the onset of COVID, people who could live anywhere and still do their jobs flocked to the Scenic City. While Kelly says firm data is difficult to come by, he told hosts that a study of new electric utility signups commissioned by his office suggested 10,000 new residents had recently relocated to the city.

“If we have a competitive advantage as a city, it’s our outdoor space, our outdoor activities, our greenspace, so we’re going to continue to leverage that because it comes back to quality of life,” Kelly says.

The city is committed to increasing the supply of affordable housing. As outlined in Kelly’s strategic plan “One Chattanooga,” housing prices have dramatically risen during the past five years, threatening to drive out local residents who have lived in the community for generations. Kelly described how he plans to “be intentional about increasing supply.”

“I announced a $33 million allocation of our city budget — which for a city the size of Chattanooga is a pretty good chunk — and then am going to use my experience in the philanthropic world to really work with our local and national foundations to try to raise $100 million total, and then also contribute a lot of city property that we have toward the effort. It is a form of inflation, and you have to get on it early and often,” Kelly says.

Solving modern problems through specific data. Chattanooga was among the first eight cities selected for a nationwide initiative to improve government performance and transparency through civic data.

Bloomberg Businessweek host, Carol Massar, spoke with Kelly on how he focused this data to address community issues.

Massar: Chattanooga is among the first state cities selected for a nationwide initiative to improve government performance and transparency through specific data. We’re talking about Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities, which is providing support and training for midsize cities including your city. What does it mean to be a modern city today?

Kelly: Well, I guess I came at it from business and philanthropy, not from politics.

Massar: And is that an advantage?

Kelly: I think it’s a huge advantage.

… Executive politics is a very, very different, non-ideological exercise than legislative politics. My job is to run the city like a Swiss watch, to really have the machinery, government at work. And I don’t think that’s a trivial undertaking because we ran my whole campaign based on filling potholes, which seemed really, probably a bad analogy, but pedestrian. What occurred to me through the course of the campaign was, people want to know the government can solve their problems. If you can’t solve their simplest problems, they’re not going to trust you to solve more abstract problems. Democracy, I think it’s fair to say, as an institution, is under threat. And I think cities are where we can prove that democracy works. I think the government can still solve people’s problems.

Listen to the whole Bloomberg Businessweek podcast episode on Spotify, or Apple or Google podcasts. View Mayor Kelly’s One Chattanooga strategic plan here.

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