Thrive 2055: Beyond the Planning Initiative

Ruthie Thompson

With the capping of the Thrive 2055 planning initiative, regional stakeholders are moving forward to implement the region’s 40-year vision into action.

When hundreds of business, government and community leaders began convening in 2012 to create a sustainable vision for the tristate, 16-county region around Chattanooga, they had notions of what they wanted the region to look like in 40 years: an economically prosperous community of 1.4 million people.  Three years later, mountains of data and thousands of hours out in the region confirmed that economic growth and job attainment was important, but not at the expense of our region’s unique livability.

The Thrive 2055 process identified three priorities that must always align with economic development: education and workforce, regional transportation and protection of the region’s natural treasures. Thrive illuminated trends and forces in commuter patterns, educational attainment, freight movement and the loss of agricultural lands and wildlife habitat on a regional scale for the first time. Powerful messages emerged for everyone about actions to be taken — and taken soon — to ensure the sustainable vitality of the region.

After three years of work, the true value of the Thrive 2055 process emerged as trust.

The tristate region had 95 state, county and local governments, 16 chambers of commerce, three metropolitan planning organizations, 13 higher education institutions and more than two dozen outdoor conservation organizations, all working toward similar but separate outcomes. The leadership of Thrive 2055 faced a tremendous challenge both to identify stakeholders and to break through the natural distrust of competition for resources.

That’s when the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce, knowing the impact the region could have on the global economy if people worked together, stepped forward to take organizational responsibility for Thrive.

People and organizations who had been working independently for decades came together under the direction of Thrive. From thousands of conversations, presentations and meetings came a regional perspective, a view beyond organizational footprints and trust in the collaborative process.

With the official end to the planning process in December of 2015 and the subsequent publication of the Thrive 2055 Capstone Report, regional collaboration has only strengthened.

The partners who worked for two years to define priorities for the preservation of natural treasures are actively working on a conservation database for the region and beyond.

Under the leadership of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the region’s higher education institutions are joining forces to address workforce readiness issues on a regional scale. Private and public entities in Dalton, Georgia and Chattanooga work together to train teachers and students in design thinking and community engagement.

The UTC Interdisciplinary Geospatial Technology Lab hosts an enormous library of Thrive 2055 mapping data and resources available to any community in the 16-county region. 

The sheriffs of the 16 counties, convened for the first time by Thrive, continue to meet quarterly to discuss regional issues affecting their service areas.

And perhaps most impressive — a collaboration among the region’s independent economic development entities to promote the tristate region to the world, a bold move that would have been nearly impossible without Thrive 2055’s leadership.

Above all, hundreds of stakeholders in the Thrive 2055 process wanted a regional convener to continue beyond the Thrive planning process.

Thrive 2055 will continue as an unbiased entity taking the broad view, convening diverse stakeholders and constantly keeping an eye on the future for innovative ways to solve our region’s most serious issues. As a Regional Partnership, Thrive will develop, implement and sustain a vision for responsible and inspired growth for the coming decades.

The Thrive 2055 Regional Partnership

Innovate | Communicate | Collaborate | Analyze | Educate | Convene | Champion

As an organization dedicated to the regional vision and mission that grew out of the three-year planning process, the Thrive 2055 Regional Partnership will be the leading organization focused on the tristate, 16-county region around Chattanooga, Tennessee. By using data, collaboration and the art of convening regional dialogue on a broad scale, Thrive will continue to engage the region in innovative and community-driven approaches to growth. 

The Regional Partnership will:

  • Coordinate efforts among jurisdictional transportation planning organizations toward regional objectives
  • Facilitate coordination among land trusts, conservationists and outdoor recreation groups for the preservation and conservation of the region’s natural, cultural and historic treasures
  • Think far beyond the horizon, taking into account future technologies and advances that will ultimately effect the tristate region
  • Collect, analyze and present regional data that is responsive to the goals of the Thrive 2055 Strategic Action Plan
  • Strategically empower communities to access regional resources and self-design local solutions to the region’s most pressing issues
  • Be accountable to the integrity of the Thrive 2055 planning initiative’s promises and intentions to be fair and equally concerned with the entire tristate region

Learn more at

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