Velocity2040 Community Visioning Survey Results Shape Goals for Our Next 20 Years

Amanda Ellis, Rebecca Ryan & Sybil Topel

Velocity2040 community-wide visioning survey results show five top priorities for the next 20 years in Hamilton County and Chattanooga as our community works together on a bold, new vision for our future.

The Velocity2040 survey drew participation from 4,816 residents representing every facet of our community. Survey results, including 4,765 comments, point to five major community goals for the Hamilton County of 2040:

1.) We’re the smartest city in the South, focusing on educational excellence for all students

“I believe all our schools must educate children on current and future technologies. All students should be exposed to robots and automated guided vehicles. At the same time, we must also focus on trades such as welding, electrical and plumbing. Show our children multiple career paths.” – Velocity survey participant 

2.) Every resident thrives economically

“I believe we need to […] encourage our youth to become business owners. A lot of people with college degrees graduate, work in a field they didn’t get a degree in, only to be left with mountains of debt. Teaching our future generations to become business owners should be an initiative we should focus on now.” – Velocity survey participant 

3.) 20 minutes or less is our transit standard

“We have outgrown our infrastructure.” – Velocity survey participant 

4.) Diverse leaders represent the full spectrum of who we are

“We need to actively address systemic racism in our community in all of its manifestations.” – Velocity survey participant 

5.) A collaborative process for solving challenges with openness and respect has transformed neighborhoods and brought our governments together  

“We need to look at how we might foster a shared sense of community identity such that people see the point of working, volunteering, and investing their resources together to make our community a great place.” – Velocity survey participant 

“Citizens of this city, along with area leaders like the Chattanooga Chamber, completely understand one important concept: What helps some of us helps all of us. As the Director of Marketing and Development at Signal Centers, I see firsthand how issues addressed in the Velocity2040 survey, such as infrastructure, affect those living with disabilities. Serving on the Chamber’s Velocity2040 Communications Committee gave me the opportunity to observe how much the Chamber prioritizes inclusion. All voices were heard. All opinions were sought. Everyone in Chattanooga had the chance to say, ‘This what I think!’ It was especially meaningful for me, as a member of the LGBTQ community, to take the survey, knowing this was a unique opportunity to share my perspective.” – Chris Berryman, Director of Marketing and Development, Signal Centers

Disclosing demographic data was optional. About 18 percent responding did not share their race and 13 percent chose to not share their age.

Of those who shared age and race, about half of the participants were under age 49, and one in eight were under 30. African Americans made up 16 percent of participants – almost a mirror of the population composition of Hamilton County, where African Americans comprise 19.5% of the population.

Four percent of respondents were Hispanic, closely approximating the 5.7 percent Hispanic share of Hamilton County’s population. The survey was offered in Spanish and English. Volunteers assisted with in-person canvassing in specific areas to ensure participation and inclusion. Participants fell across the income spectrum, and half work at least full time. About 19 percent of respondents chose not to share income ranges. 

“If we are more mindful of creating diverse talent, it will inevitably create a place that people are drawn to. When people see others like themselves in leadership roles and in industries they want to be part of, they will automatically reach out to those types of cities.” – Lily Sanchez, Communications & Business Development Coordinator, La Paz

The Velocity2040 community visioning survey results will inform Chattanooga Climbs, Advancing Economic Development and Talent Initiatives, a five-year strategic plan for implementing steps and metrics focused on the jobs and talent goals of the Velocity2040 vision. Avalanche Consulting, nationally recognized for its work in this area, will facilitate this plan. Strategy development is underway and the Chattanooga Climbs plan should be complete in April. The Chattanooga Chamber Foundation, with the support of private sector investors, is leading this work.

Find the full Velocity2040 report here, including a list of Velocity2040 community partners, and full survey results here

Trend Gets to Know Rebecca Ryan

Rebecca Ryan, who led our community visioning process, is trained as a futurist and an economist. She helps clients figure out what’s next by leading foresight processes for organizations and communities, and teaching about the science and art of strategic foresight.

Trend: What's it like to be a futurist? How'd you end you up doing this?

Ryan: It’s mostly awesome to be a futurist! It suits my personality and interests. I enjoy learning about trends and looking for patterns. I was trained in Macroeconomics, so this is a natural extension. And I feel called to leave the world better for future generations, so my profession resonates with what I feel I’m on Earth to do.

I fell into this in the way that many people do. I had a gnawing sense that I needed to make a career shift, from teaching people about generations. And then the recession happened, all my business dried up, I had to lay off most of our staff…and I got depressed. One day I learned that 'futuring' was a profession, and I started to lay the groundwork to transition to this. The most significant step was taking the five-day professional course on foresight at the University of Houston.

Trend: You engage on a deep level with many communities, does anything about Chattanooga strike you as truly unique?

RR: Many, many things strike me as unique. For starters, Chattanooga 'gets' futuring because the current generation is very aware of what happened in the 1980s, when the last 'futuring' process was used. That’s very unique. Most communities do not have the visceral experience of foresight, like folks in Chatty do.

Also, Chatty has done VERY well over the last several years, so it’s a step ahead of many communities that are only just now regaining confidence after the recession.

Another thing that’s unique about Chattanooga is that elected officials and staff at the City and County respect each other and work together. That is increasingly unique. I just saw a video of a school board meeting in another U.S. city where school board members were physically going after each other. So Chattanooga’s civility is remarkable to me.

Finally, Chattanooga and Hamilton County are really starting to grow into their 'entrepreneurial culture.' A lot of communities TALK about having this, but you actually do…and that 'can do,' 'take risks' culture can be a positive contagion in a community. This is what makes Silicon Valley singular: trying and failing is okay.

All of these answers are about the 'soft skills' and attitude of Chattanooga. I realize that you might have wanted me to gush about your mountains or natural beauty, but in my experience a community can have all of the 'hard assets' and still be a disastrous place to live and work.

Trend: Do people make jokes about you “seeing the future”? What's the funniest one you've heard?  

RR: They try, but none of them are very good. I would remember a good joke about being a futurist! The better jokes are about economists. My favorite economist joke is 'If you laid every economist end-to-end, you still couldn’t reach a conclusion.'

Trend: What's your biggest hope for our community after working with us?

RR: I want to come back to Chattanooga in 10 years and see a truly united community where racial wounds are healing and people of all backgrounds and upbringings are working together side by side in a way that lifts everyone up.

Trend: Doing this type of work, do you find yourself critiquing communities you visit for leisure? What are some common threads of issues you notice communities facing across locations?

RR: I’m a Zen Buddhist, so I try not to critique. But of course, I notice things. Cities have personalities, just like people do. They have pain. They have energy. They have frustrations. The thing I’m thinking about the most, because it is pervasive across communities, is how the 'prosperity paradox' can play out in the future. What I mean is that most cities have many 'good trends,' like wages are going up, and jobs are growing. But at the same time, more people are becoming homeless and falling off the economic ladder. Somehow, this tension must get resolved. If you read carefully, that’s woven throughout the Velocity2040 plan.

About Velocity2040

The Velocity2040 community visioning process began in 2018. Nearly 5,000 Hamilton County residents responded to a survey asking them to share their hopes and dreams for the year 2040. Data from the Velocity2040 survey will be shared on Feb. 7 and on the website. Many organizations and individuals will work on projects that help our community achieve goals set from the Velocity2040 Vision. As part of this, the Chattanooga Chamber Foundation is leading the development of a five-year strategic plan to advance economic development and talent initiatives.

About Chattanooga Climbs, Advancing Economic Development and Talent Initiatives

The Chattanooga Chamber Foundation, with funding from private sector investors, hired Avalanche Consulting to help facilitate a five-year strategic plan for economic development and talent initiatives. We call this planning process Chattanooga Climbs, Advancing Economic Development and Talent Initiatives. Nationally recognized for their work in this area, Avalanche Consulting has completed similar plans for a number of other communities across the country.

The Velocity2040 community visioning survey results and community input informs the five-year plan. The Economic and Talent Initiatives Plan will be a strategy that benchmarks Chattanooga and Hamilton County against other communities. The Plan will lay out specific tactics, goals and metrics to help us move toward the Velocity2040 Vision over the next five years as it relates to economic development, talent and workforce goals.

The initial data analysis portion of the planning effort began during the fall of 2018. Strategy development begins in Feb. 2019 and the plan should be complete in April. In addition to information developed during the Velocity2040 Visioning process, others with a specific stake in economic and talent development have been intentionally engaged, through meetings, one-on-one interviews and group interviews, including:     

  • Business leaders
  • Faith leaders
  • Educational professionals
  • Both the City and County Mayors
  • Superintendent of Schools
  • Elected officials
  • Site selection consultants
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Early to mid-career professionals

Additionally, many of those listed above are represented on the 50+ person steering committee launching this work. The Avalanche Consulting team is also conducting substantial data analysis on Chattanooga/Hamilton County and benchmark cities.

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