3 Steps Chattanooga Took to Create a Center of Innovation

3 Steps Chattanooga Took to Create a Center of Innovation

Chattanooga Tennessee has the 3rd highest wage growth in the US, accomplished under the leadership and developments of Mayor Andy Berke.  DigitalC hosted Mayor Berke at The City Club luncheon and working session last week with over 120 of Cleveland's civic, corporate, and community leaders in attendance. 

How did Mayor Berke do this for Chattanooga, and can it be replicated here in Cleveland?

Here are the top 3 steps he took to promote innovation, resulting in a thriving Chattanooga for entrepreneurship, job growth, and real estate development:

1. Build a robust infrastructure. Starting in 2008, Chattanooga became the first Gig City in the country. It began offering internet connection at 1,000 times faster than available in an average city. Today, it offers the Internet to every house and business in Chattanooga at the cheapest rate possible. Chattanooga has the fastest, cheapest, and most pervasive internet in the country. 

2. Build a city where young people want to be. That meant that Chattanooga needed all the things that would make a person want to live near where they work. 

Following a robust public engagement process, the City established an Innovation District. With 140 acres in the heart of downtown the districts houses a mix of startup businesses, incubators, and accelerators alongside investors and the public amenities like coffee shops, restaurants, music venues -- all the things one might look for in a place to live and work. 

"Innovation is about density. Create a place where there is constant interaction. Get in the tightest space possible and get as much interaction as possible. Ensure entrepreneurs have a place to live and work. Create public spaces. And as a government, invest to bring private dollars around it," shared Mayor Berke.

3. Work for more economic inclusion. Mayor Berke confirms what most cities are struggling with which is how to help anyone who wants to start a business do so, regardless of their economic background.

"There is no cash floating around in poor communities, no mentor networks, and most are not familiar with how to even start a business.  We have to ask ourselves is the digital world building inequality or fairness for every group? We are not living up to our promise to let everyone have access to opportunities, and we have to do better."

Chattanooga offers access, literacy skills to use the internet, and provides a clear path with different entry points based on experience to try and help everyone achieve success if they want it. 

Cleveland's leaders saw many similarities with Chattanooga, and were inspired by the Mayor's presentation, and the discussions among the different constituents. "I was never bored," said Charlie Stack of Fast Starts. 

To watch Mayor Andy Berke's presentation, click here.