Business Development Center Timeline

  • 1930: American Lava Company constructed the 125,000 square foot building. Products manufactured included technical ceramics, specifically gas burner tips.
  • 1953: Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing Co. (later known as 3M) announced it would acquire American Lava.
  • Early 1980s: 3M decided to discontinue advanced electronics manufacturing and sold its Chattanooga subsidiary to General Electric. 3M gave the building and property to Hamilton County government. 
  • 1983: Joe Guthrie, of Southeast Tennessee Development District, approached the county about repurposing the facility for a business incubator.
  • 1984: Funding secured. The EDA (Economic Development Administration) and ARC (Appalachian Regional Commission) granted $4 million to help with renovations, and the City of Chattanooga and Hamilton County governments committed matching funds.
  • 1985: Renovations begin.
  • 1988: The Business Development Center opened with 10 clients and 7 staff members, operated by Partners for Economic Progress (PEP), which became the first managing entity of the Hamilton County Business Development Center.
  • Mid-1990s: Facility management and other economic development programs were turned over to RiverValley Partners after PEP dissolved.
  • 1995: The Tennessee Small Business Development Center became a tenant and began counseling entrepreneurs and small business start-ups at the BDC.
  • 1998: Chattanooga Chamber Foundation agreed to assume staff and economic development programs, including the operation of the Business Development Center.
  • 2009: Hamilton County launched a $4.9 million renovation.
  • 2011: In a grand re-opening the newly renovated Business Development Center and the Chamber’s rebranded INCubator programming were revealed to the public.
  • 2012: The U.S. Green Building Council awarded the building LEED Silver Certification.  
  • Currently: Hamilton County government owns the facility with the INCubator program of staged business development, which is operated by the Chattanooga Chamber Foundation. Office suites range from 90 to 1,500 square feet; light manufacturing suites range from 476 to 5,000 square feet. Initial subsidized rental rates are below market rate and increase annually.