About Chattanooga Climbs

Chattanooga and Hamilton County are at a unique moment in history. Over the past 30 years, the community has made bold, innovative investments–cleaning the natural environment, revitalizing the city core, pioneering Gigabit internet, attracting global employers, and building civic pride. But new technologies and industries are disrupting the global economic landscape, bringing fresh challenges and alienating some residents.

Through the Velocity2040 visioning process, Chattanooga and Hamilton County leaders are bringing together residents and businesses to say where they want the community to be in the year 2040. Through a series of workshops with 120 community leaders and a survey of more than 5,000 residents, Rebecca Ryan and Next Generation Consulting facilitated the 2040 visioning process. As the vision began to form,Velocity2040 partners engaged Avalanche Consulting to craft Chattanooga Climbs–a 5-year economic development strategy to guide Chattanooga and Hamilton County toward its 2040 vision.This report is the first of four reports that will comprise that five-year economic development strategy.

The creation of Chattanooga and Hamilton County’s economic development strategy involves a four-phase process.Over the course of eight months, the process involves honestly evaluating Chattanooga and Hamilton County’s competitive position, building on the area’s existing assets, identifying priority community issues, and uniting stakeholders around shared five-year goals. The process stresses inclusion from its inception. Velocity2040 and Chattanooga Climbs partners along with Avalanche Consulting have worked diligently to hear a wide variety of perspectives from across the city and county as they prioritize issues and develop the strategic plan.

Phase 1 - Discovery: This phase of the Chattanooga Climbs strategic planning process started with an in-depth review of existing studies and research conducted in Chattanooga and Hamilton County. This helps ensure that the consulting team is cohesive with current city, county, and other initiatives.The consulting team also conducted a thorough evaluation of Chattanooga and Hamilton County’s economic and demographic conditions–including benchmarking local characteristics to five comparable communities, the State of Tennessee, and the United States. In addition to examining quantitative data, the consulting team has facilitated focus groups and interviews with over 200 stakeholders thus far in the process. Based on the findings of this research, the consulting team has developed a SWOT Assessment that summarizes the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing the city and county. Combined with the visioning work, community narratives have emerged from the research and SWOT Assessment that will help shape the economic development strategy moving forward.

Phase 2 - Target Cluster Update: In this phase, the consulting team will conduct an industry performance evaluation of the clusters currently targeted by economic development efforts in Chattanooga and Hamilton County. This evaluation will allow the team to understand which clusters should continue to be an economic development focus in the future. Phase 2 will conclude with a technical report that recommends updated target clusters and sub-clusters as well as profiles of each.

Phase 3 - Talent Development Analysis: In this phase, Avalanche will provide detailed research to help enhance education and workforce development programs across the community. This includes identifying a geographic labor shed for Chattanooga and Hamilton County that reflects the full talent pool available to local employers and conducting a detailed assessment of workforce characteristics, skills, and competencies in this labor shed. The analysis will consider factors that relate to workforce retention, talent recruitment, and barriers preventing residents from fully participating in the labor force. The analysis will also contrast the supply of local graduates against projected occupational demand to better understand gaps in our workforce systems. A discussion of global forces affecting workforce and mapping of high value career pathways for target clusters will also be included.

Phase 4 - Strategy & Implementation: In the final phase, Avalanche will write a five-year economic development strategic plan for Chattanooga and Hamilton County. Building toward the Velocity2040 vision, the Chattanooga Climbs strategic plan will include goals for the next five years of economic development activities. The plan will also offer creative strategies and tactics for each goal and portions of the overall 2040 vision. Recommendations will be prioritized based on critical needs identified through the planning process and will include a call to action, timeframe for execution, lead implementation organization, and metrics for measuring success as we move forward.