September 24, 2023

Before it became the country’s first gig city, Chattanooga moved slowly — if it moved at all.

“In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Chattanooga was a dying city of industrial companies leaving,” said Mayor Tim Kelly, a resident who was reluctant to come home after attending Columbia University in New York. Was. “But I felt a sense of obligation [a family auto business in town], There was no buzz in Chattanooga at the time.

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And then the Tennessee Aquarium happened.

Opened in 1992, the popular attraction home to 12,000 animals on the banks of the Tennessee River began an incredible renaissance: billions of dollars in investment, a transformation of the downtown area, and a boom in hotels to this day.

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Now Tennessee’s fourth-largest city is forging ahead with a 25-Gig network for everyone and a major new business on the back of so-called quantum networking. On Wednesday, The Company Lab, a non-profit accelerator for early-stage startups, unveiled a program to fund and mentor six start-ups working on new approaches to sustainable mobility.

Former America Online CEO Steve Case, author of “The Rise of the Rest: How Entrepreneurs in Surprising Places Are Building the New American Dream,” attended the event. Case has earned the nickname “Freight Alley” for its proximity to a major river, rail system, and interstate freeways.

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Meanwhile, the developers of the new quantum network of the telecommunications company EPB Launching in July, the network and related efforts are expected to keep Chattanooga on the leading edge of the next generation of cyber security, computing and other technologies.

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“This is the kind of initiative that 20 years from now could fundamentally increase the median income of our entire community,” EPB President David Wade said in an interview.

Added Kelly, who is also part-owner of a local soccer team and brewery: “Quantum is the next chapter, very much like the beginning,” Kelly said. “We don’t know where it’s going, but certainly VC and research will accumulate here.”

America’s First Gig City

The majestic Tennessee River runs through Chattanooga, the state’s fourth most populous city (population: 183,095) and America’s first Gig City. Indeed, in 2010 it became the first metropolitan area in the Western Hemisphere to provide 1-gigabit-per-second fiber Internet service to all residents and businesses. This year the speed reached 25 gigabits per second.

The combination of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the well-known electric utility corporation created as part of the New Deal in 1933, and the EPB, one of the nation’s major municipally-owned utilities, has contributed greatly to the bl-fast technology’s cheap rates. Meanwhile, EPD’s smart grid technology has reduced carbon emissions by 4.7 million tonnes and greatly reduced power outages.

Equally important is the city’s location: It’s at the nexus of Atlanta, Nashville, Knoxville, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala. — and within a day’s truck drive of half the US population.

Charles Wood said, “We were the rust belt of the South for iron ore and steel but it was coming to an end.” CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. “The economic turnaround for white-collar industries changed with the opening of the Aquarium in 1992. From 1992 to 2012, $1 billion was invested in the city. Since then, it has grown to $2 billion. ,

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Today, in addition to the country’s leading gig network and new quantum networking, the city is a tourist destination and home to the “Battery Belt” with the presence of Volkswagen VOW, a major employer.
Nissan Motor Company 7201,
and Ford Motor Company F,
as well as Novonics, whose technology turns sludge into synthetic graphite. [“It is the Manhattan project for battery life,” Kelly said.]

At the nearby University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC) campus, they are developing smart city applications such as a 100-intersection urban testbed for autonomous vehicles over the next few years. “We can greatly influence the future of transportation,” said Meena Sartipee, founding director of the Center for Urban Informatics and Progress at UTC.

So, so fast But who is managing all this?

“It comes down to managing development,” said Mayor Kelly, a leading proponent in the area for expansion of Atlanta’s corridor track and airport. “It reminds me of Austin. We have the Goldilocks problem of keeping it like Austin 20-30 years ago, not what Austin has become” as a major tech hub with rampant growth.

Chattanooga transplants from two of the world’s biggest tech hubs can vouch for the appeal of a balanced work-home lifestyle.

“The city is growing in a smart way,” said Ryan Lusk, CEO of Branch Technology, a 3-D-printed fabrication technology company. He left New York after several years in 2012 to return to Tennessee.

Rachel Pohl, Senior Manager at Unity Software Inc., U.S.
Relocating to Chattanooga in 2021 after leaving the San Francisco Bay Area in October 2020. For a while, she and her husband went on a magical mystery tour of America with stops at AirBnB’s ABNB,
in Asheville, NC, Santa Fe, NM, Charleston, SC, Bozeman, Mont., Nashville and Bentonville, Ark. Ultimately, he chose Chattanooga over Durham, NC.

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“This is a city where you can make an impact,” Pohl said.