We attended the State of the City address given by Mayor Andy Berke in April. The message of the event was that Chattanooga is a home begun by and continued by creators. From the original Coca Cola Bottlers to current tech industry, Chattanooga has a history of strong initiative and creation.
The speech highlighted goals for the next year in office with the investment in citizens receiving the most emphasis. Touching on the success of Baby University, a program which assists parents in gaining parenting skills, assists teen mothers in staying in school (with a mind blowing 100% success rate) and assist in early childhood development of Chattanoogans, Mayor Berke extended the goal to include early childhood education as a stepping stone to achieve success for future generations. Studies have shown that children who enter elementary school after attending early childhood education have a more meaningful learning experience, are more successful into their teens and have potential to be higher earners in adulthood.
This long term success is also touched on with his goal of affordable housing for all Chattanooga residents. Withe creation of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, the goal of housing for the expanding workforce in Chattanooga will become a reality. Chattanooga State Community College and Volkswagen are working together to educate workers for tech and manufacturing jobs, and the city has pledged 1 million dollars to address the housing shortage for workers as Chattanooga’s downtown and surrounding areas grow. Partnering with Chattanooga 2.0, the goal to educate and house the future of Chattanooga is looking bright.
Another aspect of Mayor Berke’s plan for the future of Chattanooga is the Chattanooga Forward Project, as series of task forces created to increase the strength of our city. In addition to housing and education, our city parks, the technology corridor, arts and downtown all have specific focus put on them. With the goal of sustainability, connectivity across the entire city and all communities, as well as furthering the brand of Chattanooga (we have a font after all), these tasks forces will work together to create a unified Chattanooga. The Tennessee Riverpark expansion is a wonderful example of this. With 13.5 miles of completed Riverwalk and additional plan to extend to the South Chickamauga Creek Greenway, which will ultimately join an additional 14 miles and 30,000 people to downtown.
Overall, the message was clear. Chattanooga must move forward with goals of city unification via education, housing and opening the city to all demographics in order to continue to be the city of creators and innovators.