Greater Chattanooga Region Encourages Economic Growth and Preserving Our Natural Treasures
Thrive 2055, a 16-county, tri-state regional growth initiative, surveyed 1,137 participants from the entire region about preferred themes of growth for our future and was overwhelmingly told economic growth is paramount, but not at the expense of losing our natural treasures.
Respondents selected their top five community priorities related to growth patterns out of a list of 12. The full list included: accessibility, earning potential, economic development, entrepreneurship, fiscal responsibility, flood protection, housing for the future, natural resources, rural economies, scenic beauty, travel time, and vibrant communities. Out of those who responded, economic development was the most frequently prioritized issue, followed by earning potential, natural resources, fiscal responsibility and scenic beauty. These significant results strongly indicate that the region has a balanced view on achieving economic development and prosperity, while keeping focused on our natural, scenic beauty.
In addition, respondents rated growth themes on a scale of 1-5, with one being lowest preferred, and five being highly preferred. Providing more open spaces, preserving natural treasures and boosting agricultural activity and ecotourism received the highest average rating (4.4 out of 5), while developing farmland and open spaces in suburban areas for small and large-lot homes with no future open space put in place was highly unfavored, receiving the lowest average rating score (2.2 out of 5). High rating themes that followed include investing in facilities to support commuting via mass transit, biking and walking, followed by housing that included more urban and in-town options so people could live closer to work and leisure. Office and retail leading employment growth with a great quality of life that attracts young, creative workers also rated highly (4.0 out of 5), while an interstate loop option resulted in an average rating score of 3.7 out of 5.
Survey results indicated that doing nothing to preserve open spaces was very unpopular as those themes rated lowest by respondents from all areas of the 16-county region. Respondents’ written comments suggest that people may welcome new growth as long as a strategy to protect our natural treasures is in place.
“It’s a myth that developers and business-minded people are not conservationists. We all share a common vision and we want to work on it together,” said Daniel Carter, chair of the Thrive 2055 Natural Treasures Initiative Group and a professor of environmental studies at the University of the South. “Now we are working together across the region to figure out how to both develop and preserve places at the same time.”
The Thrive 2055 volunteer leadership will take this information and use it to help shape the work they are accomplishing towards developing positive strategies for the region’s future.
“What we are hearing from people around the region and from those engaged in Thrive 2055 truly is a big deal,” said Dan Jacobson, chair of the Thrive 2055 Coordinating Committee. “I firmly believe to the extent that we work together on these big ideas and big issues, regional success will be ours and quite literally, the sky’s the limit.”