(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final article in a four-series reviewing a recent report completed by Daniel Myers. The title is “An Outlook on Future Entrepreneurial Growth within the State of Tennessee.” The assessment takes a look at three of the state’s entrepreneurial centers – Chattanooga, Knoxville and Nashville.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Daniel Myers saved his hometown for the final examination of three Tennessee entrepreneurial ecosystems. “Chattanooga: The Gig City” is the title of that section of his report (daniel-myers-chattanooga).
“There was no reason in the 1970s to go downtown for anything other than manufacturing,” Myers says. After all, CBS News declared Chattanooga the “dirtiest city in America” in 1969.
Fast forward to 1992 when the new Tennessee Aquarium provided a reason as it jumpstarted a downtown renaissance that is still unfolding with a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem. In addition, Myers notes the presence of major corporations in the area – Volkswagen, Amazon and Wacker Chemie in nearby Bradley County.
“It’s been an incredible transformation from the dirtiest city designation more than 40 years ago to the Gig City today,” Myers notes, citing 2010 as just one in a series of milestone dates. That’s the year the EPB announced it would rollout a gigabit network to all of its customers, a decision that preceded the Google Fiber deployment.
The commitment by EPB and the subsequent ripple effects are still impacting Chattanooga in a very positive way.
“Given Chattanooga’s immense growth and improvement over more than 40 years, this small southeastern tech-town has big potential to become an entrepreneurial hub for the newest apps and services, the big data industry, internet communications, 3D printing, and 3D hologram technologies,” Myers writes.
One area where he sees Chattanooga providing national leadership is educational innovation made possible by gigabit networks. He calls the recent live streaming from a 4K UHD microscope at the University of Southern California that allowed STEM School students in Chattanooga to interact with a microscope 1,800 miles away and observe microorganisms as “an empowering example of Chattanooga’s gigabit network utilization.”
“Education has been a challenge in the Southeast,” Myers notes. “Access to resources through the Internet is a huge opportunity.”
Another area where Chattanooga is making a name for itself is in 3D printing. Myers report cites firms previously profiled on teknovation.biz such as Feetz, 3D Ops, and Branch Technology. Several more just completed the “GIGTANK 365” summer cohort.
Chattanooga’s new Innovation District was also called out in Myers report.
“It provides all kinds of resources in a small area for those needing help,” he says.
With the gigabit capability, Myers sees an opportunity for start-ups to introduce virtual reality into education.
“We need to make sure it is more interactive and interesting than just sitting in a classroom,” he suggests, adding that “gigabit Internet will be the catalyst for hologram technology.”
The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) and connected cities also brings with it security challenges that could further propel Chattanooga’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“A connected city is a malicious hacker’s playground, being able to manipulate the infrastructure as they please and potentially causing serious damage in the process,” Myers writes. “There is no doubt that network and electronic security will be the number one priority if the IoT is to be properly implemented.”
This should be music to the Gig City and its entrepreneurs.
“A smart city will be the new standard for cities across the globe, and Chattanooga will be one of the early testing sites for available technologies and infrastructure,” Myers says.