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Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
September 18, 2023 | Tom Ballard

Chattanooga, Hamilton County spotlight three big projects during GOVCON

They include two massive residential and commercial developments plus a new career and technical school.

The first day of the annual “Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development” – GOVCON for short – is in the books after the event was held for only the second time ever outside of Nashville.

After the wildfires that devastated Gatlinburg in 2016, the conference moved the next year to the tourist-dependent city, and the 2023 edition of GOVCON called Chattanooga home. The event kicked off over lunch with a conversation that Commissioner Stuart McWhorter had with Tim Kelly, Mayor of Chattanooga, and Weston Wamp, Mayor of Hamilton County.

Much of the discussion focused on three exciting projects underway in the city to fuel the innovation and entrepreneurial spirit that characterizes the city and in part to also address the need for more affordable housing, a challenge faced by many communities. They are:

  • The Bend, a brownfield site that formerly housed Combustion Engineering and will now become a “live-work-play” community with more than 1,000 residential units; commercial space; hotels; the city’s largest indoor/outdoor entertainment facility; and paths for walking, jogging, and biking.
  • An adjacent 300-acre development named OneWestside that will include more than one million square feet of commercial space, thousands of new homes, and 14 acres of new green space. Of the new homes, at least 10 percent of all rental units in the Bend footprint will be reserved for residents making 80 percent or less of the area median income.
  • Also in the area is Golden Gateway, a 200,000-square-foot building that formerly housed Blue Cross-Blue Shield of Tennessee. It will be turned into a new school with a career and technical education focus, embodying the spirit of the Kirkman Technical High School.

Mayor Kelly noted that the projects are reflective of the history of Chattanooga. “We’ve always had to figure out things for ourselves,” he said.

Citing the entrepreneurial spirit that has been part of the community’s legacy, Mayor Wamp added, “We’ve always punched above our weight, and we still do. Our calling card is creative people finding their way here.”

On the city’s newest innovation initiative – quantum computing, Mayor Kelly said that it is “potentially the greatest economic opportunity the city has ever seen.”

There were six panels throughout the afternoon focused on a broad range of topics – foreign direct investment, small town successes, brownfields, broadband, transforming Tennessee’s automotive and mobility innovation economy, and using music to drive tourism and economic development.

The conference ends on September 19 after a speech at lunch by Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.

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