A progress report on building Chattanooga’s Innovation District

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CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – Mention “Innovation district” to someone downtown and they’re likely to know what you’re talking about other Chattanoogans…not so much.

News 12’s Ashley Henderson got a look at some the plans for the future for the scenic city.

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The 140 acres of central downtown Chattanooga is called “the innovation district”.

It was actually born in 2015 to compliment the new gig, entrepreneurship and technology that sprang up.

The head of the Enterprise center is right in the middle of that project.

Ken Hays says “There’s a general feeling and research that if cities that aren’t focused on the innovation economy will be left behind.”

“The new generation, the new economy, is a lot of entrepreneurial, innovative companies, and so it’s the effort that we spend time working on, making sure that Chattanooga’s prepared for the next generation of businesses and jobs that come to our community.”

At the head of the line is UTC, Co.Lab, The public education foundation, the city government, and chamber of commerce.

And, it’s a natural follow to the foundation laid down by city leaders in the past.

“We’ve gone from being a very entrepreneurial community, back at the turn of the last, two centuries ago, and an industrial revolution, and now with the entrepreneurial activity is re-coming back in a huge way, and we’re also part of the information . .. technology.”

Ken Hays says it’s important to the success of that effort for all of the players to be in one area.

He calls it density.

“It really is a simply philosophy. It’s density matters. It’s that if you can concentrate your innovation economy workforce in a really tight area, the research shows that you’ll grow exponentially and a lot faster. ”

As for those downtown city-owned buildings the city council is debating about…

..”you know where we can take underutilized buildings and return them to a higher and better use. I mean some of the city properties that exist are half empty or in one case, totally empty.”

If you’ve been stunned by all the changes downtown lately…you can expect more as The Innovation District moves forward.

In Chattanooga, Ashley Henderson, News 12 Now.