Skip to content

Little Town, Layered Ecosystem: A Case Study of Chattanooga

In 2010, Chattanooga was the first city to launch a fiber-optic Internet network that provided residents with high-speed Internet. Chattanooga has welcomed this new addition to their infrastructure and has used it to recognize and recruit entrepreneurs to start businesses in their city. We find this development is based on Chattanooga’s deep history of collaboration and public-private partnerships that have been instrumental in spearheading the entrepreneurial movement in the city and the development of an entrepreneurial ecosystem. The case of Chattanooga demonstrates entrepreneurial growth as an economic development strategy, which has piqued the interests of community leaders in Chattanooga. We explore the community leaders’ work throughout the paper.

More specifically, we identified three layers of intertwined  supporting organizations in Chattanooga:

1) two philanthropic foundations

2) four direct entrepreneurship support organizations, and

3) four organizations in the public sector,including the mayor’s office.

The analysis of these major support organizations both makes a list of ‘ingredients’ and provides implications for the ‘recipe’ in the context of the ecosystem of entrepreneurship. The web of relationships between each layer and each organization work to make a stronger entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The objective of this paper is to analyze those ‘recipe’ roles that mayors could play in the context of promoting an entrepreneurship ecosystem. In particular, we summarize the mayoral roles in four parts:

  • Be a cheerleader by discussing the importance of entrepreneurship and recognizing successful local entrepreneurs and by
  • Identify major players who are involved in and supporting entrepreneurship, map them out, and cultivate relationships by periodically meeting with them.
  • Establish an entrepreneurship committee or task force to set the vision of the city.
  • Convene and broker entrepreneurship supporters, including nonprofit organizations,local anchor companies, and local universities.