MEMPHIS—“Every city has its treasures,” Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke told a diverse group of Memphians on Thursday. “I see them in Memphis every time I come here.”
Mayor Berke served as the keynote speaker for Memphis Magazine’s 2016 “Summons to Memphis,” an annual luncheon which invites a speaker from outside the city “who can speak with authority about determining the character, spirit, and the essence of the place we call home.” Past speakers have included Mayors Mitch Landreau of New Orleans, Karl Dean of Nashville, and Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City.
CBU has served as a sponsor for the event for the last three years, and hosted a VIP breakfast roundtable this year, where Mayor Berke met with executives representing the other sponsoring companies including Baptist Hospital and Foundation, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee, CBRE, Contemporary Media, First Tennessee Bank, Hyde Family Foundations, Looney Ricks Kiss, Orion Federal Credit Union, Music + Arts, and Henry Turley Company. Additional guests at the breakfast were representatives from the City of Memphis and the Indie Memphis Film Festival. Henry Turley acted as moderator for the discussion, which focused largely on the value of arts and technology to the growth of a vibrant community, early childhood learning, and public-private partnerships aimed at bridging the funding gap left by the removal of State allocations to safety net programs.
In his lunchtime talk for approximately 250 attendees at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn, Mayor Berke outlined the judicious investments that have transformed Chattanooga from a moribund manufacturing town to a hub of innovation and commerce. Chattanooga’s government made the decision to invest strongly in internet technology, now offering what Mayor Berke proudly cited as the “fastest, cheapest, most pervasive internet in the world.” Chattanooga’s publicly owned internet service is faster than Google Fiber.
As a result, Chattanooga has attracted a variety of new businesses, including internet-based businesses like Open Table and more traditional manufacturing businesses like Volkswagen. The city recently defined an “Innovation District” in the heart of its downtown area, linking “creativity, capital, and expertise in a dense setting to spur economic growth.”
These and other investments have paid off, bringing new jobs and new life to the city. In 1969, Walter Cronkite declared Chattanooga the “Dirtiest City in America.” In contrast, Outside Magazine named it the Best Town in America in both 2011 and 2014.
According to Mayor Berke, Chattanooga’s experiences and opportunities can be mirrored in Memphis. He provided luncheon attendees with four takeaway “lessons”:
- Going it alone doesn’t work. Mayor Berke highlighted the collaborations and partnerships, both public and private, that were necessary to transform Chattanooga. A strong vision, he said, was essential “to unleash the power of the private market.”
- Invest in great public spaces. In addition to technology, Chattanooga has invested in its Miller Park district, its historic Tivoli Theatre, public art and murals, and more. Together, these create a welcoming, accessible environment that enhances tourism and improves quality of life.
- Great cities plan for a great future. Mayor Berke described how Chattanooga is also investing in its future by investing in its youth. Several government departments have been re-organized to focus directly on children and youth, and programs like Baby University support pregnant mothers in the region.
- Provide more paths to the middle class. All people in all cities, Mayor Berke explained, want to lead better lives. Chattanooga supports them in various ways – beginning with unprecedented internet access, which Mayor Berke sees as a necessity in today’s knowledge-driven economy.
CBU’s sponsorship of this and other unique programs within our city is borne out of our foundational mission to impact the lives of the citizens of the community in which we live and work. We partner with educational institutions and nonprofit and business organizations who share our commitment to bettering Memphis through progressive and creative thinking and action.
For more information, visit www.summonstomemphis.com.