Several posts ago, I mentioned branding efforts in Chattanooga, Tennessee, that are focusing on developing a unique city font. Those efforts apparently started when a brand consultant and a typeface designer met in a local coffee shop.
That’s a charming and romantic little story, but think about it for even a few minutes and it starts to raise questions. Like, why was a branding consultant and a typeface designer hanging out in a coffee shop in Chattanooga, a Southern city barely bigger than Provo in a metro area of about the same size?
The story provides anecdotal but compelling support for the argument that vibrant downtowns generate innovation, and after reading the Wikipedia article on Chattanooga it seems like a fairly happening place.
As it turns out, however, Chattanooga has actually been quite innovative with rehabilitation and development efforts. This article outlines much of what is happening there, but among other things the city is trying to bring in entrepreneurs and, significantly, artists.
One of the leading factors in Chattanooga’s redevelopment appears to be an organization called CreateHere, which describes itself as “a group of residents and new recruits working for arts, economic, and cultural development in the urban core.” The article linked to above notes that the goal was to seed development and turn the city into a creative hub. According to the article above, those efforts seem to be working, and they aren’t costing too much either.
“The amounts of money and numbers of recipients were modest, and by some measure they still are, but the idea wasn’t to invest millions of dollars in local startups or move hundreds of creative twenty-somethings to the city; it was to invest thousands of dollars and move just a handful of artists — who would in turn inspire another handful to move, and so on. This was highly selective, targeted development.”
Chattanooga also is home to ArtsMove, which offers “financial incentives to qualified artists moving to the Scenic City.”
The more I read about Chattanooga, the more it strikes me as a place with many similarities to Provo, but where the level of excitement is perhaps even higher and, most importantly, sustained.
The efforts highlighted above also weren’t multimillion dollar projects. They were small scale and they were very targeted. And ultimately, all of these efforts demonstrate an understanding that investing in art, diversity, and density generates wealth.