During a publicity tour for his new book, Brookings Institute Centennial Scholar Bruce Katz sat with Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke to talk about city growth.
After signing several books during the Jan. 29 event, Katz gave a quick presentation on the contents of his new book, “The New Localism: How Cities Can Thrive in the Age of Populism.”
Katz’s new book says the power to fix a city’s problems lies with its citizens and leaders rather than with those in higher government roles. He used cities like Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Copenhagen and Chattanooga as examples of places that are solving problems with this mindset.
“Power is not just about government; it’s really about government, market and civic, and the people that can figure out the synergy between those three kinds of power are going to do very well,” Katz said.
Following his presentation, Katz and Berke sat down for a panel discussion about localism and how Chattanooga acts as an example of this problem-solving method.
Berke said that by keeping localism in mind he sees potential for the city’s economy:
We’re going to see our market power improve, and hopefully, some of these businesses as they keep going are going to expand. In our city, when somebody who is a two-person business becomes a 100-person business … like we’re seeing right now, that creates a lot of wealth. We don’t need Facebook and 17,000 people for us to see a lot of different changes.
He said he also wants to continue to densify downtown and concentrate on families.
Katz agreed that Chattanooga is on its way to becoming one of the top cities in the U.S. because its investments in EPB and the tourism industry are likely to be major attractions to companies.
“Your best days are ahead of you because you have made some very special investments here that are quite unique and distinctive that the market hasn’t fully valued yet,” Katz said.
He also agreed that big-name corporations don’t have to be what gets Chattanooga recognized as a powerhouse because growing businesses and international companies can do it instead.
“It doesn’t have to be Amazon who basically says, ‘Let’s rip the heart out of their tax system so I can come here,'” Katz said. “That’s not a company you want to play with … Travel the high road, then you win.”
Katz has visited Chattanooga several times previously to tour the city and talk to city leaders about plans for the city’s growth. Berke said he also used Katz’s philosophies when building out plans for the Innovation District, which Katz has also praised.
Alina Hunter-Grah is a contributing writer. She currently attends UTC, where she was previously the news editor of the student newspaper, The University Echo. Alina also worked at CNN during the summer of 2017 and is the former Chattanooga correspondent for 2nd & Church, a literary magazine based out of Nashville. You can reach Alina at [email protected] or on Twitter @alinahuntergrah.