Local officials are launching a campaign to try to lure retirees to the Chattanooga area.
At a press conference Wednesday morning at the Hunter Museum, officials announced that the American Association of Retirement Communities (AARC) has named Chattanooga/Hamilton County as the first community in Tennessee to receive its prestigious seal of approval as a retirement destination.
County Mayor Claude Ramsey and Mayor Ron Littlefield celebrated the announcement of the AARC designation by formally launching Choose Chattanooga, a new initiative to market the Chattanooga area to people deciding where to retire and relocate.
“As often happens in Chattanooga, this initiative began with a group of volunteers coming together to develop a common vision for making our community a better place to live, work, and play,” said Mayor Littlefield. “Thanks to their efforts, Chattanooga and Hamilton County have already received designations from both the state of Tennessee and the American Association of Retirement Communities.”
According to County Mayor Ramsey, Choose Chattanooga is a new addition to the overall effort to create more family-wage jobs. “Researchers at the Georgia Tech Innovation Institute project that each retiree household that establishes itself in a community creates at least two family-wage jobs.” Mr. Ramsey said, “Retirees buy houses and other goods and services locally. They participate in our community as volunteers and philanthropists. They vote and pay taxes, and their residence does not increase the need for school rooms or jail cells. In short, retirees enhance our economic environment and create opportunities for greater prosperity that have the potential to benefit everyone in our community.”
County Mayor Ramsey also announced that, at the request of Choose Chattanooga’s volunteer taskforce, he and Mayor Littlefield have appointed a board of directors to take the initiative to the next level.
The Choose Chattanooga Board of Directors includes Bill Bowen (chairman), Alexian Brothers; Linda Bennett, City Council; Jim Brexler, Erlanger Health System; Ruth Brinkley, Memorial Health Care System; Thom Carmichael, Home Builder’s Association; Dr. Richard Casavant, Hamilton County Commission; Dr. Jim Catanzaro, Chattanooga State Technical Community College; Jason Farmer, Chattanooga Association of Realtors; Tom Griscom, Chattanooga Times Free Press; Darrell Moore, Parkridge Medical Center; Frank Schriner, First Tennessee; Bill Sudderth, Chattanooga Land Company; Greg Vital, Independent Healthcare Properties/Morning Pointe Assisted Living; and Tom Edd Wilson, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce; and Donna Knowles Whitten, SunTrust.
Rick Meredith, assistant commissioner with the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD), applauded the Chattanooga area’s proactive approach to job creation. He said, “When Gov. Bredesen’s administration revamped the Three-Star Economic Development Certification, Hamilton County was the first major metro to attain the designation. When we began exploring a state-wide designation for retirement under the same program, Hamilton County was the only major metro that was ready to be a part of the Retire Tennessee pilot program.”
Ramay Winchester, economic development specialist with ECD and member of the AARC’s board of directors, said few larger communities are actively marketing themselves to retirees. She said, “To my knowledge, Chattanooga is the largest community in the United States that has launched a dedicated retiree marketing initiative. That’s something that sets you apart. In addition, the taskforce of volunteers who have developed Choose Chattanooga have created some extremely professional marketing materials. This community has a way of putting its best foot forward whenever it tells its story.”
Greg Vital of Independent Healthcare Properties/Morning Pointe Assisted Living, Alexian Brothers, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau provided seed funding for developing and maintaining the initial components of the Choose Chattanooga marketing initiative, which include a brochure designed specifically to attract potential retirees, a relocation video, and the www.ChooseChattanooga.com web site.
The www.ChooseChattanooga.com web site includes target messages for retirees as well as young creatives and experienced professionals. The Chamber has also established and is monitoring a toll free number, (866) 567-2134, for people seeking retirement information.
ECD, through its Retire Tennessee initiative is already distributing the Choose Chattanooga brochure at conferences for people considering where to retiree. ECD has also linked its retirement page, http://retiretennessee.org/, to www.ChooseChattanooga.com and is sending referrals collected from its web site and at retirement conferences to local representatives at the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. Although the Choose Chattanooga marketing materials have only been available for a few weeks, ECD has already provided hundreds of leads, it was stated.
In addition, the Choose Chattanooga volunteer task force is in the process of finalizing an email marketing campaign. Through this campaign, Chattanooga area residents will be provided with digital marketing materials they can send to friends, family, and other contacts, who might be considering retirement or relocation.
According to J.Ed. Marston, vice president of marketing and communications for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, utilizing volunteer relocations ambassadors to make a personalized pitch is the most effective way to promote what Chattanooga has to offer. He said, “By asking residents who already love Chattanooga to connect with people who might have an interest in relocating here, we ensure that we are targeting people with a strong motivation to retire or relocate to the Chattanooga area. Our aim is to empower our resident community boosters by providing them with easy-to-use tools that allow them to make a personalized pitch to people they know well.”
Those with an interest in participating in this campaign are invited to email their name, phone number, and email address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bill Bowen, who acted as a catalyst for Choose Chattanooga by calling J.Ed. Marston of the Chamber of Commerce to discuss the idea, credited the volunteer task force for doing some incredible work to bring the initiative to this point. He said, “J.Ed. and I got together to talk about the idea and discuss who else should be involved. Before I knew it, we had over 30 people at the table, and everyone was working together to support the effort.”
The initial volunteer task force included representatives of Alexian Brothers, Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, the Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority (CARTA), the Chattanooga City Council, the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the Chattanooga Association of Realtors, Chattanooga State Technical Community College, First Tennessee, Memorial Healthcare System, the Hamilton County Commission and Development Department, Independent Healthcare Properties/Morning Pointe Assisted Living, Southeast Tennessee Development District, and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.