Community Voices

10 Ways Millennials Are Changing Chattanooga

On March 25th, The National Journal and The Atlantic hosted a town hall meeting in the millennial hotspot that is Austin, Texas; the event was called A New America: How Millennials are Sparking Change! This is what I gleaned from the town hall discussion: first and foremost, millennials are by far the most diverse generation in American history; secondly, we are on track to be the most educated, most connected, and most wired generation America has ever seen; and lastly/most importantly, our passion for entrepreneurship and service will help to set the tone for government and business innovation for decades.  

 If you want to watch the town hall, visit the National Journal’s site; it’s worth it!

Over the course of the last month or so, I have had the opportunity to meet, learn, and read about some of the young adults who are truly changing Chattanooga for the better, and I learned the great thing about millennials in Chattanooga is that we are just as connected, just as entrepreneurial, and just as service oriented as our counterparts across the country.  I could not think of a better way to illustrate that fact than piecing together a Buzzfeed-style rundown of how millennials are leading efforts to affect positive change in the city of Chattanooga. Some of the groups I highlight are more established than others, and/or receive leadership and guidance from non-millennials, but here is a list, in no particular order, of the 10 ways Millennials are changing Chattanooga!

 1. The Glass House Collective

Entrepreneurial and beta-minded, the diverse team of young people at the Glass House Collective are leveraging their skills and talents to help revitalize historic Glass Street in Chattanooga. With the core tenets of creative placemaking, feet on the streets, and new partnerships, millennials at GHC are developing projects and programs that help artists and entrepreneurs capture and shape the flavor of the neighborhood.  Additionally, through creative public events, they are also getting people out of their cars and into transforming experiences -- and by relying on creativity as a resource for renewal, they are bringing people across the city together. Check out all the amazing ways GHC is changing the Glass Street Community here!

 2. Next City’s Vanguard Conference, 2014

Vanguard is an annual urban leadership forum that gathers the best and brightest young leaders working to improve cities across sectors, including urban planning, community development, entrepreneurship, government, transportation, sustainability, design, art and media. While the Vanguard Conference is not native to Chattanooga, the presence of a problem solving conference that exclusively invites civic innovators under the age of 40 evidences the positive change millennials are instigating in Chattanooga already. Young people have helped Chattanooga become a home for tech start-ups, pop-ups and incubators, attracting professionals and giving the city a new face. No wonder Next City chose to hold the Vanguard Conference here, who could resist?  

 3. Young Professionals Association of Chattanooga

The Young Professionals Association, among other great services, has created a program known as Protege Chattanooga. The program is designed as a team-based mentoring program that is geared toward emerging leaders in their early to mid-career. It provides an opportunity for young professionals to come together and learn from some of Chattanooga's most accomplished leaders and one another. The Mentorship Program provides: exploration of business and personal interests/issues, business and personal networking, development of people skills, professional and personal growth. These are all the tools millennials need to attain next level leadership, and YPAC is providing a critical resource to that end.

 4. Lamp Post Group

The Lamp Post group is a venture incubator that helps aspiring entrepreneurs take their ideas from the planning stages to reality through financial investment and business guidance. Lamp Post combines the talent of a small venture incubator with the financial capabilities of a venture capital firm to create a system that encourages fast, independent company growth. But most importantly, when you walk down the halls at Lamp Post, a group of 20-30 somethings are all sharing ideas and discussing ways to make Chattanooga a better place through entrepreneurship. That’s pretty remarkable. The next couple of groups (5-7) are Lamp Post projects about which I know a little!


5 Campus Bellhops

Campus Bellhops employs top-tier college students to provide moving services to collegiate and local communities in 115+ cities. With thousands of trained student 'Bellhops', access to a nationwide fleet of moving trucks, and their fully integrated Online Management System, the millennial leaders at Campus Bellhops are changing the national conversation around collegiate moving services.

 6. WayPaver

WayPaver is an innovation lab dedicated to building a better Chattanooga through top-tier talent in tech and design—driving economic development and culture by attracting and retaining the best and brightest creative minds. They are growing startups by relocating the most talented millennials, whether they be software developers, designers, data analysts, or operations experts, to Chattanooga. And just think, all of this led by other millennials!

 7. Fancy Rhino

Fancy Rhino has formed a revolutionary and highly personal studio for promotional video efforts both locally and globally. The young people at Fancy Rhino have harnessed a diverse network of talent to create animations, motion graphics, ads, documentary film and music videos that really move people. But what’s really great about Fancy Rhino is that it is telling the story of everyday Chattanoogans. In 2012 they created an awesome, featured length film about students at the Howard School in Chattanooga.  Check out the trailer, you will be impressed!

 8. Society of Work

Society of Work is built on the love of independence and collaboration that drives Chattanooga’s local business scene. The group makes room for young, developing talent. Business owners use these facilities, looking for talented, hard workers. It is a place to do work, but also to find work, to develop relationships that lead to collaboration, employment, and projects promptly started and finished well. Society of Work has created a work space and culture meant to incentivize success, and all this is led by millennials. Pretty cool!

 9.  Sandbox

Sandbox is a mobile society of the world’s most extraordinary young game changers, and thankfully there is a Hub in Chattanooga. Sandboxers are high-character, high-impact leaders under the age of 30 drawn from one of 10 different themes; Academics , Adventurers, Artists, Builders, Business Leaders, Designers, Entrepreneurs, Politicians, Social Innovators, and Story Tellers. Sandbox identifies millennial leaders and accelerates them from local impact to global influence. Chattanooga is beginning to create world changers in its back yard, thanks in part, to millennials.


10. City of Chattanooga Office of Multicultural Affairs

Though nationwide millennials are not overtly partisan, they still demonstrate a commitment to public service. In an effort to get millennials excited about working for the City of Chattanooga, and to keep Chattanooga's best and brightest right here in our wonderful city, the City of Chattanooga Office of Multicultural Affairs facilitates internship experiences introducing young people to city government. Thus far, the internship program has given some of the city’s most talented students the opportunity to develop a passion for service—they have the chance to work for departments across the city. OMA is truly preparing millennials to be a part of the next wave of government innovators, by giving them the skills to address contemporary policy challenges such as poverty, education, and economic development. Chattanooga needs young people who are willing to commit to public service.

After that impressive list, there is no doubt that millennials are engaging the city of Chattanooga in meaningful ways. What remains to be seen are the ways in which fellow millennials will continue to capitalize on this widespread sense of service and entrepreneurship to move Chattanooga forward. I’m excited at what the future holds!

“...the great thing about millennials in Chattanooga is that we are just as connected, just as entrepreneurial, and just as service oriented as our counterparts across the country. ”