It has the fastest Internet speeds in the Western Hemisphere. It boasts the world's only automotive factory with LEED Platinum certification, the EPA's highest green-building rating. And Outside magazine named it "The Best City Ever."
A Silicon Valley enclave?
No. Chattanooga, Tenn., the factory town once so polluted that people had to drive with their headlights on all day. Chattanoogans are quick to mention that in 1969 Walter Cronkite called it the "dirtiest city in America."
They're also quick to add that their town is now called Gig City, after making a big comeback. The nickname comes from its fiber-optic network, the nation's first to support Internet speeds of one gigabit a second, which is probably more than 100 times faster than the connection you're using to read this now. Chattanooga's gig network has helped attract $4 billion in foreign investment since the downturn and a flock of new tech entrepreneurs to the city, who revel in its green spaces, hip cultural offerings—and clean air.
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"I enjoy it here because of the entrepreneurial spirit," said Bobbi Rakova, co-founder of HutGrip, a young software start-up that optimizes manufacturing production processes by collecting and analyzing data. The functionality of its products relies on the gig network.
Rakova and her business partner had been working on the concept in their native Bulgaria in early 2013 when they heard about a business accelerator program in Chattanooga, traveled to the city to participate and decided to stay. One of their clients is Chattanooga Bakery, which has been making Moon Pies since they invented them in 1917.
"We have a lot of opportunities to work with local companies who are willing to try new things," said Rakova, who's also enthusiastic about Chattanooga's lifestyle. "I've never been able to bike to work before!"
"We certainly work hard on our quality of life," said Andy Berke, Chattanooga's mayor. "Businesses are looking for ways to tap into existing infrastructure, and the web is part of that. But they also want to know there are logistical opportunities, that the city leadership is forward-thinking and committed and that we will provide a great place for their workers."
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