The region offers a nurturing environment for startups, families and nature lovers alike.
What drives young professionals to move to Greater Chattanooga?
For some, it’s the competitive housing market. The median home price is around $254,000, far below the national average of about $344,000. For others, it’s how easy it is to get around. Greater Chattanooga residents enjoy an 18-minute commute – about 50 percent less time than most people around the country.
For Curt Arledge, it was a combination of affordable homes, recreational attractions and the charm of small-town living with big-city amenities that drew him to the area in 2019.
“Chattanooga had never really been on my radar until my coworker made a compelling pitch about the quality-of-life factors,” says Arledge, lead product designer for software company Genesys.
Arledge helped open Viget design agency’s Chattanooga office with partner Zach Robbins, and now he works remotely for a company based out of California.
“My wife and I came to visit, and our interest only grew,” Arledge says. “We loved spending three years inside the D.C. Beltway, but the cost of living was prohibitive to starting a family.”
Today, Arledge and his wife, Lauren, live in North Chattanooga’s Normal Park neighborhood with their two daughters, Frankie, 3, and Margo, just under a year old, and their pit bull mix, Tsuga.
Sweethearts from the Savannah College of Art & Design, Emily Critser and her husband, Corey, attempted a long-distance marriage while the two were getting their start in film and photography. The competitive nature of the industry created a challenging environment for their startup. The couple decided to return to the Chattanooga area to be closer to family, but the move was also worthwhile for their careers.
“The first sentiments we heard when we got to the Hamilton County Business Development Center in Chattanooga were, ‘We’re excited you’re here! Here’s a list of things we offer, classes to help you get off the ground, and networking events you should try out,’” Critser says.
Rather than swimming upstream as the small fish in a big pond, the Critsers now run their own commercial photography company, Lanewood Studio.
Their choice to pick a more friendly home base doesn’t mean they can’t do large commercial projects like promoting granola products for McKee Foods Corp.’s Sunbelt Bakery.
“We have continually been given the opportunity to photograph amazing projects. That has led to a better portfolio which has led to larger, national projects,” Critser says.
Checking All the Boxes
Arledge says although Greater Chattanooga wasn’t the first place that came to mind as a tech company location, the region checked just about all of his boxes and those for future employees, including the quality and cost of living, proximity to outdoor activities, fast internet and the appeal of a forward-thinking local government.
“And there are plenty of good restaurants and entertainment options and reasonable proximity to larger cities like Atlanta and Nashville. (Chattanooga) felt like a place that would attract talented designers and developers who might be feeling burnt out on the traffic and cost of big city living but still expect many of the amenities of larger cities,” the Asheville, North Carolina, native says.
“We have made so many great friends who run small businesses. We have grown together and encourage each other to succeed.”
Emily Critser, Lanewood Studio
Critser underscores the region’s strong sense of community among entrepreneurs.
“We have made so many great friends who run small businesses,” she says. “We have grown together and encourage each other to succeed.”
The region is steeped in cultural heritage parlayed through its vibrant arts scene. Greater Chattanooga is a gold mine of mountain towns like Dunlap, Cleveland and Ooltewah, with rich outdoor resources, growing business communities and local traditions. Outdoor parks and recreation are a source of pride, and residents put their money and time where their mouth is by investing in community beautification efforts.
“We wanted a place with more preserved green spaces for outdoor activities,” Arledge says. “The feeling we got from being in Chattanooga and being surrounded by Lookout Mountain, Raccoon Mountain, Signal Mountain and Missionary Ridge was really comforting and pleasant to us. My wife said that being surrounded by nearby mountains felt like a hug.”
If you’d like to learn more about the Greater Chattanooga area, check out the latest edition of Chattanooga Region Economic Development.