In a city of 30,000 residents, it's impressive that the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce has more than 500 members.
The chamber was established in 1949 as a forceful voice for business, and today it focuses on residential growth and development to attract the next generation of consumers and workforce to Oak Ridge, and the organization leads in the recruitment of retail and commercial businesses. The chamber also oversees leadership development to grow the next generation of civic, community, elected and business leaders, and it provides chamber members with numerous business-to-business networking opportunities each year.
“If I was a company thinking of locating somewhere, I would certainly keep Oak Ridge in mind,” says Parker Hardy, Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. “Oak Ridge is the center for highly technical jobs in the East Tennessee area, and the most advanced manufacturing in the world occurs here in many industrial clusters.”
Plenty of News
Hardy points out that Oak Ridge is making plenty of news these days. First of all, the old and overbuilt Oak Ridge Mall is being redeveloped into a mixed-use town center of big-box retail, restaurants, a hotel, offices and family residences.
Hardy adds that Oak Ridge schools are annually ranked among the nation's best, while Congress has authorized the creation of a Manhattan Project National Historic Park to commemorate the city's involvement in the World War II Manhattan Project atomic bomb effort. The permanent tourism memorial will be featured in Oak Ridge as well as Hanford, Wash., and Los Alamos, N.M.
“Meanwhile, people commute into Oak Ridge from about a dozen counties that surround us, and the largest percentage of workers live in the Knoxville area,” Hardy says. “One of the chamber's big upcoming efforts is to develop our city so that some of those commuters will eventually elect to become full-time residents of Oak Ridge, instead of merely commuting here.”