New Report from National League of Cities Highlights Chattanooga’s Innovation District

April 11, 2016 - (3 min read)

Report Outlines How Innovation Districts Can Reenergize Economic Growth in Cities

WASHINGTON—Today the National League of Cities (NLC) announced the release of a new report showcasing “innovation districts,” areas designated by cities to incubate creativity and serve as labs for forward-looking concepts and policies. Innovation Districts: The Chattanooga Story highlights how the city of Chattanooga, Tenn., planned and cultivated their innovation district and outlines how cities can create their own innovation districts.

In cities, innovation districts catalyze economic growth through spatial clustering, bringing together people from within and across fields to germinate ideas and create the next big thing. The report highlights how innovation districts are growing across the country, especially in large and mid-sized cities.

“Cities are the natural environments where innovation districts thrive,” said Brooks Rainwater, senior executive and director of NLC’s Center for City Solutions and Applied Research. “They offer public transportation systems, tech resources, cultural amenities and competitive job markets. This environment allows a host of players – including entrepreneurs, startups, established firms, anchor institutions, highly skilled workers, thought leaders and policy makers – to connect in an area where unexpected relationships can form and transformative solutions can happen.”

Chattanooga was the first mid-sized American city to announce plans to establish an innovation district. Mayor Andy Berke formally announced Chattanooga’s innovation district in January 2015, along with plans to build the city’s first Innovation Center at a key intersection in the heart of the district.

“There is an existing ecosystem in places like southern California where they assume that businesses and entrepreneurs are going to interact on a regular basis. What an innovation district can do in a mid-sized city like Chattanooga is help develop that kind of interaction on a local level,” said Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke. “There could be tremendous market effects if we build a relationship between our existing companies and those who are inventing new products.”

Based off of Chattanooga’s success, the report provides key best practices for cities looking to implement and create their own innovation districts.

“This report shows cities how to create the next generation of economic clusters, as suburban research parks continue to recede,” said Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities (NLC). “Cities are where things are happening, where relationships are built, and where ideas are germinated. We are looking forward to seeing innovation districts pop up in cities across the nation, both large and small.”

The full report, along with the recommendations for planning and building an innovation district, can be found here.

The National League of Cities (NLC) is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans.