“Why Does It Seem That Over The Last Year And A Half, There Seems To Be A Preoccupation Of The Chamber Getting Into Political And Racial Issues? The Chamber Is Supported By This County To Create Jobs.” – Commissioner Boyd
Photo Credit: Background Image / Hamilton County TN Gov [youtube]
Published May 13, 2021
The Tennessee Conservative Staff –
Hamilton County, TN – On March 12th, Christy Gillenwater, Chattanooga Chamber President and CEO presented the ‘Chattanooga Climbs’ funding proposal for Fiscal Year 2022 to the Hamilton County Commission and Mayor Jim Coppinger.
After Gillenwater’s presentation, Chairman Baker opened the floor for questions from the Commission.
District 8 Commissioner Tim Boyd asked Gillenwater, “Why does it seem that over the last year and a half, there seems to be a preoccupation of the Chamber getting into political and racial issues?”
Gillenwater responded, “Everything we are doing is focused on ‘how can we make talent, people in our community, those who want to come to our community, feel like they have a place here, feel included.”
Boyd replied, “It just seems to me, prior to you taking the position as Chamber president, there wasn’t a lot of talk about this and we were growing as fast as we could grow. And bringing this issue to the forefront, with comment after comment and letters, and asking our community to make pledges, it doesn’t seem like that’s a function of the Chamber. The Chamber is supported by this county to create jobs.”
Boyd stated that generally hearing of the Chamber’s successes in driving more jobs to the area is a “hoo-rah moment,” but said, “it’s not such a hoo-rah moment when the Chamber has mission drift that is not in compliance with what I perceive to be their mission and that’s job creation.”
Boyd stated that he wants the Chamber to stay focused on job creation.
Addressing Gillenwater, Boyd said, “When you look back at the first statement you gave to the papers when you came here, ‘you love the community.’ You didn’t come here to change the community, you can here to help grow the community. What I read is you’re trying to change what we created here in our community over the last 50 years.”
District 4 Commissioner Mackey took his turn at the mic addressing Boyd, “You made reference to how Hamilton County lost business and nobody has said anything about it. Well, say something about the black talent who continue to come in and stay a year or two and then leave because of the environment they find here in Hamilton County, which is not inclusive. What about those black folk that live in your district? Are you going to fight for them? Are you going to speak for them?”
Boyd responded, “Commissioner Mackey, I just said the Chamber’s job is to create jobs. If you want to talk about policy and social issues, that is an elected official’s job. That’s our job. If it’s not being discussed on this bench, that’s one issue.”
“We’re talking about funding an agency that’s supposed to be creating jobs and they’re putting more social and racial issues before the community than doing their job to create jobs. If we want to have that discussion up here, I’m all about it. I’m not about funding non-profits that have a mission statement to bring jobs and grow our revenue base and them get into social and racial issues. It’s just not their job,” Boyd concluded.
During Gillenwater’s presentation to the council, she spoke of some of the Chamber’s accomplishments including the foundation’s ‘Tell the World’ job creation campaign that was founded in 2003.
“This remarkable collaboration between our organization and other community partners has yielded 159 Chamber-assisted job projects, valued at almost $5.2 billion dollars, producing more that 24,000 high-quality living-wage jobs in Hamilton County,” Gillenwater said.
Gillenwater also shared more recent numbers that she attributed to the Chamber’s efforts.
“Our key economic development numbers since July of 2019 have yielded 13 project announcements, 1,921 jobs, $48,748 average wage to those jobs and $895 million in new capital investment,” said Gillenwater.
Gillenwater stated that the Chamber’s request for funding has not increased for Fiscal Year 2022 over recent years.
Commissioner Boyd asked Gillenwater about the net permanent job increase in Hamilton County over the same period of time.
“I know there’s been several businesses leave, that’s something we never talk about much in these chambers and I know that the Chamber doesn’t talk much about that. I’d like to know the net increase,” Boyd said.
Gillenwater stated that the one-year growth rate of jobs in Tennessee overall is down 2.6%, whereas Chattanooga is down 3.2%. The country overall is down 4.4%.
GIllenwater stated that there are over 11,000 jobs posted on the Chattanooga Calling website, but they are going fulfilled.
“Our economy is growing, the challenge is talent, finding people to fulfill those jobs,” Gillenwater said.