Southern Comfort

Chattanooga may have transformed itself from a sleepy town to a vibrant city, but it hasn’t lost any of its southern charm.


VITAL STATS

Much of the Southeastern United States is within an eight--hour drive, including Memphis, New Orleans, Atlanta and Cincinnati.

Population: 1 million

Land Area: 2,091 square miles

Big Business: Food and beverage account for the largest share of employees in the manufacturing sector.

It’s The Real Thing: The world’s first franchised Coca--Cola bottling plant was built in Chattanooga, also home to the famous Choo Choo.

Chattanooga is one of the most desirable food manufacturing locations in the country, says Trevor Hamilton, vice president of economic development for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. "We can reach nearly one--third of the major U.S. markets within one day’s drive from Chattanooga."

In fact, the transportation hub includes three major interstate highways that intersect in the area: I--75 for north--south access, I--59 for southwest access, and I--24 for west access. Two Class 1 railroads, the CSX and Norfolk Southern, provide excellent rail service.

The Chattanooga metropolitan statistical area encompasses six counties––three in Tennessee and three in Georgia. The area draws its labor force from the surrounding 18 counties, with a population of about 1 million people.

The region is located within an hour and a half from Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and Huntsville. Other major cities such as Lexington, Louisville, Memphis, Charlotte, Cincinnati, Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Raleigh and New Orleans are accessible within an eight--hour drive.

The largest single distribution facility in Chattanooga is General Mills, operated by leading 3PL Kenco Logistics Services. "We have more than 70 common transportation carriers located in our greater Chattanooga area, two of which––U.S. Xpress and Covenant Transport––are among the nation’s largest," Hamilton says.

"To give you an idea of the concentration of the food industry here, food and beverage manufacturing accounts for the largest share––18 percent––of employment in our manufacturing sector," says Hamilton. Many companies are using incentives offered through the Renewal Community Program, a federally legislated program available in select communities. "This program has helped us revitalize our central business district which had been distressed," explains Hamilton.

Pilgrim’s Pride and Koch Foods, for instance, used tax credits on expansions each underwent last year. And as for employee tax credits, they are available for companies employing individuals living within the Renewal Community area. "There are also accelerated depreciation tax advantages companies can use as they invest in new plants and facilities," Hamilton continues.

Tennessee mandates no property taxes on goods--in--process, inventoried finished goods, inventoried for--sale merchandise, goods--in--transit or government--required pollution control equipment.

The area supports a number of industrial parks. For example, Enterprise South is a newly developing industrial park with about 1,600 available acres and its location adjacent to I--75 make it an excellent spot for food companies to locate.

"Currently under construction is a dedicated interchange off I--75 and the location is very close to I--59 and I--24, so it’s well--situated for over--the--road transportation of products to market," says Hamilton. The park is rail--served and is served by industrial--grade utilities, with water and sewage treatment capacity readily available to meet the heavy demands of the food and beverage industry.

Center South is another industrial park offering sites conducive to food companies. “There is a port facility on site that could provide barge service and Norfolk Southern is currently serving companies in the park,” says Hamilton.

"Chattanooga Manufacturers Association is the country’s oldest manufacturing association and this speaks to how important the manufacturing segment is for us," Hamilton says.

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