Over the last several weeks, and months even, the topic of the "Chattanooga way" has come up several times by a variety of people. It wasn't always expressed in exactly those words, but that is essentially what was being discussed.
For those unfamiliar with the term, it essentially is used to describe how it is we went from being a deserted, smog-ridden downtown to a place that people from all over the world come to visit and marvel at.
At its most basic, the Chattanooga way refers to the spirit of cooperation that exists between a wide range of groups including civic leaders, industry leaders, philanthropists, government agencies, artists and patrons.
Harry S. Truman famously said, "It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit." That seems to be the sentiment around here, and it is proven all the time.
The Tennessee Aquarium is the undisputed catalyst for the city's transformation, and the late Jack Lupton rightfully gets the lion's share of the credit for that. But what took place after its opening is where the real magic happened. Rather than individuals stepping in and building enterprises that would solely benefit a few people, folks looked for ways to partner.
We love partnering. And it's not just because it looks good on a grant application, though it is pretty much a required field anymore. We like partnering because people have figured out it works.
When original owner Nick Jessen started Chattanooga Market 12 years ago, he more or less stumbled across partnering with different charities and agencies in town each week. It was not his original intent to divert any attention away from the market vendors, but it didn't take long to figure out the benefits for all sides.
The market had a covered space, bathrooms, security, crowds and some staffing that were all part of its budget. It also had some marketing at its disposal.
That meant that the charity automatically saved the cost of securing those things, which meant most of the money raised went directly to the charity. The events and charities brought to the market their own crowd and their own marketing, which meant media outlets like this paper would publicize it. And because it was a new group and event each week, in theory new patrons were brought to the market.
The amount of money raised over the years for these events totals in the millions.
If you look at the Riverfront Nights schedule, you see a different set of agencies there each week. The concerts are the big draw, but groups like the Humane Educational Society, the East Tennessee Alliance for Animals and the Chattanooga Futbal Club use the opportunity to introduce people to what they do as well.
Maybe the best example of the Chattanooga way is the Riverwalk. To my knowledge, no one makes a penny from it directly, but it is one of the coolest things, if not the coolest thing, we have, and the way it ties everything together is amazing. When finished, it will stretch from essentially St. Elmo to Chickamauga Dam. Kudos to the folks who got together to make that happen.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...