published Saturday, September 14th, 2013

Chattanooga ranks as 4th tidiest U.S. city

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    Taryn Ball, left, and Haley Dalrymple walk with their children along a section of the Tennessee Riverpark late Monday morning. The two friends use the river walk at least once a week.
    Photo by Dan Henry.
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Chattanooga data:

July 2012 population (at time of survey): 537,889

Maids and housecleaners: 2,110

$635 -- average spent on housecleaning supplies annually

$148.42 -- average spent on laundry supplies annually

Annual income (per capita): $36,066

Self-storage space per person: 9.39 square feet

Sources: SpareFoot.com, Geographic Research Inc., 2013 Self-Storage Almanac, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau

Pull-out info:

Top 5 Tidiest Cities:

1. Albuquerque, New Mexico

2. Little Rock, Arkansas

3. Palm Bay - Melbourne - Titusville, Florida

4. Chattanooga, Tennessee

5. Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Florida

Source: SpareFoot.com

Whether it's plentiful self-storage or an abundance of maids, Chattanooga likes to keep things clean.

The Scenic City now ranks fourth among "The Tidiest Towns in America," according to SpareFoot.com. The website devoted to keeping things organized says Chattanooga loves to open its wallet for a cleaner living space.

The SpareFoot numbers tell an interesting story about the price tag of Chattanooga's tidiness habits: Each house spends roughly $635 on housekeeping supplies a year. Laundry? That's another $150.

"If I were a resident of the Chattanooga area, I'd point to the ranking as a point of pride," said John Egan, SpareFoot's editor-in-chief. "The people who live there care about their homes."

When all is said and done, 1.8 percent of Chattanooga's annual income of $36,066 goes toward cleaning expenses.

Chattanooga isn't just clean -- it's spacious. There's approximately 9.34 square feet of self-storage space for each resident. It's not just a haven for old gym equipment and unused furniture: each of the city's 537,000-plus residents could comfortably meet within its storage facilities at once.

The national average is just 7.3 square feet per person, according to the Self Storage Association industry fact sheet.

However, the majority of Chattanooga's self-storage market is in the suburbs, far from the concentrated downtown area, according to Nitesh Sapra of NitNeal Partners. The Atlanta-based developer is building a $4 million self-storage facility on Broad Street to appeal to Chattanooga's urban-based consumers.

"Downtown is just extremely undersupplied," Sapra said. "[The self-storage market] is predominantly in the suburbs.

Sapra says that Chattanooga also features four separate publicly traded self-storage companies, which is very rare to see in a market its size.

There's also a job market for those who are able to pick up

Chattanooga's mess: more than 2,100 maids work in the city limits.

The booming tourism industry employees more than 1,200 people to keep the city's 94 hotels and eight bed-and-breakfasts in working order.

Since Molly Maid, a national chain of home service professionals, opened in Hamilton County in 2007, president Ashley Farrar said a scary economy couldn't shake the local cleaning business. The corps of maids started with a two-person cleaning crew and is now about to open its ninth crew to handle the demand.

"We opened right in the middle of everything, but we've only seen steady growth since we've opened," she said.

Farrar says a second demographic keeps the cleaning market bustling: senior citizens.

"That's actually been something unique to us," she said. "Our clients are much older. Usually, when you think of maid services, you think of dual-income homes with a family and kids, but that's not always the case."

But to Farrar, the tidiness business is more than dust brooms and trash bags.

"You really want to make sure you're protected," Farrar said. "Your home is your most valuable asset."

SpareFoot.com examined data from a variety to sources to come up with its findings, including Geographic Research Inc., 2013 Self-Storage Almanac, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and U.S. Census Bureau.

Contact staff writer Jeff LaFave at jlafave@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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