Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Chattanooga and Other Fast-Fiber Cities Are Grabbing Companies, and Jobs

More CEOs and company founders are being lured to “smart” cities that have built fast fiber-optic networks, highly digitally connected municipal-government infrastructures, expectations that they will stay at the forefront in business-supporting technologies—or some combination thereof.

Chattanooga, Tenn.; Dublin, Ohio; and Lake Nona, Fla., are among metro areas that have secured early winners from investments in Internet networks that provide the blazing 1-gigabit speeds required by growing businesses. These businesses bring enormous appetites for bandwidth to fuel cutting-edge advances from mobile apps to design of new manufactured products to the support required to expand call centers. Detroit; Arlington, Va.; and Burlington, Vt., are among other cities trying to join their ranks.

Meanwhile, some other cities are becoming pioneers in setting themselves up as “smart” municipalities by moving toward creation of urban areas covered with Internet-connected devices that control citywide systems such as transit and lighting, and collect data to make the city’s entire infrastructure perform better.

“Chattanooga’s $370 million network has generated between $865 million and $1.3 billion in economic and social benefits, while creating between 2,800 and 5,200 new jobs.”

As cities such as Chicago and Pittsburgh build out networks of sensors that could turn them into meccas for the “Internet of Things,” the nature of a city’s digital infrastructure is bound to become a more and more important consideration to CEOs making expansion and site-selection decisions.

“Our mayor,” Andy Berke, “is fond of saying that we have the fastest, most pervasive, cheapest Internet in the western hemisphere,” Charles Wood, vice president of economic development for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, told CEO Briefing. “That has helped drive a lot of attention and a lot of activity. From there, we’ve leveraged it from an economic-development standpoint to a broader level, and a lot of it is built around entrepreneurship and innovation.”

Chattanooga, in fact, has become known as “Gig City” for becoming first in the nation to build a community-wide fiber-optic network capable of delivering 1-gigabit Internet speeds And lately, EPB, the municipal fiber-optics utility, became the first U.S. municipality to offer 10-gigabit Internet service across a large community-wide territory.

This focus on fiber directly lured two 3D-printing startups to Chattanooga: Branch Technologies, a building-systems concern; Feetz; a digital cobbler; and 3-D Ops, which makes custom three-dimensional models of the human heart for surgery practice. Meanwhile, larger and pre-existing companies such as Claris Networks have set up data-center operations in Chattanooga because of the 1-gig network, Wood said.

EPB said that creating the Chattanooga network cost about $370 million, but a new University of Tennessee study found that, six years after it opened, the fiber-optic infrastructure has generated from $865 million to $1.3 billion in economic and social benefits while creating between 2,800 and 5,200 new jobs.

Meanwhile, in Dublin, a Columbus suburb, has leveraged $5.5 million in investments in 125 miles of fast fiber into at least a $35-million return on investment, especially from “gains in employment and thus tax revenues that have resulted from companies expanding or relocating in Dublin to take advantage of its incredible connectivity,” the city said.

As digital technologies drive more and more of the U.S. economy, fast-fiber cities clearly will have an upper hand.


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.