Urban planners flock to Chattanooga to learn how a city that was once dying and dirty became a model of urban progress. Locals and national experts attribute the city’s turnaround to the “Chattanooga way.”
This is when leaders from government, business, and philanthropy were working together to improve the community as a whole. Thanks to such collaboration, the city today features robust private investment downtown, a scenic walkway along the Tennessee River, and a growing roster of tech start-ups.
But the work continues: Low-income and African-American residents too often lack the education and skills to compete for the new jobs.
Two local private foundations – Benwood Foundation (with assets of $102 million) and Lyndhurst Foundation ($140 million) – played key roles in the rebound, and they remain front and center as the city works to spread the benefits of its revitalization. Both foundations are focused primarily on Chattanooga, with grant-making budgets of $6.7 million for Benwood and $5 million for Lyndhurst.
“We were in a crisis for a while, and at that time, any prosperity was so welcomed,” says Sarah Morgan, Benwood’s president. “Now it’s about what kind of prosperity: Are these living-wage jobs? And what does it take to land one of them?”