A note from TEC CEO Deb Socia & Board Chairman Sydney Crisp:
2022-2023 has been a year of opportunity for The Enterprise Center. We scaled existing digital equity initiatives, launched pilot projects in partnership with local neighborhoods, and are poised to accept federal grant funds from the EPA and FCC to benefit residents across our region.
Both in times of uncertainty and of growth, The Enterprise Center exists to ask, “How can we help?” We harness the strengths of our collective to build meaningful, sustainable solutions with the communities we serve — not for them.
That distinction is one with profound significance to us, informing our approach not only to our daily work, but also our organizational expansion. TEC multiplied from a burgeoning team of approximately a dozen to nearly triple in size, which allows us to continue to cultivate opportunities like our new civic storytelling program, Chattamatters, and the Orchard Knob Connected Communities Project to address social determinants of health – through a technology lens – on a larger scale …
While our deepest roots are embedded across Hamilton County, partnerships with the Tennessee Child Care Resource & Referral Network, the Southeast Tennessee Area Agency on Aging and Disability, and West End Home Foundation have allowed us to further cultivate collaborations across Tennessee to reach additional communities in need of resources. Simultaneously, our hyper-local Chattamatters project has allowed us to uplift community voices across Chattanooga and become even more deeply entrenched and invested in our neighborhoods.
In addition to nurturing these new aspects of ongoing work to increase access — to technology, high speed internet access, community spaces, educational resources, and so much more — we’re proud to have helped more than 16,000 Hamilton County Schools students and their families connect to no-cost, in-home internet through the third year of our HCS EdConnect partnership, powered by EPB.
And, since its creation, the Resiliency Checklist has been utilized by more than 600 small businesses and organizations across the region to ensure preparedness for whatever comes their way.
Our EMPACT workforce development program, in partnership with City of Chattanooga and Chattanooga State Community College, provided training and a training stipend to three cohorts of community residents earning a Google IT certification. When graduates gained employment with partners like City of Chattanooga IT Services, City of Red Bank, and our local chapter of Boys and Girls Club, we celebrated their success alongside them. With nearly 100 more interested participants on a list for future classes, we are also all too aware of how many others are still seeking opportunity.
Our burgeoning Networking & Neurodiversity project, focused on providing pathways for neurodivergent community members to connect with potential employers, resources, and peers, grew from an idea into a quarterly event averaging 100+ attendees thanks to an abundance of collaborative partnerships. And, we aim to cultivate similar intentional spaces for community support for a new Black in Tech initiative.
Now, we stand ready to bring additional support to the Chattanooga region through emerging technological advancements and the Chattanooga Smart Community Collaborative. And, as the city evolves with the technological capabilities of Quantum technology, The Enterprise Center works to ensure the digital divide doesn’t grow.
In this line of work, it is all too easy to forget that every individual involved has a reason — and a dream all their own. It is a privilege to connect with each person who trusts us to help them reach their next milestone.
For many, the beginning of this decade has been characterized by community resiliency. As we begin a new fiscal year, filled with new opportunities, we hope the rest of this (still) new decade can be colored by the intentionality of those who believe in a more inclusive future for all.
Sydney Crisp, Chairman of the Board
Deb Socia, President & CEO
Families across Hamilton County can rely on no-cost, in-home internet thanks to HCS EdConnect, a partner program with EPB and Hamilton County Schools that is committed to long-term, reliable internet at no cost to students for 10 years.
EdConnect has provided families with so much more than the ability to access schoolwork at home. Some parents are furthering their education online for a chance at career growth. Others are changing their eating habits and cooking as a family, with healthy recipes they can now access online.
Research, done by partners at Boston College and UT Chattanooga, suggests this program has also had a direct impact on parent participation in schools because a virtual option eliminates the transportation barriers many face. 85% of parents surveyed reported they are able to monitor their children’s grades at least 1x per month thanks to HCS EdConnect. Another 81% said they rely on the program to keep in contact with teachers monthly. As the program grows and our data understanding expands with it, we’re excited to see what other life-changing impacts this access provides.
Rural and urban communities alike face an all-too-common reality: A major digital divide characterized by disparities in technical literacy, hardware adoption, and Internet access among citizens based on income, race, and age.
Tech Goes Home exists to address the digital divide by providing hands-on skills training and affordable devices. With a mission to ensure every individual who is unable to purchase a device (or understand how to use it) can learn, connect, and create whatever future they aspire to, Tech Goes Home CHA expanded to Tech Goes Home Tennessee this year and our Early Childhood Education component celebrated over 1,000 graduates in less than 2 years
Across all TGH programming, nearly 10,000 Tennessee residents participated in hands-on skills training (with opportunities to receive affordable devices) and assistance in securing in-home, reliable WiFi options since 2015.
The Innovation District is continuing to grow as a community hub and created new workforce development initiatives like Networking and Neurodiversity and EMPACT. By harnessing the power of partnerships and outdoor public spaces during times of COVID concern with neighbors like River City Company and ArtsBuild, event series like Basecamp and Storytelling Spaces created opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs, artists, and other Chattanoogans to connect with one another as well as network with funders and other organizations.
As events were able to move back indoors, The Enterprise Center leveraged the capacity of Floor Five to connect Chattanoogans to workforce opportunities through events for the neurodiverse community, Black in Tech, and more …
Floor Five at The Edney, the free public-access conference rooms and event spaces available for anyone in the community, saw an increase in usage and a return to pre-pandemic levels of engagement. Roughly 10,000 Chattanoogans took advantage of opportunities across Floor Five!
For those who find themselves in the area and wanting to know more, walking tours also made a resurgence this year, allowing groups from all over the country (and as local as UTC incoming students and high schoolers from Howard and Brainerd high schools) to learn more about the wide range of ways to engage in the district and the tools available because of its many collaborative partnerships.
How often does consuming media stories about current events lead to increased public engagement and a deeper understanding?
Chattamatters, our new hyper-local civic storytelling program, is here to help demystify government and provide accessible, easily digestible information as well as pathways to community involvement.
Launched in 2022 through a partnership with City of Chattanooga, the platform’s main focus is digestible weekly newsletters and video content, tackling complex issues like how to address the rise in numbers of Chattanoogans experiencing homeless, a series examining the nuances of recycling, and housing affordability (or lack thereof).
In addition to videos, explanatory infographics, and a weekly newsletter tackling a big picture question, Chattamatters also highlights Chattanooga City Council’s weekly agenda in simplified terms to encourage participation in the civic process.