February 12, 2019

Two conferences will leave Chattanooga a better city

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What a start we’ve had to 2019! We learned this winter that Chattanooga has been selected to host not one, but two conferences this year, that will draw creative leaders from around the world to our city.

The Nation of Makers Conference — nicknamed “NomCon” — will bring leaders of the maker movement from across the US to Chattanooga in June. In October, International Placemaking Week will land here, along with hundreds of public space enthusiasts from all around the world.

Both conferences chose Chattanooga for a slew of reasons, including our attractive, walkable downtown and our easy transportation options, like the electric shuttle, electric car share, and bike share. But infrastructure was only part of the equation. Organizers of both conferences pointed to something much bigger in their decision to come here — the spirit of this place, unique to Chattanooga. It’s a place where people have creative visions, and they support each other to realize them. Chattanooga is a city that’s made better by its people.

We have a lot to be proud of here. Those of us on the welcoming committee can’t wait to see our guests take in our world-class waterfront, or watch their excitement when they log onto our gigabit network. But, we did not throw our hat in the ring for NomCon and Placemaking Week just so that we could show off. The real value in hosting these conferences is in what we can learn from our visitors.

We have a healthy maker scene in Chattanooga already, with an incredible collection of tools at the Chattanooga Public Library, a lively annual Maker Faire, and community groups like Volkswagen eLab, Art/Dev, Chatt*Lab, and Art120. But there are so many more people who live every day as creative makers, who aren’t plugged into our larger community. What if we could create an even stronger network of makers, inclusive of more people in more neighborhoods? We’ve only accomplished the beginning of what is possible here, and having NomCon will surely inject energy into our local maker movement like never before.

Participants of Placemaking Week will arrive with their own experiences of public spaces from their communities around the world. The theme we proposed for the conference will focus on equity and inclusion. We chose this theme because we believe we can do a better job in Chattanooga of creating public spaces that are welcoming to people of all backgrounds. Conference participants will be asked to visit different neighborhoods in our city, and they’ll bring their valuable insights to a discussion of how Chattanooga can better use placemaking to break barriers.

There’s a lot of work ahead to prepare for NomCon and Placemaking Week, but we could not be more excited for June and October to arrive. We look forward to giving our visitors a warm welcome, and learning as much as we possibly can from them.