City Club Presentation by Chattanooga's Mayor Andy Berke; Annual Giving Splash Part
Back in 1969, Walter Cronkite called Chattanooga, TN the "dirtiest city in America" due to its reliance almost entirely on manufacturing and the fact that it was located in a valley which kept all of its pollutants close to home. Over the following years, loss of much of its manufacturing base caused the area to really decline economically.
On Friday, September 23rd, we went to the City Club of Cleveland for a program in which Chattanooga's Mayor Andy Berke talked about how technological developments concerning the internet and broadband have helped turn his city around. In fact, in 2015 President Obama said that Chattanooga was "a tornado of innovation."
Now there is $800 million worth of construction taking place there at this time and Chattanooga is home to what is said to be "the fastest, cheapest, most pervasive internet" in the Western Hemisphere if not the World but the comeback hasn't been entirely due to technology (i.e. it is known as the "gig city" in some quarters) but also due to the fact that there has been a lot of creative waterfront development and Volkswagen opened a plant there in May, 2011.
Above all it seems like Chattanooga's success has been due to innovative leadership by community leaders like Mayor Berke (who was elected in 2013 with more than 70% of the vote) who recognize the need to make the city's progress be all-inclusive touching the lives of all of its residents. For example, there are classes to help seniors get more used to working with computers (we'd like to attend them) and schools are geared to help parents/educators find the right balance between employing the latest technology as a learning tool while not letting it be completely dominant. New ideas are encouraged and prospective entrepreneurs receive constructive counseling.
Before lunch we talked to Ms. Stacy Goldberg, the wife of Dr. Michael Goldberg from the Weatherhead School of Management who we have seen at several events lately, who told us that Mayor Berke is an old friend of her family and he is very sincere about wanting Chattanooga's success to be all-inclusive and reflected in its different communities.
So during the Q and A, we asked Mayor Berke about his city's policies regarding attracting immigrants. Mayor Berke replied that this is very important because he spoke to another friend of his who is a renowned venture capitalist who told him that 40% of those working at the center that he invests in are foreign-born. The mayor said that ways of attracting more international talent to Chattanooga is an ongoing discussion. After the program we spoke to him privately and urged him to establish a dialogue with Mr. Joe Cimperman of Global Cleveland because they could probably learn a lot from each other.
We were very impressed by the number of people that we talked to before the program who hadn't been to the City Club before but were there today. Mr. Doug McCollough, Chief Information Officer, with the City of Dublin, Ohio came quite a way to attend this program and Mr. Bob Knight, Executive VP of "Harrison Edwards" was visiting Cleveland from New York.
Local first-timers included Mr. Alex Hilleary of "Boxcast" who went to college in Georgetown. We enjoyed discussing with him how fun a place Georgetown is around Halloween because parts of "The Exorcist" were filmed there. We had a particularly charming conversation with Ms. Lauren Daughtrey, Development Director of "Milestones Autism Resources" in Beachwood. We told Ms. Daughtrey that we worked for Margaret W. Wong and Associates and she talked to us about how her family had hosted a few exchange students over the years from such places as China, Denmark and Japan.
But extra special thanks must go to the person who sat next to us at lunch who was Ms. Joyce Huang, Industrial Development Manager with the "Cleveland Industrial Retention Initiative" because from our standpoint many of the technological terms/processes that Mayor Berke was using/explaining were a bit vague (computer savvy is not one of our strong points) but Ms. Huang graciously sat with us for a couple of minutes after the program ended and explained them.
Thank you again, Ms. Huang because you helped make a good program even better.
Mr. Joe Cimperman's name came up again on Friday night because he, Cleveland City Councilman Matt Zone, and Mr. Dan Brennan, the Chief Operating Officer at Skylight Financial Group were the co-hosts of the "Annual Giving Splash Party" put on by "Drink Local. Drink Tap" that was held at the 10th Floor Penthouse of Skylight Financial on Lorain Avenue.
We attended this event because we very much admire the work of "Drink Local. Drink Tap" that, as its literature states, "inspires individuals to recognize and solve our water issues through creative education, events and providing safe water access to people in need." Since 2011 this organization has completed about a dozen water projects in Uganda alone.
Upon our arrival we received cheerful hugs from Ms. Erin Huber, the Executive Director and Founder, and Ms. Gail Palmer who worked very hard to organize this event.
We had an enlightening time visiting with Ms. Jolie Higazi, a reporter/editor who has written quite a bit for the "Ohio City Observer" because we discovered that we shared many of the same values on social issues and immigration. Along those lines, we talked to several people who know people who have immigrated to the United States from other countries and were very concerned about what the candidates for the U.S. Presidency are saying regarding what our immigration policy should be.
Entertaining all of the guests was violinist, Ms. Ariel Clayton Karas who told us that she plays at 120-150 events a year including many for nonprofits. We learned that Ms. Clayton Karas has performed at both the east side and west side "Happy Dogs" and is a member of "Classical Revolution Cleveland" which plays classical music in nontraditional places.
We learned that Ambassador Oliver Wonkha, Ugandan Ambassador to the United States was scheduled to speak at this event but, sadly, circumstances required that she remain in New York. She sent a letter, however, that read in part:
"I have never been to Cleveland, but have known Erin and 'Drink Local. Drink Tap's' important work and to them, I say thank you. It is so important that everyone has clean water and governments alone can't keep up with the demand alongside so many other pressing issues...I, myself, grew up fetching water. I walked FAR distances and then UPHILL on my way back to school and home. I got sick. I got typhoid and diareahha, I missed school-life was hard....Please hear from me that 'Drink Local. Drink Tap' is saving lives, improving education, improving equality, improving vulnerable people's lives. Erin and 'Drink Local. Drink Tap,' they are working in my country sacrificing time at their home to help develop the world, and for that I thank all of you."
Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC