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Thrive 2055 looking for public input

Over the next two years, a group of leaders across 16 counties will work to create a plan that will address some of the Chattanooga region’s biggest issues as it moves further into the 21st century.

Called Thrive 2055, the initiative will result in a plan that includes strategies on improving everything from air quality to public education in Tennessee, North Georgia and North Alabama.

For the next several months, project leaders are looking for people’s input on what they would like to see in the area’s future.

“One thing we’ve recently introduced is the ‘Meeting in a Box,’” said Thrive 2055 project manager Bridgett Massengil. “We provide the meeting template, you provide the people and thoughts and send us the highlights of your discussions.”

The four main areas of concentration for the plan include the region’s people, prosperity level, infrastructure and physical space. With Meeting in a Box, anyone interested in hosting a meeting can get materials online, host a meeting and then submit the meeting’s highlights through the same interface at www.thrive2055.com.

With more than 1 million people in the region, Massengil said it is impossible to have conversations with people or areas individually, but it is important to get as much of a cross-section as possible with the Meeting in a Box as well as other methods of data collection.

The first year of the planning process is dedicated solely to research through a variety of platforms.

Massengil said the group hopes to conclude the initial Meeting in a Box program by the end of February. After that data has been collected and analyzed, the Thrive 2055 team will facilitate “input incubators” in three locations across the region. Those incubators will include interactive maps and other ways for the public to dialogue with the Thrive 2055 team.

“A second Meeting in a Box will come from this input incubator and then we will host a second input incubator,” said Massengil.

The second year of the planning process will be dedicated to establishing a regional vision that comes from the team’s research, and setting benchmarks to evaluate success. The third year will be dedicated to the creation of action strategies and tools along with transitioning from the planning process to active implementation.

“This is not a political process or policy-making board,” said Massengil. “This is just a group of leaders coming together to talk about where we want to go. We want a regional vision with an action plan on how to get there.”

Some of the main reasons for beginning Thrive 2055 include the fact that since 2008, this area has seen $4 billion in new business investments and the creation of the nation’s largest 100 percent fiber optic Internet network, despite an ongoing economic recession across the country.

Even with these positive improvements, the economic climate has exacerbated the area’s existing challenges, which include gaps between workforce skills and the demands of new industries, high rural unemployment and broadband desserts across the area, said Massengil.

“There are many issues that simply don’t care what silo our community is living in,” she said. “There is no vision that’s currently in place to address these challenges. Our mission is to proactively engage the people of this entire region in creating an action plan that will make the most of our economic opportunities while preserving what we love about our home communities.”

For more information visit www.thrive2055.com or www.facebook.com/thrive2055.

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