Full gig ahead in Chattanooga

21:39, Jul 23 2014
ON THE GO: Volkswagen has announced it will be investing a further $900 million into its Chattanooga plant.

Chattanooga, the Tennessee town best known for its "choo choo", is repositioning itself as Gig City.

It is the model town for the Gigatown competition, which Timaru is competing in. The winning town in the Chorus-run competition will be the first in the southern hemisphere to have one-gigabit per second (1Gbps) broadband.

Chattanooga was the first town in the United States to launch 1Gbps, in September 2010.

Chorus brand and communications manager Karren Harker was impressed by the momentum in Chattanooga when she was there this year.

"One of those great things about Chattanooga is their connected community. I noticed how collaborative their community is," Harker said.

The winning New Zealand town would need to emulate that community spirit to open the way for economic and social opportunities to result from the internet connectivity, she said.


Chattanooga built an expansive 100 per cent fibre network across the city and has now positioned itself as the most connected city in America. It plays on its close proximity to places like Nashville, and Atlanta, which has the busiest airport in the world.

The city is the size of Timaru and Dunedin combined, which is relatively small on an American scale. In the past week Volkswagen has announced it will be investing a further $900 million into its Chattanooga plant.

Harker was unable to say whether the technology available in the area was a direct factor in the carmaker's decision.

However, she did believe there was a growing trend to invest in the area due to the momentum.

"It has flow-on effects, including a recruitment company set up to hire the talent now needed for the area," she said.

Chattanooga used to be part of the cotton manufacturing industry, which dried up in the 1980s due to the emergence of new suppliers in India and China.

Warehouses that had emptied were now being renovated.

Some were being converted into apartments, which Harker said were popular among the entrepreneurs in the city.

Chattanooga is also home to the head office of the nation's third-largest privately-owned truckload carrier, US Xpress Enterprises, and the head office of the insurance company UNOM.

The country's highest profit-making energy company, TVA, which specialises in nuclear energy for several southern states, is based in Chattanooga.

Online company Amazon has also set up a distribution warehouse there.

She was aware Timaru was embracing the Gigatown challenge, she said.

"You need a town that is going to be fully engaged in it."

The Timaru Herald