Chattanooga Growth Brings Mixed Blessings of Opportunities and Expense

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In 2022, Chattanooga was the fastest growing city in the entire state of Tennessee.

The report entitled, Follow Me to Tennessee: The moveBuddha 2021-2022 Tennessee Migration Report, revealed the strong job market plus the eighth lowest cost of living in the US at the time of the September 2022 publication brought 306 new individuals into the state for every 100 individuals who left Tennessee.

In-migration of new residents from other states to Chattanooga surpassed Johnson City in northeast Tennessee, logging 273 new residents for every 100 who departed. Both mid-sized towns have a university, healthcare systems that hire professionals, and feature natural beauty. Chattanooga boasts the Tennessee River, lakes, trails, and mountains, while Johnson City, located further east than Asheville, North Carolina, enjoys mountain air and life.

But what has this in-migration done to Chattanooga?

The demand for housing, especially early in this churn of humanity, ballooned the cost of homes and the typically low rent higher. More development has brought the inventory of housing options to better match the need, hopefully rounding the steep climb of prices that disproportionately hurt those who live paycheck to paycheck.

What do the numbers say?

Relative to rent and housing, Chattanooga is 15% higher than the state average and 8% lower than the national average, according to RentCafe.com. According to Salary.com, the cost of living in Chattanooga has risen almost 2% in just one year when looking at housing, food, and transportation. Interestingly, the increases of these essentials for individuals and families outpaces the increase experienced in Nashville at 1.3% in the same time period.

As property taxes and a shared portion of the sales tax serve as the primary tools of the City and County governments to fund their operations, the in-migration is a positive with more parcels of land being used for development and housing. Yet, as small businesses grow and the Chattanooga area economy continues to outpace others, with the demand for services in schools, roads, waste and garbage, government grows with ballooning budgets and operations.

The City and County leaders are faced with the blessing of growth, which affords new opportunities for employment, expanding the tax base to keep it lower for individuals and families, and creates the environment for future successes. Consider the increased strain on resources and the temptation to grow government beyond its scope of essential services which burdens individuals and employers (large and small), and will ultimately dampen growth over time. This blessing becomes a two-edged sword with the duty to do what individuals cannot do without further increasing costs through fees, regulations, taxes, and excessive government growth.

A final point about the in-migration to Chattanooga. California is the state from which most new residents have moved away from to reside in the Volunteer State.

Adopting policies, practices, spending, and governance of failed economies won’t make Chattanooga progressive. Instead, the Chattanooga Way, which is the secret to our success, will be destroyed, along with our wonderful community.