Why Chattanooga Is The Perfect Location For Block Array HQ
February 6, 2019
February 6, 2019
Chattanooga, Tennessee. We realize that these two words don’t quite evoke the same sense of technological thrill that Silicon Valley might, but we’re here to show you that Chattanooga is actually one of the best places that the headquarters of Block Array, creators of FreightTrust, could be based in.
A few decades back, Chattanooga wasn’t high on the list for the most desirable spots in the US to live or do business. In fact, in 1969, Chattanooga was noted as having the dirtiest air in the nation – the beautiful Appalachian mountain ranges were a blessing and a curse as they prevented industrial pollutants from leaving the city, instead causing them to blanket the area. The 1980s worsened the city’s situation even further, with up to 10% of the population leaving due to a combination of unemployment, social issues, and a failing city infrastructure. However, in the years since, the population has strongly rebounded, and in 2017 Chattanooga’s population growth was best amongst Tennessee’s 4 biggest cities. It may have been a bumpy ride, but what caused this change in fortunes for the city, and what makes it such a great place for a startup like us now?
Chattanooga is known as “Gig City” – a nickname that might make you think of the Silicon Valley phenomenon of the gig economy, but which is in fact a reference to the phenomenal gigabit internet speeds.
Since 2010, Chattanoogans have had the ability to sign up for municipally-offered gigabit internet on the new fiber network, something which has helped turn around Chattanooga’s fortunes and push it forward as an unlikely tech hub. Over 8,000 have signed up for the service, many businesses in particular. It is unsurprising that this has had such a magnetic effect when you see that average US internet speeds sit at only 18.75 Mbps.
Incredibly, the city also offers a 10Gbps option for heavy users, making it the joint-highest speed in the US. Bandwidth-hungry tech companies have flocked to Chattanooga over the past years, creating a vibrant tech and startup ecosystem in the process. A 2015 study by the University of Tennessee found that the new fiber network was responsible for creating up to 5,228 jobs, and economic benefits of up to $1 billion between 2010-2015, something which looks sure to continue into the future.
Blockchain in Transport Alliance (BiTA)
The Blockchain in Transportation Alliance is a rapidly growing, Chattanooga-based, standards and advocacy organization. It is using its growing membership of both blockchain and logistics companies (and some like us, being both), to raise awareness, establish standards, and educate on the applications of blockchain within the transportation industry.
Our CEO, Sam Bacha, has been invited into 3 BiTA working groups, giving us the ability to give our input and help develop standards going forward, in what is currently a fledgling industry. Some of BiTA’s other members include industry giants such as FedEx, UPS, Google, Uber Freight, and BP – so we feel in good company!
A Logistics Hub
As a company with a focus on logistics, Chattanooga is perhaps one of the best places in the US to be. Simply due to its geographical location, it has long been a hub for industry and transport, and that still holds true today. However, due to the magnetism for startups that the city has developed over the last few years, it also means that we are surrounded by potential future partnerships as well as connections which we have already made and continue to foster.
FreightWaves, the online publication and host of the MarketWaves amd Transparency conferences, is one example of this in the tech world; based in Chattanooga they have grown to become one of the leading media voices in the freight industry. In terms of traditional transport, U.S. XPRESS is the fifth-largest truckload carrier in the US, having been established back in 1985 in Chattanooga, and still going strong.
In addition to these larger companies, there exists a glut of owner-operators or small-scale business who are pushing local entrepreneurship forwards and cultivating a real sense of business community – in the office we often laugh about how it seems everyone around here knows each other, and though we might joke, there’s also a certain truth to it. These relationships have been incredibly useful to us already, and we’re excited to see how these other local companies will continue to grow alongside us.
The proximity of all of these incredible businesses, and the growth potential of the sector in general, leads us to believe that Chattanooga was a great place to set up shop.
Last But Not Least, Our Advisors
In a blog post on our latest advisors, Chad Eichelberger and Ronald Ramsey, we discussed what incredible additions to the company they are. They have already helped us immensely in decision-making, onboarding new brokers, and preparing ourselves for our recent MarketWaves18 conference demo – and are bound to continue to provide great value to us.
Having great advisors is one thing, but having easy enough access to them is another. It isn’t unusual to see a company claim to have a great advisor when the reality of the situation is rather that they receive a Skype call from them every couple of months. Luckily for us, both Chad and Ronald are frequently in touch, and even better, are local to Chattanooga – another giant plus for the Gig City.
At the end of the day, Chattanooga isn’t just a list of pros and cons to us, but has become a true place for our business to call home. However, we’re always thankful for all the benefits of being located here and can’t wait to see the city grow even further going forward – we’re all aboard the “Chattanooga Choo Choo“!
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