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  • Tim Kelly, Mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee for a conversation on his city generally and specifically its digital infrastructure and commitment to sustainability. Chattanooga is home to fast, cheap, and widespread internet service and reportedly America’s first citywide gigabit network.  The high-speed broadband network built by Chattanooga’s electric utility has generated nearly $2.7 billion in economic benefits since it was built more than a decade ago, according to an economic analysis. It helped generate an estimated 9,516 jobs, helped attract $110 million in research projects and has lured an extra $244 million in business ventures to Chattanooga using the fiber-optic network.


MODERATOR:  Good afternoon and welcome to today’s New York Foreign Press Center briefing.  My name is Daphne Stavropoulos and I am today’s moderator.  It’s a pleasure to introduce Tim Kelly, mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  He’ll be updating us on news from Chattanooga generally and specifically about the city’s digital infrastructure and commitment to sustainability.   

This briefing is on the record, and the views expressed by briefers not affiliated with the Department of State or the U.S. Government are their own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of State or Government.  If you’ve not had the opportunity to do so, please ensure your full name and media outlet appear on the screen.  You can do this by clicking on the blue button associated with your profile. 

Following Mr. Kelly’s remarks, I will open the floor to questions.  And if you have a question, go to the participant field and raise your virtual hand and wait for me to call on you.  When called on, please enable both your audio and your video and identify yourself by full name and outlet.   

And with that, let me turn to the floor over to Mr. Kelly.  Thank you for joining us. 

MR KELLY:  Thank you, Daphne, and thank you all for being here today.  As Daphne said, I am Tim Kelly.  I am the relatively new mayor of Chattanooga.  I’ve been in office for about a year.  And look, for those of you that may not know, Chattanooga is in southeast Tennessee.  It is roughly equidistant from – between, rather, Nashville and Atlanta, right on the Tennessee border – rather, Tennessee-Georgia border and very close to Alabama.   

We’re situated in an area of high growth, of high economic growth.  The new economic corridor that’s developed there continues to grow.  As some of you may know, Volkswagen has a large assembly plant there and is switching over to electric production next month almost fully and is considering Chattanooga for expansion.  We are the second-fastest-growing state, in Tennessee, for foreign investment over the last five years, and we intend to pursue that trajectory.   

Chattanooga – another interesting thing about Chattanooga is our stock in trade really there is our quality of life and our green spaces.  It’s a beautiful city with a huge focus on outdoor recreation, and I think Chattanooga’s future really lies at the intersection of those green spaces with the general trend in sustainability and the industry of sustainability.  We also just attracted a large battery anode component maker, Novonix, an Australian company that produces a product called synthetic graphite that will change battery longevity, I think, in a fairly revolutionary way. 

Chattanooga is also home to the fastest and the cheapest and the most pervasive internet in the world.  We were the first American city and still unfortunately one of the only ones to own our own fiber network, which is also owned by our electric utility, which is city-owned.  And that has really put us a step ahead in the – through the pandemic with remote working trends in the United States. 

I should also say, relative to sustainability, our airport is the only airport I think in the United States that is 100 percent powered by solar grid, and we really are leaning into that production more intentionally.  Our electric power board recently announced the addition of another 15 megawatts of solar production to supplement what we have now. 

And with that, I suppose I’ll just turn it over to questions generally. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much for those opening remarks.  Let’s go to questions.  If you have a question, please raise your virtual hand and wait for me to call on you.  The first question will go to Felix.  Felix, please, go ahead. 

MR KELLY:  We can’t hear you. 

MODERATOR:  Felix, you’re muted yourself. 

QUESTION:  Oh, my gosh, sorry.   

MR KELLY:  Classic problem.   

QUESTION:  Classic problems after two years of pandemic.  Thanks, Daphne.  Thanks, Tim, for the remarks.  It was really interesting.  I’m the U.S. correspondent of Handelsblatt, which is Germany’s biggest business daily.  Think of it like a German Wall Street Journal.  I spoke to Herbert Diess, the CEO of Volkswagen, in March about his plans for Chattanooga.  I will be in Chattanooga in two weeks. 

Question:  You mentioned the new battery factory or the new battery production line that will be built there or is – or has been built by Volkswagen will start next month.  We had some news about a potential new production line, too, for new cars, perhaps even for an electric pickup truck for new models in Chattanooga.   

Could you perhaps give us a bit color?  Why did originally Volkswagen choose Chattanooga, and what makes Chattanooga so special that Volkswagen decides to grow there?  And how are your talks with Volkswagen, with Wolfsburg, and with the U.S. sister of Volkswagen about the future?  Are there other plans that you are aware of that we don’t know yet, perhaps?  

MR KELLY: Well, there I should – I’ll start in reverse.  There are no plans that you’re not aware of.  We have a very, very good relationship with Volkswagen.  I speak fluent German, so I’m able to – not that they don’t all speak wonderful English.  I was also the co-founder of our local soccer club, Chattanooga FC, and there’s a very strong relationship between the Wolfsburg team and our team.  And so I’ve been to Wolfsburg prior to my tenure as mayor, strictly in the capacity of chairman of the soccer club.  

So look, we have a wonderful relationship with them.  I think Chattanooga was – they chose Chattanooga, I think, because of our commitment to quality of life.  Chattanooga’s arts community, our green spaces, are very, very attractive, and a lot of people want to be there.  So we’re going to work with them very, very closely on their needs in terms of workforce development, and hopefully land that plant expansion.  It would be a big deal for Chattanooga, and that’s what we’re aiming for.  

QUESTION:  And do you think that others, other certain politics you would expect from Washington, from the federal government, or perhaps also from the Tennessee state government to further support this expansion?  We talked a lot in the last year about build back better, about the potential subsidies for car manufacturers that are rather in the north of your – of America, in Detroit.  We talked about the Auto Workers Union and this whole debate.  Do you have a comment on that as well?  What should the federal or the state government do to support Chattanooga in attracting new investments?  

MR KELLY: Well, I mean, we know the Biden administration has demonstrated immense support through the infrastructure bill for continuing our push toward sustainability.  And I think Chattanooga, again, has a very good opportunity to really be a model city for American sustainability in a number of ways.  And so look, I hope we can count on some support from the federal government, but I’m quite sure, based solely on the potential for economic expansion, that we would have some support at the state level from the state of Tennessee.  Again, Tennessee is a very friendly state for foreign direct investment and I expect will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.  Hope that helps.  

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much.  Let’s go to David Smith.  David. 

QUESTION:  Hello.  How are you?  

MR KELLY:  Good, sir.   How are you?  

QUESTION:  Fine.  Just interested in the position of city mayors in America and the concept of being a mayor.  I mean, we spend a lot of our time writing about the divided states of America, the tremendous atmosphere of political polarization obviously in Congress and around Donald Trump’s presidency and so on.  But I wonder are mayors perhaps almost the last refuge where at least some of that is – can be got rid of, and because the nature of your job is you have to focus on being pragmatic and getting things done.  And I wonder, do you find yourself working with both Democrats and Republicans, and to what extent does the national polarization intrude on what you’re trying to do?   

MR KELLY:  Yeah, Mr. Smith, I’m going to consider that a softball – (laughter) – because that was basically the thesis of my entire candidacy.  I was – I did not come at the job from a political aspiration; I came at it because I had spent a lot of time in the private business world in Chattanooga and in the philanthropic world.  And when you do that, you’re sort of in the bleachers of public policy, and at some point I think you realize that you have to get onto the field if you’re going to do more than that.  

So I approached it from a almost religiously nonpartisan perspective, and I have maintained that stance.  So I was lucky enough to be selected – Mike Bloomberg, God bless him, funds a program called the City Leadership Initiative with Harvard, and Marvin Rees, actually the mayor of Bristol – I know there aren’t many mayors in England – but is one of my cohorts there.   

And it’s striking, really, how many mayors from around the country and around the world see it exactly the same way.  Right?  I think it’s not too lofty a thing to say that democracy as an institution is under threat.  And I think perhaps we have the political pantheon inverted.  Cities are where most of the innovation happens in the world.  It’s where most of the revenue is generated in the world.  And I think my colleague in Miami said at a recent meeting, right, there are really three political parties in the United States – Republicans, Democrats, and mayors.  

So yeah, I mean, I see it precisely that way.  We’re focused on solving people’s problems in a very practical way, non-ideological way.  As I say often, everybody wants the same things fundamentally: good roads, good schools, good jobs, and public safety.  So hope that helps.   

QUESTION: And that comment from the mayor of Miami is very interesting.  I mean, do you think that feeds through to the kind of people that become mayors?  Are they more moderate than Republican candidates for Senate or whatever?  Are they – do they tend to be sort of more sort of old school Republicans who haven’t embraced Trumpism or sort of more moderate Democrats who are not in the Bernie Sanders camp?  

MR KELLY:  Well, I mean, I’m not a student of political science, but I think the casual observer would probably notice that very same thing.  I think much of it has to do with the difference – fundamental difference between executive politics and legislative politics, right.  So yeah, look, I mean, our – my focus is relentlessly practical, and I really just refuse to get dragged into those partisan divides.  I was – I read a book by a fellow named Bruce Katz called The New Localism that very much inspired me to run for mayor, and the thesis of that book really is that localism, a focus on local problems is – kind of has this great solvent effect on partisanship.  And it does; it does indeed. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much.  I’ll take – I have a note in the chat that Ines wants to ask a question.  Ines, can you – there you go. 

QUESTION:  Yes, thank you very much.  Sorry about that.  Thanks for doing this.  You said you were speaking German, so you’re certainly aware that in Germany all companies are – or nearly all companies have unions.  There’s now – recently in the U.S. there was a movement to build up unions as well.  You know about Amazon, Starbucks.  Volkswagen is one of the companies who doesn’t have union.  So what is your view on the things?  Should they have one?  Do you think it’s a good movement?  I think the government were thinking about limiting EV credits to companies who have unionized members.  I think – I don’t know whether they still plan it, but maybe you can give your view on the subject. 

MR KELLY:  Yeah, thank you.  Well, again, I am certainly not anti-union.  I mean, I think Chattanooga – I think the general thumbnail guess is that all of the South is anti-union.  We have very healthy, strong building trades unions in Chattanooga in particular that do great work.  I think the question is always one of particulars and context.  Having been a former business owner myself, I certainly understand the dynamic, and I would not a union that was merely there to sow discord between labor and management.  On the other hand, yet again, unions have shown that they can be very, very productive members to actually make companies more productive and add value and training.  So I think you have to take it on a case-by-case basis.  And certainly that’s what VW will have to do. 

QUESTION:  And do you think Volkswagen should have one? 

MR KELLY:  I don’t know.  I am not Herbert Diess and I certainly wouldn’t – I mean, I am a former car guy.  I was a former car dealer.  But I’ve never been on the production side of the ledger, so I am not – not going to take a position on that one. 

QUESTION:  Thanks. 

MODERATOR:  The next question is – goes to Karl.  Karl, can you enable your audio and ask your own question? 

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Thanks.  I’m working for RND, which is a German corporation of newspapers, mainly regional newspapers.  I’ve got two questions, if I may, Mr. Mayor.  First, in Georgia, there has been a discussion when there was new investment in electric car plans that this might be Californian investment, this might be paid by George Soros, and this might be supporting a green ideology.  Do you have any kind of this discussion in your town as well, if Volkswagen plans to expand the factory?   

And the second one is a bit – may I ask the second, or you want to — 

MR KELLY:  Absolutely, yeah. 

QUESTION:  Talking about Chattanooga as being an attractive place for investments, Tennessee is one of the states which has a trigger law if Roe v. Wade would be terminated by the Supreme Court, then obviously abortion would be illegal in Tennessee.  Do you think this might be a problem for attracting younger work people to even your town?  Thank you.   

MR KELLY:  Yeah.  So I’ll expand a bit more, but on the first – your first question, the answer is of sound – a resounding no.  I did notice with great interest that this had sort of been ginned up around Rivian and the electric plant outside of Georgia.  We do not have that dynamic, thank goodness, in Chattanooga, and I hope we never do.  I think Chattanoogans are roundly behind VW, VW is a beloved institution in Chattanooga, and again, Wolfsburg is one of our sister cities, so again, my – the thesis of my mayorship is really to combat ideology and partisanship wherever I can.  So I’ll do what I can to keep that from seeping into the conversation. 

On the second question, I think the answer has to be yes.  I think from an economic growth perspective – again, I try to worry about what I can control, and one of the reasons I love my job is that I can improve Chattanooga as a city.  I’m quite confident in my ability to do that.  That one is frankly beyond my pay grade.  But I think any city mayor, knowing that most companies and people want to live in diverse and progressive cities, would have to be somewhat concerned about the effect on economic growth were that the case.  But I’m going to stay focused on what I can control. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you so much.  The next question will go to Yu Jin.  Yu Jin, can you ask your own question and enable your video and your audio? 

QUESTION:  Hi.  Hello?  Hi, I was just trying to figure out the raising hand.  So I asked a question in the chat box that if you can – this is the first question – if you can talk about how jobs in your city are changing during the pandemic.  I wonder how many remote workers are there right now.   

And the second question is:  Right now between China and the U.S., at least on the federal level, it’s not – it’s a lot of competition right now, not a very good time.  But I wonder at the city level, do you welcome Chinese investment?  If so, what – in what fields you welcoming Chinese investors? 

MR KELLY:  Yes.  So on the – take the second one first.  Yes, one of our sister cities is Wuxi, outside of Shanghai, and at the corner of our city hall we have a lovely rock display that the people of Wuxi donated, and I pass it every day.  And so I think, again, back to the city level, we have a good relationship there, and we intend to maintain that.  We trade letters regularly, and, of course, again, the state of Tennessee I think is very much open to foreign direct investment, and Chattanooga is no exception to that.   

The first question again, can you just remind me briefly?  (Inaudible.)  Yes, look, Chattanooga had an enormous influx of remote workers because of our EPB fiber.  Again, the city owns that network, and it is very, very fast and relatively cheap.  You can get a consumer 10-gigabyte speed there.  You can download a two-hour high-def movie in three minutes.  And there are a lot of commercial applications for that.  So that is still really the thing that’s enabling quite a lot of remote workers to be there and to be quite happy.   

About a rough estimation is we had about 10,000 people move in during the pandemic, and I think Chattanooga is now number two only behind Austin in terms of remote work, being a center for remote work.  So it’s definitely a big part of what we are.  People love to be – I mean, the basic thesis is that if remote work will allow you to live anywhere, why would you not live in the place with the best quality of life?  And I think that’s what Chattanooga offers. 

MODERATOR:  Yu Jin, did you have a follow-up? 

QUESTION:  Yeah, sure, if – yes, so how is – if – you said – you mentioned there are 10,000 remote workers moving during the pandemic.  Is that pushing the house market – is the housing becoming more expensive in the city? 

MR KELLY:  Well, we don’t know if all 10,000 were remote workers.  We just know we had – some of them were retirees.  Some of them may have come there for other reasons.  But like many American cities, yes, we do have a fairly significant issue with affordable housing that has really accelerated.  Now, we’ll see what recent moves at the Fed and others do to that demand.  I hope that does dampen things down a bit.  But we have – the city has dedicated $33 million towards a $100 million fund to subsidize affordable housing in Chattanooga to combat that problem.  The city of Chattanooga also has quite a lot of city-owned land that we’re going to be contributing for the development of affordable housing.  So I’m confident we can get in front of that. 

QUESTION:  I’m sorry, just little bit more.  Do you know where those people coming from – do they come from California or other big cities? 

MR KELLY:  Largely, yes.  We looked at a scatter map and they’ve come from – I was looking for a pattern.  I didn’t find one except to say that they’re coming from – largely from larger metros all over the country.   

QUESTION:  Okay.  Thank you. 

MODERATOR:  I’m going to read the next question.  It comes from Alexis Buisson who may be having some audio issues.  A journalist is asking:  “I was wondering if the mayor could tell us why his city decided to invest in digital infrastructure in the first place and what challenges it has faced in growing that infrastructure.” 

MR KELLY:  Well, I’m fortunate – and Chattanooga has a long history of very quality, long-lens civic leadership.  I was – gosh, I wasn’t even thinking about becoming mayor when this happened, but again, Chattanooga has a long history of great public-private partnerships, and very frankly, of having to solve problems for itself.  We don’t have – we’re not a state capital.  We don’t have one big dominant industry.  We – our university is lovely, but it’s not a huge dominant institution there.   

So again, Chattanooga has got a very kind of scrappy entrepreneurial spirit.  And I think, again, we’re very fortunate that some of my predecessors had the foresight to see the potential in building out this infrastructure.  I want to say that it cost about $220 million at the time, and since that time, over 10 years, it’s returned, I think the study said, 2.67 billion. So it was obviously a brilliant gamble on their part, and there were a lot of people that thought it was silly at the time.  It was not.   

And again, it’s a model that I think a lot of American cities would benefit from.  Unfortunately, a lot of the folks that want to see fiber stay a for-profit business have kind of thrown the brakes on it.  So we can’t expand currently beyond the footprint of essentially our metropolitan area, which, again, is sort of tragic for a lot of American cities, but I’m perfectly happy as the mayor of Chattanooga to preserve it as a competitive advantage for Chattanooga, so. 

MODERATOR:  Perfect.  We have two journalists with follow-up questions.  I’ll go to Felix first.  Go ahead, Felix. 

QUESTION:  Thank you very much.  Tim, you said that you focus on the stuff you can control, right, you don’t focus on politics that are above your pay grade, like you said.  I found your example really interesting about the fast internet.  Could you give us some more examples?  What is possible, what can you do as a mayor of a smaller but not very small American town, and what can you not do?  Please also give us a perspective, because I don’t know that.   

So in Germany, for example, the limits concerning local taxes, for example, are very, very narrow, so local governments cannot do much about the tax hike.  You mentioned roads; you mentioned schools.  How do you finance them?  What else besides good internet can you do to make Chattanooga prosper? 

MR KELLY:  Education – I’m very passionate about education.  I think that’s the one thing that we have to really, really focus on.  Unfortunately, as city mayor in Chattanooga – and again, this does get in the weeds a bit as far as the way that the American political system works – we don’t control the kindergarten through high school, gymnasium sort of educational cycle.  But can we focus on early childhood education, which we know is quite transformative, and post-secondary.   

And so as hard as I’m working on economic development, I’m working at the same time on really three main areas: workforce development, including talent attraction from elsewhere, but also retraining skills, retraining workers to new skills; also affordable housing, which I discussed a moment ago; and public transit.  I think we have a great opportunity to reimagine public transit with the electrification of the grid and automation and so on.  And so that’s – those are the three areas where I spend most of my time. 

Now, I will say the Biden administration has a number of former mayors in its ranks, and they get it, and they’ve been quite helpful.  The infrastructure bill and hopefully whatever comes of – remains of Build Back Better are focused largely on cities, and a lot of that money flows through the state but will ultimately flow to cities, so I feel extremely fortunate.  I mean, Chattanooga’s in a great position.  We have a triple A bond rating.  Again, I’m – I consider myself a very good, aggressive fiscal manager, so – and we have a lot of frozen assets in our property.  There’s a great example of how Copenhagen was able to leverage excess property for infrastructure improvement. 

So I don’t worry about having the funds to make the moves that we need to make.  We just – it’s more a question of getting logistics worked out and getting the plans in place. 

QUESTION:  Are you worried about Washington politics and partisanship coming into your city and perhaps also threatening the community, the sense of community in a city that is of utmost importance to make a city workable? 

MR KELLY:  I’m not worried, because again, I think strong leadership – bold leadership – is the antithesis of that.  You have to have somebody who’s – very frankly, I don’t have any future political ambitions, and so I’m not angling for – to curry favor in one party or the other.  And that really does grant me a degree of freedom in that regard, because I’m free to stand up against that sort of thing, and I do so quite aggressively when I have to. 

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  The next question I’m going to read, it comes from Jaedong Yu.  It – the question is:  “What has Chattanooga done to attract FDI and create jobs?  Have you done anything other cities haven’t done?” 

MR KELLY:  That’s a great question.  And look, I mean, I think the state deserves a great deal of credit here.  Chattanooga obviously is just barely in Tennessee.  We sit on the border with Georgia, but it is in Tennessee, and Tennessee’s tax environment is very, very attractive.  We don’t have a state income tax, we don’t have even a tax on investment income, and that brings a lot of people and a lot of companies there from elsewhere. 

I will say, again, Chattanooga’s got a great history of public and private partnership.  We have an incredible – I was on the Chamber of Commerce for two cycles before I became the mayor.  I talk to my partners at the Chamber of Commerce here on a daily basis, and we have also great relationships with our philanthropic community that are all very much aligned on our goals around economic mobility and growth.  And so – and it’s a very friendly, welcoming city.  Southern hospitality is not a myth.  So I think, look, when we get a prospect, we treat them like gold and we do our best to convince them that Chattanooga’s the place for them. 

MODERATOR:  Sir, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about how Chattanooga got dubbed Freight Alley and what its role in the U.S. supply chain is. 

MR KELLY:  I’m sorry, Daphne, was that for me, or is that somebody – were you prompting a question? 

MODERATOR:  It’s – no, it’s for you, sir. 

MR KELLY:  Oh.  Can you repeat it?  I’m sorry. 

MODERATOR:  I wonder how Chattanooga got named Freight Alley and its role in the global supply chain, U.S. — 

MR KELLY:  Yeah, when I was just out of Columbia and had moved back to Chattanooga – I mean, Chattanooga actually had Michael Porter, a famous Harvard professor, come to Chattanooga because we were all desperate for something to hang our hats on in terms of economic growth, and Michael Porter’s cluster theory obviously has sort of become a part of our thinking in the business world these days.  And at that time, we really didn’t have a dominant cluster, but freight increasingly is Chattanooga’s dominant cluster. 

Part of it has to do that we’ve got two large trucking companies there who started there and have grown quite aggressively in U.S. Xpress and Covenant Transport.  And then that has spun off a lot of different businesses.  The Fuller family is – they’re very bright and prolific businesspeople.  And FreightWaves, which has been described as kind of the Bloomberg of the logistics industry, is based there in Chattanooga and does a lot of analysis on supply chain dynamics, which obviously has been very popular in the news lately.   

So we kind of fell into it, very frankly.  But as clusters do, they kind of feed upon themselves, and we now have Steam Logistics, which is the – one of the fastest-growing companies in America, certainly the fastest-growing in Chattanooga.  That is a freight forwarder growing very, very, very quickly; added 400 jobs and will probably add as many more in the next couple of years.  So we’re lucky to have them. 

MODERATOR:  Thanks so much.  The next question’s going to go to Ines.  Ines, please enable your audio. 

QUESTION:  (Inaudible.) 

MODERATOR:  We are having a hard time hearing you. 

QUESTION:  (Inaudible.) 

MODERATOR:  No, unfortunately – if you want to type your question —  

QUESTION:  Can you hear me now?  Is it better? 

MODERATOR:  Yes, we can hear you now. 

MR KELLY:  Now we got you. 

QUESTION:  Okay.  Now I can’t hear you anymore, but I’ll try.  I have a supply chain question as well.  A lot of people are hoping there’s going to be more production coming back to the U.S., and you have kind of a reshoring effect.  Do you feel that already and do you think it will happen and your city will be one of the winners?   

MR KELLY:  Well, I do hope it will happen.  I mean, just for the health of supply chains, again, as a former car dealer who is watching business unravel for lack of one little widget in a supply chain, we need to secure supply chains, and I think the federal government’s doing a really good job thinking of how we rethink that. 

Candidly, the domestic production that we had around Chattanooga – we’ve had a lot of companies that have stayed and never left.  The only industry that was formerly strong in Chattanooga really was textile manufacturing.  I don’t see that one coming back to the States anytime soon. 

Fortunately, again, in sort of the theory of competitive advantage, Chattanooga has been able to leverage up into higher-value industries that have filled that gap.  (Inaudible.) 

MODERATOR:  Sir, we can’t hear you. 

MR KELLY:  Okay.  I think maybe I got muted.  That’s okay.  We’ll just go to the next question.  I was opining anyway.  Yeah. 

MODERATOR:  I wonder if you could take a moment to talk about One Chattanooga and your plans for the future of the city. 

MR KELLY:  Well, that’s a great segue.  Again, my thesis as mayor, having had a long perspective from the philanthropic world on Chattanooga’s problems, really had to with the pernicious and persistent gaps between the black community and the white community in American cities, but in Chattanooga in particular.  And again, not coming at this from a partisan approach, my – the baseline of my idea was that we needed to start talking about these difficult problems in nonpartisan ways and keep them on the table until we solved them, right?  And so, again, much of that comes back to education, much of it comes down to equity and access to opportunity, and that’s what the One Chattanooga plan is based on.   

To the – to Ines’s question, look, if we got textile manufacturing back, it would be a $12 an hour, $13 an hour wage, and what I think the future offers us, which is a happy coincidence in the burgeoning industry of sustainability, is $18, $20, $25 an hour jobs, and that’s what it’s going to take to close the gaps – the wealth gaps both in terms of income and net worth between our communities of color and the white community in Chattanooga.  So – and again, as I’ve said many times and as Raphael Bostic, the president of the Federal Reserve in Atlanta, has eloquently written, racism doesn’t work.  It’s expensive, right?  I mean, this is not an exercise to curry favor with one community or the other; it is – it’s what’s best for the greater good.  So the One Chattanooga plan – I could bore you to tears with the chapter and verse of it, but that’s the core thesis.   

I will add this:  One element of it that doesn’t directly have to do with that is that – and it kind of goes back to one of the prior questions – democracy as an institution is under threat.  I think we understand that now with what’s going on in the Ukraine more than ever before.  And I think if we’re going to restore people’s faith in democracy, we do it at the local level by filling potholes and solving problems, proving that government can solve problems for people, basic problems.  And once you’ve done that, of course, you earn the right to solve larger, more abstract problems.   

And so efficient and effective government is also a huge part of my thesis, and I’m working very hard to – we’re going to be rebuilding our city’s website, integrating our 311 function, and really try to be at the forefront of global technology when it comes to a responsive government.  

MODERATOR:  Well, thank you so much for all of the remarks.  I will call on Alexis one more time.  Her hand is raised.  I don’t know if that’s a carryover from the last question.  It is.  Okay.  We will lower your virtual hand, then. 

And if I don’t see any other hands raised and I don’t see any other questions in the chat, so with that, I think we want to be respectful of your time.  I appreciate it today.  Thank you for joining us.  This briefing was on the record and we will provide the transcript as well as a digital press kit to journalists who participated.  The transcript will also be on our website as soon as it’s ready. 

So with that, Mayor Kelly, thank you so much for joining us today, and we look forward to seeing everyone again soon.  Good afternoon. 

MR KELLY:  Thank you.  Thank you, everybody.   

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future