Scenic City to host urban leadership conference

Next City’s Vanguard conference coming to Chattanooga

Chattanoogans have been working together for decades to improve the city, which will now be the host of an experiential urban leadership conference that will bring in 40 young leaders from across the country.

The national nonprofit media organization Next City will host its fifth annual Vanguard conference here in April, when leaders younger than 40 will descend on Chattanooga.

“Chattanoogans have built a national reputation as an engaged citizenry,” Lisa Flint, program adviser with Chattanooga nonprofit the Footprint Foundation, said via email. “We’ve come together to imagine and recreate a city that is now seen as a model for community revitalization, private-public partnerships, urban design, environmental stewardship and civic engagement.”

Flint submitted a 3,000-word essay making the case that the fifth annual conference should be in Chattanooga.

Next City leaders wanted to know why Chattanooga would be the right fit for the conference, how the Footprint Foundation’s activities match up with the focus of the conference and goals for having the event here, she said.

In the essay, Flint also wrote about possible sponsors, venue sites and content for the conference, as well as how local leaders could deliver all those things, she said.

The host committee for the event will include three people from Mayor Andy Berke’s administration: Chief Policy Officer Stacy Richardson, Director of Transportation Blythe Bailey and Director of Economic and Community Development Donna Williams.

“We see the Vanguard conference as an opportunity for Chattanoogans to explore ways they may make their own impact in the areas Mayor Andy Berke has identified as the city’s top priorities,” Flint said.

Members of the host committee are currently brainstorming and will be meeting with Next City officials weekly via teleconference to talk about plans for the conference, she also said.

The people chosen to attend will spend three days working to improve cities in sectors such as urban planning, community development, entrepreneurship, government, transportation, sustainability, design, art and media. Officials are taking applications now.

The participants will stay at The Crash Pad and The Chattanoogan, Flint also said.

Locals are encouraged to apply. Although most of the participants will come from other cities, there will be a few spots for Chattanoogans.

There will also be one or more public events, which will give more local residents the chance to interact with the Vanguard participants, she also said.

This will be the first time the event will take place in a Southern city. The Lyndhurst, Benwood and Footprint foundations will all sponsor the event.

In 2012, the Footprint Foundation formed when the Lyndhurst Foundation reorganized to create a new community-led board, Flint said. Five smaller family foundations came out of that reorganization, including Footprint, she also said.

For years, Chattanooga leaders have been telling the story of the city’s evolution and revival to other officials who come to the city to learn about its transformation, community spirits and collaborative public-private partnerships, Flint said.

Next City Editor-in-Chief Diana Lind said officials are excited to be partnering with Chattanooga foundation leaders to network and brainstorm.

“We’re thrilled to choose Chattanooga this year,” she said in a prepared statement. “There are so many innovations that we can learn from this city, from its downtown growth and successful programs that attract and retain talent to its focus on a sense of place, including its public space programs and even creating its owntypeface.”

Updated @ 8:44 a.m. on 12/9/13 to correct a factual error: Lisa Flint’s last name is spelled with an “i” instead of a “y,” as originally reported.

***This is a re-post.


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