Monday, November 24, 2014 · 4:13 a.m.
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A new study from the Chamber of Commerce gauged the area's business climate. Leaders interviewed 100 area business leaders. (Graphic: Contributed)

Many local businesses are planning expansions, which could bring more than 1,200 jobs and $130 million in new capital investment to the area, according to a new report from the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.

“The 2012 assessment may be very good news indeed, considering actual job creation by existing companies far outpaced the projected level companies reported in the last Chattanooga IQ study,” Steve Hiatt, director of existing business development for the Chattanooga Chamber, said in a prepared statement.

On the Web 

The Chattanooga Chamber's business retention and expansion team conducted this survey, which leaders said reflects the aggregate responses of 100 area businesses.

Chamber officials and volunteers surveyed business leaders between March and July 2012 about a range of local economic indicators. 

Click here to see the survey results.

Chamber leaders publish their Chattanooga IQ report every two years, and respondents are chosen from a variety of cross-sections of existing businesses.

Leaders tapped business leaders to take the survey through a variety of outreach efforts, Lucky Rouse, business development specialist with the chamber, said in an email. 

Chamber leaders also asked business leaders to name their greatest achievement within the past five years. 

Thirty-five out of 100 companies reported "business growth" or "sales increase" as the top success. 

And Rouse said that not only did these local companies grow, they did so while their competitors around the nation dealt with "sustained economic hardships." 

"The top reason these companies reported arriving successfully and profitably in 2012 was because they were able to diversify their portfolios and/or innovate in their fields," she said. 

Chamber leaders said the survey provides a snapshot of the city's strengths and weaknesses for business growth.

Seventy-seven percent reported they would be more likely to expand in Chattanooga than elsewhere because they view the Scenic City as a good place to do business.

One of Chattanooga's biggest strengths is its central location because it gives companies access to a number of cities via road, rail and river, Rouse said.  

The city also has a high quality of living, which makes company leaders want to make their home here and gives them confidence that they can draw other talented people to Chattanooga, she also said.

"Chattanooga also boasts a business-friendly atmosphere that encourages companies to expand through a variety of state and federal incentives," Rouse said. "Location aside, Chattanooga has a strong pool of hard workers, dedicated utility providers and a variety of organizations that exist to help our business community."

But eighteen company leaders surveyed listed reasons why Chattanooga may not be considered for future expansions.

Those reasons included weakness in the area education system, the local tax rate, proximity to other company facilities/suppliers, and difficulty finding skilled and qualified workers.

The chamber has been working with local companies to help them expand and create more jobs for the area. (Graphic: Contributed)

The survey found that some leaders would like to see the area’s pool of qualified workers expand in fields such as IT and metallurgy, Rouse said.

The majority of local business leaders surveyed ranked workers as "above average" in availability, quality and stability. But the local workforce scored highest in "productivity," according to the survey.

Since the publication of 2010's survey, chamber leaders have assisted 20 existing businesses in expansion or helped them retain employees.

Chamber leaders are also are actively working with 33 other businesses, 10 of which have the potential to expand.

And the recently published report from 2012 showed that 86 percent of the 100 companies surveyed have a favorable growth outlook.

The 2010 study showed that companies hoped to create 1,151 new jobs, and since then, the chamber has helped existing companies create 2,560 jobs, Hiatt said.

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