UTC's enrollment is now at more than 11,600, and the start of a new school year brings varying impacts to downtown businesses.
But generally, local college students are a sought-after customer group that helps support the downtown economy.
"The dollars our students spend and the energy they provide to downtown boosts the economic impact tenfold, compared to downtowns that do not have a downtown school or university," Tiffanie Robinson, director of creative strategy at River City Company, said via email.
For the past five years, officials with downtown economic development company River City Company have been working to get students engaged with downtown businesses and activities.
There have been periods of time when students have seemed sequestered to campus, but as the downtown has grown and as more affordable, off-campus housing options have started to pop up, students are making the downtown part of their daily routines more and more, Robinson also said.
River City leaders work with UTC officials to host pep rallies in Miller Plaza. They encourage downtown companies to take on UTC interns and give local businesses supplies to decorate windows in blue and gold for game days, Robinson said.
Community Pie, which is a restaurant near Miller Plaza, currently has UTC colors donning its windows.
Mike Monen, who—along with this wife, Taylor, owns restaurants Community Pie, Urban Stack, Taco Mamacita, and Milk and Honey—said that it is difficult to gauge the impact of UTC students on his businesses, especially at this time of year.
For a few weeks after school is back in session, restaurants actually see a slowdown, he said.
He attributes this to everyone getting back in a school routine. For a couple of weeks, people seem to go out to restaurants less, he said.
That lasts about three or four weeks, and then business picks back up again.
"You see this decrease, so it's hard to measure an increase," he said.
Community Pie is a relatively new restaurant and hasn't been around in past years, but UTC students do frequent his other restaurants and provide a good amount of business.
The Monens also employ a lot of UTC students and offer all students discounts. Students with a valid UTC ID get 10 percent off at all the Monens' restaurants.
"We understand that they are on strict budgets," he said, adding that he remembers what it was like to be a college student with limited spending ability.
President of Chattanooga's First Tennessee Bank Keith Sanford said he sees an increase in business when UTC students come back because many of them open accounts.
"We see most of them in late August, a few in January and a few in May," he said via email.
First Tennessee has an ATM at UTC's campus to help draw students to the bank, and Sanford said students spend money downtown on rent and food now even more than in the past, when UTC was more of a commuter school.
First Tennessee officials also decorate the bank's lobby with UTC colors to celebrate the start of a new school year, he said.
North Shore resident and business owner David Smotherman said his shop—Frazier Avenue’s Winder Binder Gallery and Bookstore—doesn't get a huge sales boost from UTC students, but he definitely can tell when school is back in session.
There is more foot traffic on the North Shore, he said. And he's heard from employees at the Frazier Avenue Walgreens that UTC students do frequently shop there.
Walgreens representatives didn't return a request for an interview.
"In general, there's an uptick on the North Shore when school is in session," he said.
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