We’re not attracting enough white collar jobs — Smotherman

After the vote to rezone a parcel on Joe B. Jackson to heavy industrial, we find it uplifting to imagine what might have happened in that area

Why not a business park built on a master plan for Joe B.?

We were inspired by reading a power point talk the city’s long-range planning consultant gave to the planning commission last month. In looking at the city’s zoning ordinance, he suggested creating a business park zone. The new designation could either replace the current light industrial zoning or be a third option to light and heavy industrial.

Light industrial zoning seems like an endangered species to us. It protects nearby homeowners from noise, smoke, odor and vibration pollution but is too restrictive to be practical. For instance, an auto parts maker doesn’t impact nearby homes any more than a warehouse. But the facility can’t locate here without  a rezoning to heavy industry.

That rezoning automatically attaches a lot of uses to a parcel that make homeowners shudder — things like steel mills, meat packers, fertilizer plans, oil refineries and massage parlors. Yeah, we’re dealing in “what ifs again.” So do all people who think ahead and plan.

Everyone would win with a business park zone

The business park idea that the consultant, the Texas-based Kendig Keast Collaborative, suggests appears to offer a win-win situation for everyone. But the window will close if there isn’t an overall plan for Joe B.to make the concept possible.

But not your granddad’s business park

We’re thinking about more than just an ordinary business park, however. The old model was Silicon Valley, a series of well-landscaped buildings where a worker drove in the mornings, worked in isolation and then departed by auto in the evening. And he was told to guard his ideas like a military secret.

Get creative people to mix

The new model exists now in Boston, San Francisco and Philadelphia. And it is taking shape in Chattanooga, to the southeast of us. In this new paradigm, working in isolation is bad. Collaboration is everything. The idea is to create an innovation campus with many opportunities for bright, creative people to bump into each other and share ideas.

This idea sharing could take place along a park walkway, at a health club, in a coffee shop or a nice restaurant. The hope is that the next iPhone might emerge from a chance meeting between two creative people over a NordicTrack at the health club or on a break at an exotic cafe.

Established firms, startups and an ivory tower

An innovation district could be anchored by established firms and supplemented by startups. A connection with a university is also a critical component of these districts. Middle Tennessee Sate University is about 4 1/3 miles from Joe B.

Instead of repeating ideas from four decades ago — “like raw materials in and finished products out” we hope the council will look at what more progressive cities are doing. Their mantra is “new ideas emerge and hot new products hit the market.”

We were so carried away by our rhetoric that we decided to launch a business parks and innovative districts roadshow. We got off to a slow start with our visit to the Smyrna Business Park next to the airport.

To view the launch of our long-awaited series, click http://wp.me/p5ZA8p-eE