On June 12, the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce hosted Diversify 2024 at the Chattanooga Convention Center, bringing together business leaders, elected officials, entrepreneurs, and community members.  

The day was filled with invaluable networking opportunities and captivating presentations, all geared towards enriching diversity and inclusion within Chattanooga’s vibrant business community. 

The day began with breakout sessions led by Mike Bradshaw and Alexis Willis from the UTC Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. They shared best practices in training and development for entrepreneurs, emphasizing the importance of continuous learning and adaptation in today’s dynamic business environment. 

The second session featured Malcom Harris from CLN Worldwide, who discussed innovative approaches to talent acquisition in the post-pandemic landscape. Harris highlighted strategies for attracting and retaining top talent, stressing the need for flexibility and creativity in recruitment processes. 

Throughout the luncheon, Chattanooga Mayor, Tim Kelly, delivered a message on the city’s commitment to supporting diverse and inclusive economic growth.  

“We are fortunate to live in a city with such a strong sense of community and we will succeed because of our diversity,” Mayor Kelly said. “For Chattanooga to move forward, we must work to close the gaps and create that diverse and vibrant workforce.” 

Flint Chaney Photography

Credit: Flint Chaney

Credit: Flint Chaney

Following the mayor’s remarks, Jay Bailey, President and CEO of the HJ Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs, delivered an inspiring keynote address. Bailey emphasized the crucial role of small businesses and entrepreneurship in driving economic mobility and community development, sharing valuable lessons and insights. 

“To support entrepreneurs and small businesses, programs can’t just be informative, they have to be transformative,” Bailey said. 

Bailey shared his journey of starting his first business at 12, buying his first house at 19, and earning his first million at 23. However, he explained that true success came only when he infused his work with significance and a sense of legacy – a lesson he learned when he lost everything.  

He emphasized that access, opportunity, and exposure are crucial for anyone aspiring to succeed.  

“The world is changing,” Bailey said. “If Chattanooga wants to grow and scale, it must adapt. You can’t get where you’re trying to go in a global economy in just one way.”  

The event concluded with a Q&A session moderated by Lorne Steedley, vice president of diversity and inclusive growth with the Chattanooga Chamber. The session provided an opportunity for attendees to engage directly with the speakers, fostering a deeper understanding of the topics discussed and encouraging further dialogue on advancing diversity and inclusion within the business community. 

You can see the entire Diversify 2024 program on the Chattanooga Chamber’s YouTube page.