In 2015, the Chattanooga region blazed the world's fastest Internet speeds, completed two of the biggest new investments in Tennessee history and revamped some of the city's iconic businesses while growing and starting others. The individuals who led such businesses — and did the most to influence Chattanooga 's economy and commerce in the past year — are our Most Valuable Players in business for 2015.
Our top 10 list of MVPs includes both seasoned veterans and young entrepreneurs and reflects the diversity of Chattanooga's changing economy.
The ironman of tourism promotion leads industry to new milestones in 2015
Title: President and CEO of Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB)
2015 distinction: Doak's organization helped spur area tourism to major milestones in the past year with record tourism activity and plans for more Ironman events.
Since Bob Doak became president of the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau in 2002, tourism spending has doubled in Hamilton County. In 2015, Doak helped lead the travel and visitor industry here past two major marks: It was the first year that Hamilton County booked more than 2 million hotel room-nights and the first year that the economic impact of tourism in the county topped $1 billion.
The CVB also worked to recruit the Ironman Triathlon and other extreme sports to Chattanooga and encouraged Chattanoogans to vote online to make Chattanooga the two-time winner in Outside Magazine's Best Town title. Chattanooga defeated Port Angeles, Wash., with more than 52 percent of the final-round voting, winning by a 67,432-to-62,130 vote margin in the final round.
"We are the first city to ever win this award twice," Doak says.
Ironman and the Chattanooga CVB announced in September that the Scenic City will host the 2017 Ironman 70.3 World Championships, a marquee outdoor event that will bring an expected 4,000 of the world's best triathletes from nearly 100 countries in the latest leap forward for the city's outdoor persona. Chattanooga was chosen for the event over Lake Placid, N.Y., and St. George, Utah.
Chattanooga had never hosted an Ironman event of any sort before September 2014. Its inaugural event received a 97 percent approval rating from competitors, second worldwide only to Australia. Now it is in line to be the first in a worldwide network of Ironman cities to host a 70.3 Ironman, a full-distance Ironman and the men's and women's 70.3 Ironman World Championships.
"The overall impact, beyond the financial side, is that it continues to reinforce Chattanooga's name," Doak says of Ironman. "It continues to reinforce the brand of this city, and there's not many events I'll say that about."
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Published by the Times Free Press on December 2015: Written by Mike Pare, Tim Omarzu, Alex Green, Mark Kennedy & Dave Flessner