Ken Hays was named president and CEO of The Enterprise Center two weeks ago.
The organization has undergone several significant changes in the past five weeks. It will be overseeing the creation of an innovation district to bring technology, entrepreneurship and higher education under one umbrella. Additionally, the organization has new board members, and it will be focusing less on environmental issues and more on technology.
“The cities that are going to be competitive in this day and age are the ones that focus on the innovation economy,” Hays said.
Research and development parks were located in suburban areas 30 years ago, he said. The modern economy is a mixture of culture, entertainment and startups. With growing momentum in the city’s technological and entrepreneurial movement, Chattanooga needs an entity whose job is to wake up in the morning and work on it. The organization’s strategic plan consists of the goals in a recent Chattanooga Forward report released by Mayor Andy Berke’s administration.
Another major focus will be digital inclusion, which Hays said is more than just connectivity. People who have never had access to the Internet miss out on educational, training and professional development opportunities. But in many cases, people find ways to get online-often through smartphones and other handheld devices.
“Chattanooga cannot be a leader in the new innovation economy if we don’t make that happen for all citizens,” he said.
Hays, a real estate developer, has held a number of prominent titles in Chattanooga. He was chief of staff to former Mayor Jon Kinsey and headed River City Company in the early 2000s. He’s worked to promote EPB’s gigabit Internet service. He said he is transitioning out of his role at Kinsey, Probasco & Hays.
The Enterprise Center’s board recently modified its bylaws to increase its size from 12 to 20. Daniel Ryan, Sheldon Grizzle and Sydney Crisp were added to the board. David Belitz, CEO of The Lupton Company, was named interim board chair until May 28.