As Chattanoogans we have all recently experienced quite an upswing in our local economy due to several things. Our city is growing in more ways than one and as a life long Chattanooga resident I am very proud of this city.
One of the most impressive things you will notice about this city is that we have a wonderful small business community. Chattanooga has always been a leading small business community, just look around. I speak to people from all over the surrounding South and many outsiders enjoy frequent trips to Chattanooga to experience a little slice of what we get to live amongst daily.
Recently I have noticed a lot of “Buy Local” advertising, encouraging Chattanooga consumers to help support our local economy by shopping local with local small businesses. This is wonderful for Chattanooga. It embraces the very soul of this city.
As our city grows at a rapid pace this practice is put to the test daily. Houses are being built, businesses are being relocated, buildings and homes are being remodeled. The fact that Chattanooga is somewhat of a “Utopia” economically is not a secret throughout the south, either. Much like the carpetbaggers of a post-Civil War America, professionals from other economically struggling cities flock to Chattanooga to take advantage of the opportunities afforded here.
On the one hand it’s wonderful to have bigger cities acknowledge our economic success, but the real problem is that it does not help our own economy. Many new homes are built by local contractors, but then other things are contracted out of state. Swimming pools, concrete work, fencing, landscaping, masonry, and many other trades are being sold by out of state companies. Many of these companies have even set up dummy corporations with local addresses to seem like they are local companies.
In most cases these are not bad companies. The problem is that all money given to out of state companies is spent in another economy, not our economy. In most cases all materials are bought from the state the contractor is from, from their own supplier. That means that no money is being injected into our local economy, no matter how impressive the project. These contractors are bringing all materials and all subcontractors from out of state. All money spent with these contractors is helping to boost a struggling economy, just not our own.
SHOP LOCAL is an important credo for our city. The leaders of this city have worked tirelessly to bring Volkswagen here, it worked. That move also brought many other companies along, not to mention Amazon. This city is on the rise, there’s no doubt about that. Everyone has taken notice. Chattanooga was built on creative, striving small businesses. Chattanooga is full of brilliant entrepreneurs. The fact that opportunistic companies are building their newfound successes on our growth without rewarding Chattanooga economically is reprehensible.
When you hire a local company the contractor would purchase materials locally in most cases. Additionally, local businesses employ Chattanoogans. One particular Atlanta-based company purchases all materials from Atlanta suppliers, uses all subcontractors from Atlanta, and even brings in electricians from Atlanta. In this case no money is being infused into Chattanooga, not even on a $100,000.00 plus project that normally would infuse much money and assist in jobs. It is also worth mentioning that no out of state contractors pay taxes locally, whereas local businesses do.
The fact that many of these businesses from Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina, just to name a few, are attempting to look like local businesses by setting up dummy corporations based in Chattanooga just goes to show that they understand the problem with being an out of state business. The Chattanooga chapter of the Better Business Bureau is doing what they can to expose these businesses that have listings on the BBB Chattanooga site that lists them as local. But they cannot do this without input from Chattanooga citizens. Chattanoogans have to inform the BBB if you see this happening, otherwise no one will be aware of this.
Another problem with hiring builders and other businesses from out of state is that when your project is finished and inevitably something needs to be addressed after the work is done. It is hard enough to get local contractors back on site due to previous engagements that are always committed to. But try to get a contractor back on site from out of town. This is just another reason to shop local. Businesses that are located in Chattanooga can always be found when they are needed. One thing that many people do not know is that when you sign a contract with a business located in another state you need to make sure and read the fine print. If you ever need to engage in legal proceedings with an out of state contractor should things go awry on your project, it may be difficult to hold them accountable in your state. This will all depend on how the contract was written, but with a local contractor there are no questions.
Another problem that has plagued this area for some time is builders operating without a proper contractor’s license. In many cases they will ask the homeowner to pull the permit, which is perfectly legal. A homeowner can pull their own permit. The problem, however, is that when you pull a permit you now take all responsibility for all work being performed on your property. If something goes wrong you cannot hold the contractor accountable if you pulled the permit.
Many out of state, and even many local builders will ask you to pull the permit and let them perform the work under the permit. Usually this is due to the fact that they do not have the proper license. Always make sure your potential contractor is properly licensed and can pull their own permits. Also make sure they are properly insured.
Let’s help take Chattanooga into the future and continue to treat this fine city of ours with the respect it deserves. We welcome outsiders, that’s what has made Chattanooga such a successful melting pot, but we also have to make sure we treat our own business owners properly.
QUESTIONS THAT SHOULD BE ASKED OF OUT OF TOWN CONTRACTORS:
1) Why travel so far from home to work?
If business is good and a contractor has a good standing in his/her community, why travel?
2) How much are you adding to the price for travel?
In other words, what would be the price of this project in your hometown? Inevitably, travel jobs cost more money to the contractor, you need to know who is paying these costs.
3) Check the contractor’s/company’s BBB listing in their home state and/or local town.
I have noticed that several out of state companies working here have a very good local BBB listing, but a poor listing in their own city. Many times they will use a local listing here, or wherever they are working, to get a new BBB listing.
4) Ask them directly what their local reputation is. Ask for references in the city they originated in.
There is at least one pool contractor in town that was a builder in two other cities in two other states before settling here. Their reputation in those cities is less than favorable.
5) Check the company’s contractor’s license in the state they are from.
If they are working in a new state they will be required to obtain a new license in the new state. Many times the state of origin license could have been suspended, or even revoked.
You can even go on the state website and see what their history is with licensing, see any complaints, penalties, etc…
6) Ask for local references.
If they have worked in the area often they will have local references.