Driving Our Economy Forward: Tennessee Aquarium
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) — It brings jobs, plenty of tourists, and helps animals from the rivers and oceans.
The Tennessee Aquarium is also big on educating both kids and adults alike on those sea creatures.
The Aquarium talked to News 12 about how they’re driving our economy forward.
“2022 has been a fantastic year for the Tennessee Aquarium, and it’s been great to reconnect with a lot of our supporters, who are part of the initial waiver support to create the aquarium and get things started here on the riverfront, and really welcomed guest around the world. And see those numbers increase from our pandemic shortages that we have had the past two years,” said Thom Benson, Chief Communications and Marketing Director.
Benson says the Tennessee Aquarium really kick started the economy and downtown Chattanooga area.
“It was really built with a threefold mission: And that was to be an economic engine to spur further development. To be a voice for freshwater and conserve the resources that we have in the southeast. And then to educate the public and to really enhance the educational opportunities for the next generation of environmental stewards,” he said.
The aquarium directly employs more than 100 people.
“Our employment impact from the economic impact really reaches farther into the community,” Benson said. “We commissioned an economic impact study at the end of 2020-21, $146 million dollars of economic benefit is provided into the community, which I think is pretty remarkable when you think about the initial investment for the River Journey building was $45 million. For the Ocean Journey building, the initial investments, $30 million.”
The Tennessee Aquarium also has educational outreach programs, traveling to schools, libraries, and civic centers over the summer.
“A lot of schools during the school year were able to help educate students about the vast freshwater riches and aquatic life that’s hidden below the surface of the water, and help them understand what we need to protect,” Benson said. “Our conservation institute takes that miles further. By our scientists going out, studying the freshwater habitats of the animals that live there and then restoring some of them. So ultimately, we hope the people come to the Tennessee Aquarium, have a good time with each other and spend quality time together here at the aquarium. It’s nice to think that over 30 years, millions of millions of people almost 27 million have learned something here, and perhaps change their behaviors as a way to make things better for the future.”