The Talent That Binds

Tackling Brain Drain in Chattanooga

Story by Thomas Wheatley

Photography by Kathleen Greeson

Published on Apr 21, 2014

On a recent Friday evening, D.J. Trischler is settling into an IPA and talking about climbing mountains. It’s only 30 minutes after the end of the workweek, and the Flying Squirrel Bar in Chattanooga’s Southside neighborhood is packed. At one booth, some of the city’s leading architects gossip. A small pack of women whisper amid the music as their eyes scan the room. Guests at the LEED-certified hostel next door, where outdoor enthusiasts rest their heads, are settling in. Down the street people finish up productive days at Camp House, a former artist studio-turned-coffee shop and venue where, under clerestory windows, Chattanooga’s entrepreneurs talk potential partnerships.

Eight hours earlier, the bespectacled 29-year-old freelance graphic designer and Pittsburgh native was among them, meeting with potential clients and coworkers about projects. Trischler’s work on co-creating Chatype, the country’s first municipal font, helped him make a name for himself.

Trischler pops Sriracha-tinged falafel sliders as he talks about the city he adopted as his home six years ago. He loves it here and wants to stay, but not everyone can. He clips off the names of friends and colleagues, both Chattanooga natives and transplants, who have left over the past few years. Maybe they found an opportunity that wasn’t available here, or were ready for another challenge that this mid-sized city of a little more than 170,000 couldn’t deliver.

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