With a lengthy legislative to-do list and an upcoming election, U.S. Senator Bob Corker has a busy summer ahead. But today, he took some time to revisit his roots – both as a Chattanooga resident and as an entrepreneur.

CO.LAB welcomed a visit this morning from the Senator, who met with each GigTank team to learn about their ideas and observe their progress.

“There’s nothing that’s more energizing than being around young people trying to start companies,” Corker said. “I just love seeing what’s happening here.”

Corker is not a stranger to the startup world. Years before his entrance into politics, he founded his own construction company and grew it into one of the leading real estate development companies in the Southeast. Looking back, he can relate to the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. Watching your company grow can be a “transformative” experience, but it’s not without a little nail-biting.

“I remember going a year and a half without getting a good night’s sleep,” he told the teams, while also remembering that an entrepreneur has a unique view on being able to see the lives of employees, industries and communities changed for the better.

As a businessman-turned-politician, Corker said he’s more aware than ever of the tensions that have emerged between the public and private sectors. But he insists that collaboration between the two is necessary. In fact, he pointed to the GigTank program – and its entrepreneur finalists – as having the ability to address the needs of society.

“At least half of you are focused on solving problems that people face in their personal lives. I find that inspiring; try to keep that focus as your business grows,” he said.

He also advised them to take advantage of what makes Chattanooga unique: the Gig, the outdoors and the evolution of the city itself.

“What we’ve done here in Chattanooga is a model of what we can do at the national level,” he said. “This place has a heart and soul like no place I’ve been in my entire life.”

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