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INSIDE: Governor’s Breakfast Recap pg. 51 + Monthly Economic Indicators pg. 54





Top Achievers are recognized for their countless volunteer hours and dedication to the Ambassador Program’s mission of serving as an active volunteer extension of the Knoxville Chamber to cultivate, promote, and maintain positive relationships between the Knoxville Chamber, its members, and the community.




NEW MEMBERS / NEW PREMIER PARTNERS BRONZE PREMIER PARTNERS Cope Associates, Inc. Architecture (865) 694-9000 Architectural & Engineering Services: Architects Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery (865) 470-2242 Building Materials, Shopping Johnson Service Group (865) 539-8234 Business & Professional Services: Billing, Payroll, & Collection Services, Business & Professional Services:Human Resources, Employment, Career, & Staffing Services The Jacobs Agency (865) 219-2708 Financial Services: Investments, Financial Services: Planning,Insurance: Business Insurance: Life AFLAC (865) 470-4360 Insurance



Architectural Antics (865) 696-7777 Shopping: Antiques

Conversion Properties, Inc. (865) 246-1331 Real Estate: Commercial

High Road Digital (423) 359-3908 Business & Professional Services: Adv. Agencies

Sierra Pacific Mortgage (865) 357-6500 Real Estate: Mortgage Banking

ATC Nuclear (865) 966-5330 Manufacturing: Nuclear

Dobbs Orthodontics (865) 588-1644 Healthcare Providers & Services

Innovate Branding and Design (865) 607-6045 Business & Professional Services: Adv. Agencies

Snooty, Inc. (865) 675-2888 Personal Services: Aestheticians & Medispas

Atlas Cleaning Solutions, LLC (865) 323-8861 Building & Grounds Maintenance

Edwards Construction Services Inc. (704) 625-0088 Construction & Contractors: Commercial

Insurance Consulting Services of TN (865) 405-4393 Insurance: Health

Sunsphere Capital (404) 662-2210 Financial Services

Aubrey’s Oak Ridge (865) 685-0821 Restaurants

ExpoQuip, Inc. (865) 219-8133 Construction & Contractors: Equipment/Supplies

LED-CCTV - Master Terminal Technologies (865) 329-7257 Electrical Supplies & Services

The Shutter, Blind & Shade Co. (865) 249-6757 Residential Services: Window Treatments

Aubrey’s Strawberry Plains (865) 465-7636 Restaurants

Ferguson - HVAC (865) 691-5880 Building Materials

Lillibridge Healthcare Services, Inc. (865) 971-1000 Real Estate: Commercial

Barley’s Maryville (865) 983-0808 Restaurants

First Tennessee - South Grove Knoxville (865) 824-3210 Financial Services: Banks

Lynn Sanford Construction, Inc (865) 934-4485 Construction & Contractors: General Contractors

The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce (615) 256-5141 Business & Professional Service: Chambers of Commerce

Carol’s Cleaning Service (865) 776-2744 Building & Grounds Maintenance: Cleaning Services & Supplies

Gift Gourmet and Interiors (865) 212-5639 Shopping: Specialty

Palm Village, A Lilly Pulitzer Signature Store Shopping: Women’s Clothing













United Capital Lending (865) 934-1400 Real Estate: Mortgage Banking United Parcel Service (800) 742-5877 Distribution/Warehousing/Logistics

The Knoxville Chamber’s marketing committee has identified a new marketing tagline for the organization that captures its goal to serve its membership and the business community. “Driving Your Success” was chosen by the committee as the new tagline because it emphasizes what the Chamber and its benefits can do for businesses. The tagline also bridges the Chamber’s mission of “Driving Regional Economic Prosperity” and its vision of helping make Knoxville “America’s Best Business Address®.” “As the Chamber, driving our members’ success is our No. 1 priority,” said Mark Field, senior vice president of membership for the Chamber. “This tagline isn’t just a marketing tool for us, it’s an accurate depiction of what we do for our members.” When deciding on the tagline, the marketing committee reached out and surveyed the experts on this topic – the members. “The best way to find out how to market to our membership base is to ask the membership base,” said John Tolsma, chairman of the marketing committee and a member of the Chamber’s executive committee. “Asking members to weigh in on what they thought was a good tagline provided us with valuable feedback and additional ideas.” The committee received more than 100 survey responses from members weighing in on options for the new tagline. The survey gave respondents a chance to pick from a list of proposed taglines or submit their own. While the responses were diverse, a commonality between all them was the emphasis of the Chamber and its benefits of being a navigator of business success.

See “Tagline” on pg. 50

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“Tagline” continued from pg. 49

How We ‘Drive Success’ The main way the Chamber drives success is through numerous valuable benefits it offers to its members. “We encourage all of our members, new and existing, to not just simply join the Chamber, but to get involved and really take advantage of the benefits we offer,” Field said. “We understand that one size doesn’t fit all – so we offer a wide variety of benefits that appeal to businesses of various sizes. Whether it is networking opportunities through various events, or marketing programs like our online directory, or our advocacy efforts on behalf of business on the state and local levels, we are confident we offer a benefit that will help grow any business.” Each year the Chamber hosts more than 70 events, many of which offer unique networking experiences. Schmoozapalooza, Business After Hours, and Hat’s Off to K’Ville, are just a few of the networking events that serve to connect members with other members. “I have not left a single Chamber event without making contact with at least one business or homeowner in need of our services,” said Darla Zorn of Express Blinds of Knoxville. “We closed our first sales through the Chamber at our first networking event, new member orientation.” Zorn said not only has the membership given an underlying credibility to her business, but it’s already paid off. She said they recouped their membership fees within the first month of joining. New members GameTruck Greater Knoxville have also already witnessed how the Chamber’s networking events can help drive success. “I have already worked on several ventures from networking at Chamber events – including a mobile app,” said Theresa Maples of GameTruck. “I also booked an event directly from a Chamber member who saw my ribbon cutting ad on the iKnowKnoxville website.” Another great benefit of Chamber membership is The website is the Chamber’s online business directory and there were more than 376,000 member-page views on the site during 2013. Each member receives a page on for their business and has the option of building it out to include different features including videos, event listings, coupon offers, job listings, and more. “iKnowKnoxville provides our members a great advertising tool and an expanded Web presence at a fraction of the cost of other online advertising tools,” Field said. The Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and Fireside Chalet and Cabin Rentals are two great examples of businesses that have fully utilized their iKnowKnoxville pages. Visitors to the site have taken notice with their two pages receiving over 480 and 570 page views, respectively, during 2013. The benefits of Chamber membership extend beyond networking and marketing opportunities. They also include the Chamber’s advocacy efforts in Nashville and right here at home in Knoxville/Knox County. The Chamber’s SpeakUp4Biz online advocacy tool is used to inform members about issues that directly affect the business community. SU4B makes it easy for members to contact their elected officials and support efforts the Chamber is engaged in. The tool is also used to garner support for bills that directly address the Chamber’s state and regional legislative agendas. “We’ve initiated support campaigns utilizing the SpeakUp4Biz tool on multiple occasions and have seen a good response to them,” said Danielle South, director

of public policy and education for the Chamber. “This is a powerful tool for our members and we encourage them to use it to support the Chamber’s initiatives.” South said the first “call to action” on SU4B involved the issue of elected superintendents, which the Chamber opposes. More than 400 letters were sent out from the system in support of appointed superintendents, and the issue was eventually tabled. A recently launched campaign is in support of Tennessee Promise, which is Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposed plan to provide two years of tuition-free community college, or two years of technical training at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology to every high school graduate in the state. To see more active campaigns, visit the SpeakUp4Biz section under Public Policy on The Chamber also helps drive success through helping businesses save money. The Office Depot Chamber Advantage Program gives member businesses a chance to save a little cash when stocking up on supplies for the office. “It’s great for our member businesses because it gives them discounts on things that they’re going to be buying anyway for their business,” said Melissa Spangler, vice president of membership for the Chamber. “We’ve received incredible feedback from members who have saved hundreds of dollars – especially with the Copy & Print Depot discounts available to members.” There are multiple ways to save using the Office Depot Chamber Advantage program and it is available to member businesses of all sizes. To learn more about the program, visit the Office Depot Program page under the Members section on or call the member services line at (865) 246-2635.

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Haslam Addresses Sold-Out Crowd at Annual Breakfast Education and healthcare were big topics for Gov. Bill Haslam as he spoke to a sold-out crowd of more than 500 guests at the Knoxville Convention Center for the Knoxville Chamber’s annual Governor’s Breakfast on Feb. 7. The annual event, presented by Stowers Machinery Corporation along with supporting sponsors Alcoa, and Kramer Rayson LLP, gives the business community the chance to hear the governor as he discusses his legislative priorities for the current session. This year’s breakfast was unique in that Haslam delivered the State of the State address just days before the event, giving attendees a chance to ask questions about what he outlined in the speech. Haslam said healthcare and education played major roles in forming this year’s $32.5 billion state budget. TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid program, was allocated $180 million in the state budget. Haslam said Medicaid funding makes up 30 percent of the budget. “The pressures of healthcare costs and education costs are like two walls of a building that keep squeezing the government’s cost structure and forces out so many things that we’d like to do,” he said. “So when you talk about managing the budget, it’s primarily about managing those two things.” Haslam said $120 million of the budget is dedicated to kindergarten through 12th grade education. “I don’t think there’s anything more important to what’s happening in Tennessee than there is to the changes happening in K-12 education. I understand there’s a lot of debate and controversy, and a lot of that’s good because we’re focusing on something that’s the most important thing to the future of this state.” Haslam highlighted the progress Tennessee has made over the last few years in elevating its education status, and cited National Assessment of Educational Progress’ 2013 report of Tennessee being ranked as the fastest improving state in the nation. “We’ve got massive challenges and big issues in front of us, but the good news is we’re making progress and to do that we have to continue funding (education).” Haslam also talked about how improving education can improve tomorrow’s workforce. He said while Tennessee has a lot going for it – great geographic location, good work environment, and a good work ethic – it still falls short in some areas. “I spend a lot of my time out selling Tennessee… and I’ve learned well what our strengths and weaknesses are,” he said. “The complaint I hear every time is ‘I’m concerned about the depth and quality of the workforce.’” Haslam’s said the Drive to 55 initiative, which aims to bring the percentage of Tennesseans with college degrees or certifications to 55 percent by the year 2025, is one way to help this issue. It’s projected by 2025 that 55 percent of jobs in Tennessee will require a degree or certificate. Right now the state is at 32 percent. Haslam said to obtain that goal, the state needs to do a better job of preparing students for postsecondary success through dual enrollment and offering remedial math courses in high school. He said the state also wants to reach out to adults who have some college credit and help them complete their degree. However, Haslam said he realizes cost can also be a significant barrier to obtaining a degree or certificate. With that in mind, Haslam has proposed the Tennessee Promise. This potentially transformative plan would provide two years of tuition-free community college to every high school graduate in the state. Graduates not interested in traditional community college would also have the opportunity to attend one of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology schools tuition-free. If approved, Tennessee would be the only state in the nation to offer a program like this.

“I honestly think that if we do this it can change the trajectory around workforce development in the state of Tennessee,” he said. “We talk about that a lot. But you’re always looking for something that really can make a difference.” To watch the governor’s speech in its entirety, visit the Chamber’s YouTube channel.

Presented by:

Supporting Sponsors:

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‘Hats Off’ Networking Event Brings Out Creative Side of Business Community More than 130 businesspeople filled The Standard on Jan. 30 to attend the Knoxville Chamber’s new, out-of-the-ordinary networking event, Hats Off to K’Ville. The event, sponsored by Storage Pros, requested guests don their favorite serious or silly hat to take part in the festivities. From fedoras to fascinators, everyone had fun embracing the night’s creative theme. In addition to networking in a fun, relaxed setting, guests enjoyed music provided by Ogle Entertainment and a savory spread by Rosa’s Catering. “It is always a little unnerving introducing a new event concept to our membership,” said Lori Fuller, the Chamber’s vice president of marketing and events. “This event was received really well and we were excited to see a different demographic of attendees than we see at our traditional networking events. We definitely engaged a different group of our members with Hats Off.” Prizes were given out for the most creative, stylish, and outrageous hats of the evening. Glen Spidell of Snack Healthy Knoxville won Most Outrageous for his DIY hat constructed out of snack food wrappers. Shayla McDaniel, a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee, won Most Creative for her derby hat with an illuminated light bulb. Crystal Hunley of AccuForce won Most Stylish for her feathered fascinator. All of the contest winners received a gift pack from Storage Pros and a $50 gift certificate to Tupelo Honey. Jessica Emert of ORNL Federal Credit Union took home the door prize for the evening – six tickets to the Knoxville Ice Bears along with Ice Bears and Storage Pros paraphernalia.

Crowne Plaza staff members had fun with the Hats Off to K’Ville theme by attending in matching hats. Left to right: Tammy Knight, Betty Pearce, Mary Weaver, Deena Cox, Donna Thomas, and Jeff Shrewsbury. Theresa Maples of GameTruck Greater Knoxville and Shayla McDaniel, a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee, had fun with their hat choices. McDaniel won Most Creative for her illuminated derby hat.



Ullrich Printing Since 1979, Ullrich Printing has been providing the Knoxville area with quality prints and service. The family-owned small business, owned by Peter and Jeannie Ullrich, has a simple mission: “Providing outstanding service and personalized management that provides you, our customer, with confidence that your business communications are timely, exceptional, and reflect your business image.” The company employs five full-time and two part-time employees and offers a variety of printing services. From full-color digital printing, high-speed copying, and binding to promotional products, mailing services, and wide format printing – Ullrich handles it all. “We offer a high level of customer service including print inventory manage-

ment and free local pick-up and delivery,” said Carol Matthews, who handles sales at Ullrich Printing. “We constantly strive to help our customers by eliminating their frustration in the print and promotions ordering process, hoping to exceed their expectations.” Examples of Ullrich’s work are all around Knoxville. The company produced a number of wallpaper pieces for the offices at Scripps Networks Interactive. They’ve also printed exhibit signage for the East Tennessee History Center, and produced a number of newsletters including Jubilee Community Arts at the Laurel Theater, Interfaith Health Clinic, and Young Life. Ullrich prides itself on being an active member in the community and gives back through supporting the Jubilee Community Arts, East Tennessee History Center, Junior Achievement of East Tennessee, Knoxville Montessori School, ESK and many more non-profits in East Tennessee. “Ullrich Printing enjoys and is proud to be part of the Knoxville and East Tennessee community, and to serve our customers who live in this beautiful region of the country,” Jeannie Ullrich.

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(Jan. 2014)

NOTES - Knoxville MSA includes: Anderson, Blount, Knox, Loudon & Union Counties.

WORKFORCE Resident Labor Force Knox Co. Knoxville MSA Tennessee U.S.

HOUSING MARKET % Change Dec. ’12Dec. ‘13

Dec. 2013

Nov. 2013

Dec. 2012

% Change Nov. ’13Dec. ‘13

225,230 354,890 3,025,300 154,408,000

228,370 359,530 3,065,200 155,046,000

240,900 380,100 3,129,800 154,904,000

-1.4 -1.3 -1.3 -0.4

-6.5 -6.6 -3.3 -0.3

339,700 2,794,700

341,400 2,802,500

335,900 2,762,700

-0.5 -0.3

1.1 1.2

14,520 24,210 249,860

14,900 24,430 253,530

15,470 25,730 269,960

-2.6 -0.9 -1.4

-6.1 -5.9 -7.4

5.7 6.0 7.3 6.5

5.9 6.1 7.4 6.6

5.7 6.0 7.6 7.6

-0.2 -0.1 -0.1 -0.1

0.0 0.0 -0.3 -1.1

Non-Ag Employment Knoxville MSA Tennessee

Residential Closings Residential Inventory Median Residential Price

Dec. 2013 889 9,746 $142,900

Unemployment Rates Knox Co. Knoxville MSA Tennessee U.S.

Sources: Tennessee Dept. of Labor & Workforce Development/U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics



Knoxville (City)

Total Single-Family Multi-Family

Dec. 2013* 12 12 0

Dec. 2012 251 2 249

% Change Dec. ’12Dec. ‘13 251 2 249

Knox Co.

Total Single-Family Multi-Family

62 62 0

303 54 249

303 54 249

Knoxville MSA

Total Single-Family Multi-Family

100 100 0

316 67 249

316 67 249


Total Single-Family Multi-Family

1,572 969 603

1,776 853 923

1,776 853 923

*Southeast Region Avg. U.S. Avg. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

CONSUMER PRICE INDEX (CPI) - ALL ITEMS % Change Nov. ’12Dec. ‘13

% Change Dec. ’11Dec. ‘13 0.1 -0.2

Dec. ’12-‘13

Nov. ’12-‘13

Dec. ’11-‘12

1.7 1.5

1.5 1.2

1.6 1.7

0.2 0.3

% Change Jan. ’13Jan. ‘14

Knox Co. Knoxville MSA Tennessee

Jan. 2014

Dec. 2013

Jan. 2013

% Change Dec. ’13Jan. ‘14

56,124,357 76,524,758 743,107,446

46,435,582 63,977,492 577,619,591

56,865,344 76,897,825 708,092,044

20.9 19.6 28.6

-1.3 -0.5 4.9

13,197,366 18,328,939

16,320,790 22,341,594

21.5 20.7

-1.7 -1.0


Passengers Cargo

Oct. 2013 158,871 7,070,219

Sept. 2013 142,580 6,962,302

Oct. 2012 154,557 7,058,848

Source: Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority

Local Sales Tax Knox Co. Knoxville MSA

*All 2013 building permit data is preliminary and therefore subject to revision throughout the year. Sources: U.S. Housing & Urban Development – SOCDS – State of the Cities Data Systems; U.S. Census Bureau – Building Permits Survey

*South – City Size Class B/C


905 12,941 $140,275

16,036,609 22,119,763

Source: Tennessee Dept. of Revenue

RETAIL SALES - NATIONAL (IN MILLIONS OF DOLLARS) Category Total Retail Sales Building Materials Clothing Stores Electronics & Appliances Food & Beverage Stores Food Svcs & Drinking Places Furniture & Home Furnishings Gasoline Stations General Merchandise Stores Health & Personal Care Stores Miscellaneous Stores Motor Vehicle & Parts Sales Non-store Retailers Sporting Goods/Books/ Hobby/Music

Jan. 2014

Dec. 2013

392,332 20,679 15,694 7,476 54,885 43,606 7,575 42,115 48,066 24,441 9,117 71,662 39,944

485,885 23,173 32,844 12,406 58,772 47,040 9,762 42,497 74,863 26,977 11,869 79,026 54,106

380,949 20,028 15,482 7,862 52,218 42,260 7,734 41,537 47,382 23,708 9,014 69,037 37,504

% Change Dec. ’13Jan. ‘14 -19.3 -10.8 -52.2 -39.7 -6.6 -7.3 -22.4 -0.9 -35.8 -9.4 -23.2 -9.3 -26.2





Jan. 2013

% Change Dec. ’12Dec. ‘13 -1.8 -24.7 1.9

Source: Knoxville Area Association of Realtors

Available Labor Knox Co. Knoxville MSA Tennessee

Dec. 2012

Nov. 2013 974 10,631 $141,000

% Change Nov. ’13Dec. ‘13 -8.7 -8.3 1.3

% Change Jan. ’13Jan. ‘14 3.0 3.3 1.4 -4.9 5.1 3.2 -2.1 1.4 1.4 3.1 1.1 3.8 6.5 -1.5

Source: U.S. Census Bureau – Advance Monthly Retail Trade Report

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EST. 1869

% Change Sept. ’13Oct. ‘13 11.4 1.6

% Change Oct. ’12Oct. ‘13 2.8 0.2

TVBA Hosts 4th Annual Education, Business Expo The Tennessee Veterans Business Association hosted the fourth annual Education and Business Showcase from Jan. 27-28 at the Knoxville Convention Center. The two-day event brought together more than 140 exhibitors and more than 2,000 attendees for a trade show and hiring expo. “The showcase is a celebration of the veteran-owned businesses in the Knoxville community,” said Jonathan Williams, TVBA president and CEO. “We also have many non-veteran owned companies that come to support the veteran businesses. It is a dual-purpose event – a B2B trade show much like (the Knoxville Chamber’s) Schmoozapalooza, but we also invite the veteran community to come and search for career and education opportunities.” The showcase kicked off on Jan. 27 with the Small Business Awards dinner, which recognized veteran-owned businesses in several categories. Blue Angel narrator and former solo pilot Scott “Yogi” Beare was this year’s featured keynote speaker to the dinner which hosted 400 people. The second day of the showcase featured the career opportunity expo. Williams said more than 100 of the vendors present stated they were actively hiring. Some of those companies included, Alcoa, U.S. Cellular, ATC Nuclear, Answer Financial, Clayton Homes/ Vanderbilt Mortgage, Cellular Sales. “We want to provide the veteran community with a one-stop shop for career, education, business start-up, and veteran benefit assistance,” Williams said. “We also invite the entire business community to come for networking and business development.” This year, a new element was introduced to the showcase – a business plan competition, co-sponsored by the Lawyers of Brown & Roberto and TVBA. Ten business hopefuls presented 15 minute pitches of their ideas to a panel composed of TVBA board members, representatives from Brown and Roberto, and the UT College of Business. Frank Podalaha of beat out the competition and won a $5,000 cash prize for his website that gives musicians a platform to perform and be paid for it. Since its formation in 2010, TVBA has been committed to providing entrepreneurship training, business development assistance, and networking opportunities to veterans and their families through events like the showcase. Williams said he hope veterans take away a few things from attending the event. “If you already own a business, we want you to promote your product and service while meeting with and networking with other like-minded business owners,” Williams said. “If you are a veteran attending the event who is seeking opportunities, we hope that you learn as much as possible and gain some ideas on how you can embark on the next phase of life postmilitary.”


Grant Boyd, SunTrust Grant Boyd likes to lead by example, and that’s exactly what he’s doing as city president and managing director of private wealth management for SunTrust Bank. With 22 years of experience under his belt, Boyd comes to SunTrust as a veteran of the financial industry. In his role, which he assumed in September 2012, Boyd is in charge of leading SunTrust’s Knoxville market and the Eastern Tennessee Private Wealth Management team, which he said is composed of highly skilled and talented advisers that are committed to serving their clients’ wealth management needs. “I am proud to be a part of an organization like SunTrust,” Boyd said. “Our purpose is ‘Lighting the Way to Financial Well-Being’ and the principles that guide our actions: Client First, One Team, Executional Excellence, and Profitable Growth. We truly make a difference in lives of the people and institutions that we advise every day, helping them achieve their financial well-being.” Boyd said he describes his leadership style as very involved and interactive. “(I like to) lead by example and lead through effective engagement with my team, partners, and our valued clients,” he said. “We call it ‘being in the traffic.’ ” While the past few years have been tough on the banking industry, Boyd said SunTrust weathered the recession well. “During the recession we effectively managed those items that were within our control and positioned the company to take advantage of the opportunities available once the economy started moving in the right direction,” Boyd said. “The effectiveness of those efforts is showing through in our current performance.” Originally from Ann Arbor, Mich., Boyd and his wife, Kathy, have two children. Their son William is a student at Webb School, and their daughter Samantha attends the University of Alabama. Boyd said Knoxville’s people, schools, businesses, and wonderful natural assets are big draws of the area.

RIBBON CUTTING SmartBank celebrated the grand opening of its Cedar Bluff location in Knoxville in early February. Lynn Fugate, Knox County market executive with SmartBank, is pictured center cutting the ribbon and is flanked (picture left) by Elizabeth Kramer, branch manager, and (picture right) Billy Carroll, president and CEO. The group is also joined by SmartBank executives and associates and Knoxville Chamber Ambassadors.

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Aaron Holbrook Diversified Landscape Services Age: 27 Title: Project Manager/ Administrator

Company: Diversified Landscape Services Education: Bachelor of Arts from University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in Spanish language & world business

Hometown: Oak Ridge, Tenn. YP affiliation: I have been a member of Young Professionals of Oak Ridge (YPOR) since 2012. This year I am serving as the organization’s vice-president (president-elect) and will be serving as president in 2015.

Community involvement: : I enjoy volunteering with organizations that provide resources and educational opportunities to the Hispanic community in our area. I have also served as a volunteer for local non-profits such as TORCH and ADFAC. This year I will be serving as a “big” for Big Brother Big Sisters of East Tennessee.

Favorite thing to do in Innovation Valley on the weekend: I love being outdoors. I enjoy playing disc golf with friends at Groves Park in Oak Ridge as well as riding my bike and playing soccer. I also enjoy trying out new restaurants and cuisine with my girlfriend, Amanda.

Robotics Competition Returns to Knoxville The Smoky Mountain Regional FIRST Robotics competition returns to the Knoxville Convention Center from March 27-29 for the third consecutive year. Fifty teams, including seven from Knoxville, will compete in this global technology and engineering competition for high school students. The Knoxville Chamber has played a key role in bringing the regional competition to Knoxville. The competition emphasizes science, innovation, and design, and inspires students to think about science and technology. “We’re so pleased to have a competition that allows students to experience science, technology, engineering, and math learning in a fun, inventive way,” said Danielle South, director of public policy and education for the Chamber. Prior to the competition, each team has six weeks to engineer a robot that will compete in completing various tasks and obstacles. The teams work with professional mentors from businesses like Alcoa, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and UT-Battelle, to help design, build, and program their robot. Erica Johnson, a Halls High School teacher and FIRST Robotics team mentor, said the competition not only teaches students about science and engineering, but it also teaches lessons of teamwork and respect. “Although there are various team sports that engage student-athletes at different levels, FIRST Robotics is coined the ‘varsity sport for the mind’ and employs values that are specific to sharing, kindness, and collaboration,” Johnson said. “Team members exemplify FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) core values, such as ‘gracious professionalism’ and ‘coopertition’ (cooperation through competition). These core values serve as key contributors in nurturing self-confidence, communication and leadership skills. Students who possess these qualities are unique among their peers.” Hardin Valley High School teacher John Tilson is the lead mentor for the RoHAWKtics and has been involved with FIRST Robotics for three years, and said the hands-on learning the students get to experience while competing is invaluable. “I watch my students grow and learn in a way that they can’t approach in a classroom,” Tilson said. “When I take lessons learned from our FIRST experience back into my classroom, I find that students can overlay the abstract ideas and concepts from our ‘book learning’ onto these experiences easily, and are able then to use this knowledge and do something new with it.” With hundreds of students and teachers coming to the event, FIRST Robotics is always looking for volunteers to help everything run smoothly. If you’d like to volunteer, contact Crystal Brooks at the Chamber at or (865) 2462658 to sign up. For more information on the competition, visit

The Knoxville Chamber and Innovation Valley have partnered with six locally-established young professional organizations to recognize outstanding young professionals on a monthly basis. To nominate a YP deserving of recognition, fill out and submit the online form located at: http://

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TSBDC Continues to Make Economic Impact The Tennessee Small Business Development Center at Pellissippi State Community College recently released its 2013 annual report and was ranked as one of the top two centers in the state. “We’re thrilled to once again be recognized as one of the top Small Business Development Centers in Tennessee,” said Larry Rossini, senior director of the Knoxville center. “We look forward to continuing to provide top-quality service and training to small businesses in our area.” TSBDC operates 15 offices in Tennessee, with a mission of enhancing economic development in the state. The Pellissippi State office, located at the Knoxville Chamber, serves Knox, Union, Claiborne, Blount, Jefferson, Sevier, and

Cocke counties. In 2013, the center assisted more than 505 clients and generated $13.2 million in capital formations. Rossini credits the outstanding capital formation figures to the center’s improved relationship with the banking community. “Over the past two years there has been a concerted effort to make sure the banking community understand what services TSBDC offers, and for us to understand what the banks need from clients to make loan decisions,” Rossini said. “We’ve now helped our small businesses achieve loans from $50,000 to $7 million.” The main emphasis of the TSBDC is to provide training and education to small businesses. TSBDC produces several training classes on its own, and partners with the Knoxville Chamber to sponsor programing like the Bright Ideas business seminars and the annual Social Media Series. For more information on TSBDC, visit

Four businesses Recognized at Propel Protégé Graduation On Feb. 5, the Knoxville Chamber and Innovation Valley hosted the Propel 2014 Protégé Graduation. The event, sponsored by SunTrust Bank, was held at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and honored four companies that successfully completed the Propel protégé program, with former University of Tennessee football player Inky Johnson delivering the keynote address. Propel graduates – A Corporate Janitorial, G2 Engineering, Unirem Technologies, and SM Sales Marketing Consultants – have all had individual successes with their industries. “Our mentor/protégé program is successful for two main reasons,” said Doug Minter, Propel director and business development manager for the Chamber. “First, because of the many mentors who are chosen from Chamber’s Premier Partners. Their dedication and willingness to give back is essential. Second, our partners such as SunTrust, Tennessee Small Business Development Center, and Estrada Strategies assist us in developing what we think is best in class coaching and classroom curriculum for our protégés.” The Propel mentor/protégé program is a one-of-its-kind opportunity for businesses to team up in one of the most rewarding experience business has to offer. In fewer than four years, the program has helped start new businesses and graduated 13 protégés. “As a small business owner, being a protégé in the Propel program helped me in many ways to grow my business,” said Sharon Meredith, owner of SM Sales and Marketing Consultants. “By creating a pipeline of business resources and tools through Propel, I was able to take my business to the next level and build a network of invaluable connections. The Chamber has created a valuable business resource for our community through Propel, and I encourage small business owners to take advantage of the opportunity.” To date, 45 mentors and protégés have taken part in the Propel program.

The latest class of protégés were introduced during graduation and have already started their seven-week business “boot camp” courses. With 15 businesses, this year’s class of Partners and sponsors of the Propel mentor/protégé program pose new protégés for a photo at the Protégé Graduation on Feb. 5. Left to right: Kevin is the largest Kragenbrink of Estra Strategies, Larry Rossini of TSBDC, Angela Conner of SunTrust, former University of Tennessee football player go through the Inky Johnson, and Doug Minter of the Knoxville Chamber. program since its launch in 2010. Currently the program represents 25 protégés with combined revenues of $22.6 million and 168 employees. Designed for small, woman-, veteran-, and minority-owned businesses, the mentor/protégé program pairs an established community business leader with a protégé that is relatively new to business. The Propel program provides individuals with one-on-one assistance to help them get their business off the ground. “When you couple coaching, technical assistance, and mentoring, you have the formula for business growth,” Minter said. “Our program is part of a cadre of programming such as the Chamber’s Member MD process and CEO Circle programming to create sustainable pathways for businesses to grow.” If you are interested in learning more about the Propel mentor/protégé program, please contact Doug Minter at

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Chamber Accepting Applications for What’s the Big Idea?! Competition The Knoxville Chamber will start accepting applications for the 2014 What’s the Big Idea?! business plan competition on March 4. Applications will be accepted through April 4. The high-energy business plan competition, presented by The Development Corporation of Knox County, the Chamber, and Tech 2020, gives 15 local entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their business ideas in hopes of taking home the grand prize – $10,000 startup cost reimbursement, office space, and complimentary business services. But before contestants have the chance to vie for the Big Idea Launch Package, they need to make it past three rounds of competition. The competition will begin on April 11 with 15 contestants being selected from the application pool. Once chosen, the contestants will participate in two Idea Launch seminars, which will help refine their ideas and fine-tune their pitches. The contestants will then convene on May 6 to give a five-minute pitch of their Big Idea to a panel of coaches, who are recognized as successful, local entrepreneurs. Each coach will then select three contestants to be on their teams. Once the teams have been formed, contestants will have a month to be mentored and trained by their coaches before heading to the Knock-Out Competitions on June 3. This round pits three contestants against each other, one from each team, in three separate rounds. The contestants have eight minutes to pitch their ideas to a panel of five judges, and then have two minutes of questions and answers with the judges. The judges identify one winner from each round, narrowing the group from nine to three. As a new element to this year’s competition, the six contestants not selected will be eligible for the People’s Choice Pitch held at the finale. The finale will be held on June 24 and will feature the three finalists and the People’s Choice Pitch winner. The People’s Choice winner will be determined after a series of three-minute pitches to the audience. The winner of the People’s Choice will then join the finalists in presenting their final eight-minute pitches to a panel of independent judges and the audience before an overall winner is crowned. If you’re an entrepreneur and think you have the next big business idea, apply to be a contestant at


MARCH 6 a.m. Exchange at Ferguson

Bath, Kitchen and Light-

ing Gallery

8 – 9 a.m. | 215 Peregrine Way Sponsored by:

Catering Sponsor:

MARCH 7 Exclusive Premier Partner Event Featuring Amy Miles, CEO of Regal Entertainment 7:30 – 8:30 a.m. | Knoxville Chamber, 17 Market Square

MARCH 11 Bright Ideas: “Project Management Fundamentals” Presented by Chris Burl, Management Solutions LLC 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. | 17 Market Square, #201 $25 for members and $35 for non-members (boxed lunch included)

MARCH 11 New Member Orientation 4 – 6 p.m. | Knoxville Chamber, 17 Market Square Sponsored by:

MARCH 14 Legislative Briefing Healthcare Discussion Panel featuring Senators Massey and Campfield and Reps. Armstrong and Johnson 7:30 – 8:30 a.m. | Knoxville Chamber, 17 Market Square Sponsored by:

MARCH 25 Schmoozapalooza 4 – 7 p.m. • Knoxville Marriott, 501 East Hill Ave. Attend: $10 (members can save $5 by pre-registering prior to March 21) Exhibit: $200 for Chamber members and $300 for non-members Sponsored by:

Go to “Chamber Events” on to learn more or register for any of these events. You may also call the events line, (865) 246-2622

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Commerce March 2014  
Commerce March 2014  

The official newsletter of the Knoxville Chamber.