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What’s the Big Idea? Recap pg. 48 + Monthly Economic Indicators pg. 50














LBMC, a top Tennessee business consulting firm, celebrated the grand opening of its new location on Northshore Drive in January. Greg Gilbert, managing partner, is pictured center cutting the ribbon and is joined by LBMC partners and associates along with Knoxville Chamber Ambassadors.



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 Farm Credit Services (865) 687-5500 Real Estate: Mortgage Banking

Asian Culture Center of Tennessee (831) 241-1189 Entertainment: Arts & Culture

Duck-Duck-Goose (865) 604-6047 Retail Stores

SageView (800) 471-5336 Financial Services Business & Professional Services

Battles & Battles Tile (865) 525-7008 Residential Services: Flooring

Emily Golec - Keller Williams Realty (865) 765-1845 Real Estate: Residential

Tillman Companies, LLC (865) 470-4164 Construction & Contractors: General Contractors

Bellhops Moving Help Knoxville (865) 745-0191 Residential Services: Moving/Relocation

Flying Pigs Screen Printing (865) 207-4833 Business & Professional Services: Printers

Alumni Hall - Kingston Pike (865) 560-9556 Alumni Hall - West Town Mall (865) 560-9556 Alumni Hall - Turkey Creek (865) 675-2625 Alumni Hall - Papermill (865) 671-1117 Shopping: Specialty Ashley Wade - Keller Williams Realty (865) 964-0882 Real Estate: Residential



Children’s Media Studio (865) 312-7776 Education & Training: K-12 Debo’s Diners DBA Steak-N-Shake (423) 855-4650 Restaurants Dillon Security Executives (865) 456-3155 Business & Professional Services

Immedion (864) 908-3000 Computer & IT Services Innovasan (865) 470-4900 Medical Supplies, Sales & Services Mayer Electric Supply (865) 522-6657 Building Materials

Modis (865) 291-2111 Computer & IT Services N-Hance Wood Renewal (865) 806-7766 Construction & Contractors Oakwood Senior Living (865) 363-5950 Social Services: Senior Services Pop A Lock of Knoxville (865) 524-3900 Business & Professional Services Prime Medical Training (865) 288-9011 Education & Training Smoky’s Tobacco and Cigars (865) 693-8371 Shopping: Specialty










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Tennessee Food Service Group (TNFSG) (865) 210-3485 Business & Professional Services Tennessee Retirement Strategists (865) 523-9009 Financial Services: Planning The Guild (865) 584-8414 Personal Services: Fitness & Well-being Tom and Chee (865) 337-5469 Restaurants TurboSpin Cycling Studio (865) 312-9256 Personal Services: Fitness & Well-being Well Kept Spaces (323) 810-1022 Residential Services: Interior Design Westmoreland Health & Rehabilitation Center (865) 584-3902 Social Services: Senior Services

With the 109th Tennessee General Assembly in full swing, the Knoxville Chamber, along with its counterparts across the state and in the region, has outlined its legislative priorities for the session. Each year the Chamber works closely with the Chattanooga, Nashville, and Memphis chambers, as well as its partners in the region — the Blount Partnership and the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce — to develop state and regional agendas that will benefit the business community. “Advocating on behalf of our members is critical to our ability to help our community grow, and it is one of the most important reasons to become a member of the Chamber,” said Mike Edwards, president and CEO of the Knoxville Chamber. “Our state and regional legislative agendas are always focused on job growth and economic development.” This year, education takes the top priority of both the state and regional legislative agendas. The chambers are urging the General Assembly and the Tennessee Department of Education to “stay the course” with the implementation of rigorous college and career-ready K-12 standards, as well as an

aligned assessment process. The chambers believe the continuation of these standards will produce a highly-skilled workforce that will meet Tennessee’s business needs. Both of the agendas also voice support for strategies and programs that will help reach Gov. Bill Haslam’s Drive to 55 initiative, which aims to bring the percentage of Tennesseans with college degrees or certifications to 55 percent by the year 2025. The state is currently at 32 percent. Programs like the newly launched Tennessee Promise scholarship, which would provide two years of community college or technical school for every high school graduate in the state, is a good example of what will help reach the 55 percent goal. In addition to education, healthcare was also a high priority on the statewide agenda. The urban chambers supported the governor’s Insure Tennessee plan, which was a two-year pilot program that would provide health care coverage to Tennesseans who currently don’t have access to health insurance or have limited options. However, the plan was defeated on the state senate floor during a special

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session of the legislature in early February. The rejected Medicaid expansion program rewarded healthy behaviors, prepared members to transition to private coverage, promoted personal responsibility, and incentivized choosing preventative and routine care instead of unnecessary use of emergency rooms. “Tennessee’s healthcare issues are not going away anytime soon,” Edwards said. “The state has to find a way to provide more affordable healthcare options to its working poor and underemployed residents. This will not only improve the health of our state, but also boost workplace productivity and create more jobs in healthcare.” As the session progresses, the chambers will monitor any legislative developments that might affect business in the state of Tennessee. “The agendas serve as a guideline for bills that we expect to be introduced during the session that will have an impact on business,” Edwards said. “The individual chambers will continue to keep an eye out for additional bills that may come up on the docket throughout the session.”

109th General Assembly Bills to Watch The Knoxville Chamber’s government relations committee monitors bills each session that could impact the area’s business climate either positively or negatively. The committee has identified the following bills as issues to watch on behalf of the business community.

SENATE BILL 5/ HOUSE BILL 3 This bill establishes standards review and development committees, as well as advisory teams to propose K-12 English language arts and mathematics standards for public schools to be adopted by the State Board of Education before July 1, 2016. These are to be referred to as the Volunteer State standards. Chamber’s Stance: The Chamber opposes any repeals of the K-12 education standards, as Tennessee is the fastest improving state in the country in education and the state must continue to raise the bar. This bill requires a review of the standards by the house and senate education committees and does not include any requirements to uphold the current standards or honor Gov. Bill Haslam’s public review process of Tennessee state standards. The Chamber suggests staying on the course of the current education standards.

SENATE BILL 4 This bill creates the Tennessee Standard Commission to recommend English language arts and mathematics curriculum standards, to be adopted by the State Board of Education. It requires a complete repeal of the Common Core State Standards. The new standards must be adopted for the 2016 to 2017 academic year and “must strive to minimize the number of high-stakes assessments that will be administered.” Chamber’s Stance: Given the implications of this bill, the Chamber suggests opposition to the complete repeal of CCSS. Gov. Bill Haslam’s newly launched public review process of Tennessee State Standards is set to determine any new recommendations to the curriculum, and this type of legislation could disrupt this important process.

SENATE BILL 168 This bill creates a civil action against any public or private employer who terminates an employee for violating stated firearms policy by storing a gun in their vehicle. This would amend Tennessee Code annotated Section 39-17-1313, which allows handgun permit holders to carry and store their firearms in their vehicles in public or private parking lots, as long as certain requirements are followed. Chamber’s Stance: The Chamber is strongly opposed to legislation with an antibusiness property rights agenda. If enacted, this bill would create new concerns for employers in regard to potential unnecessary lawsuits.

Knox County General Assembly Delegates State Rep. Eddie Smith (R – Knoxville)

State Sen. Randy McNally (R – Oak Ridge) • District 5: Anderson, Loudon county and portions of Knox county. • In office from 1987 to present • Serves as chairman for the Senate Finance, Ways, and Means Committee, as well as the Joint Pensions and Insurance Committee. Phone: (615) 741-6806 Email:

• District 13: portions of Knox County • In office November 2014 to present • Serves as a member of the House Education Administration and Planning Committee and the House Transportation Committee. Phone: (615) 741-2031 Email:

State Rep. Ryan Haynes (R – Knoxville)

State Sen. Becky Duncan Massey (R – Knoxville) • District 6: portions of Knox County • In office from 2011 to present • Serves as chairwoman for the Senate Calendar Committee and the Joint Government Operations Commerce, Labor, Transportation, and Agriculture Subcommittee. Phone: (615) 741-1648 Email:

• District 14: portions of Knox County • In office 2008 to present • Serves as a member of the House Ethics Committee, House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee, and House State Government Committee. Phone: (615) 741-2264 Email:

State Rep. Joseph Armstrong (D – Knoxville)

State Sen. Richard Briggs (R – Knoxville) • District 7: portions of Knox County • In office from November 2014 to present • Serves as 2nd vice chairman for the Senate State and Local Government Committee and as a member of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee. Phone: (615) 741-1766 Email:

• District 15: portions of Knox County • In office from 1988 to present • Serves as a member of the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee and the House Transportation Committee. Phone: (615) 741-0768 Email:

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Knox County General Assembly Delegates - CONTINUED State Rep. Bill Dunn (R – Knoxville) • District 16: portions of Knox County • In office from 1994 to present • Serves as chairman for the House Calendar and Rules Committee, as well as a member of the House Education Instruction and Programs Committee and the House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee. Phone: (615) 741-1721 Email:

State Rep. Martin Daniel (R – Knoxville) • District 18: portions of Knox County • In office Nov. 2014 to present • Serves as a member of the House Business and Utilities Committee and the House Civil Justice Committee. Phone: (615) 741-2287 Email:

Doug Lawyer Named One of North America’s Top 50 Economic Developers

State Rep. Harry Brooks (R – Knoxville) • District 19: portions of Knox County • In office 2002 to present • Serves as chairman for the House Education Administration and Planning Committee, as well as a member of the House Calendar and Rules Committee and the House Education Instruction and Programs Committee. Phone: (615) 741-6879 Email:

State Rep. Roger Kane (R – Knoxville) • District 89: portions of Knox County • In office 2012 to present • Serves as chairman for the House Education Instruction and Programs Subcommittee, as well as a member of the House Education Instruction and Programs Committee and the House Insurance and Banking Committee. Phone: (615) 741-4110 Email:


Consultant Connect has named Doug Lawyer, the Knoxville Chamber’s vice president of economic development, to its 2015 list of North America’s Top 50 Economic Developers. The economic developers selected for this list were nominated by their colleagues in both the economic development industry and the site consultant community for excellent practices, innovation, and success in building the communities they serve. For more information on Consultant Connect and its list of the nation’s top economic developers, visit “Each day I wake up thinking about what my team and I can do to facilitate development in new jobs created, capital investments, and wage increases for our region, so to be recognized nationally by my peers is a huge compliment,” Lawyer said. “While I received the award, I think it also says a lot about our team here at the Chamber and the work they all put in for the improvement of our business community, as well as the regional Innovation Valley initiative we have in place.”

Jeremy Cook, office leader for Pinnacle Financial Partners – Emory Road, cuts the ribbon in celebration of the grand opening of Pinnacle Financial Partner’s newest Knoxville location at 1520 East Emory Road. He is joined by Pinnacle Financial executives and associates along with Knoxville Chamber representatives and Ambassadors.

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Chamber, Visit Knoxville Five Local Business Launch Joint Relocation, Win U.S. Chamber’s Visitors Guide Blue Ribbon Award On Jan. 31, the Knoxville Chamber and Visit Knoxville celebrated the launch of the 2015 Official Visitors & Relocation Guide. Traditionally published separately, this was first time the Chamber and Visit Knoxville have combined their publications, which features valuable information for people either considering a move or a vacation to Knoxville. “We were thrilled to partner with Visit Knoxville on this publication,” said Mark Field, senior vice president of membership. “We are both organizations with a mission to promote Knoxville, so it was natural that we would produce a publication together that shows everything the city has to offer – both for future residents and tourists.” The Chamber’s Know Knoxville relocation guide features stories on Knoxville real estate; healthcare options; sports and recreation; economic development; and education. Visit Knoxville’s Visitors Guide highlights information on Knoxville’s shops, restaurant’s, special events, festivals, and more. Request a copy of the guide by visiting calling the Chamber at 865-637-4550 or visiting

Mark Field, senior vice president of the Knoxville Chamber, and Kim Bumpas, president of Visit Knoxville, kick of the launch party of the 2015 Official Visitors & Relocation Guide at Visit Knoxville’s headquarters on Jan. 31.

The Knoxville Chamber congratulates five member companies on their selection as 2015 U.S. Chamber of Commerce Blue Ribbon Small Business Award winners. This program recognizes companies for their success, innovation, and contributions to economic growth and free enterprise. AMS Corporation, The Tomato Head, Management Solutions LLC, Design Innovations Architects Inc., and Visionary Solutions LLC were chosen from a record number of nationwide applicants and will be honored in June at the 2015 America’s Small Business Summit in Washington, D.C. “We are incredibly proud of these companies that have received national recognition,” said Mike Edwards, president and CEO of the Knoxville Chamber. “They are excellent examples of the small businesses in operation across Innovation Valley, and we are honored to have them represent our region.” The five winners are now eligible for the Dream Big Small Business of the Year Award. On March 18, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will announce seven regional finalists chosen from this year’s 100 Blue Ribbon Award winners and will present the winner with a $10,000 cash prize during the 2015 summit. The winners are also eligible for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Community Excellence Award, which recognizes a business that has demonstrated considerable commitment supporting its local community. The winner will be decided through online public voting until March 4 and will also be announced during this year’s summit. To vote, visit the events section on The Knoxville Chamber submitted 15 applications from past Pinnacle Business Award winners.


Gettysvue Polo, Golf & Country Club celebrated the grand opening of its new -4,200-square-foot premier fitness center with a ribbon cutting and open house in January. Bryan Stone, general manager, is pictured center cutting the ribbon and is joined by Gettysvue staff and Knoxville Chamber Ambassadors.

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New Slate of Bright Ideas Seminars Announced The Knoxville Chamber’s upcoming Bright Ideas seminars will present a variety of topics essential for any business professional. Topics for discussion in these seminars include public speaking skills, leadership and management development, social media law in the workplace, and effective fundraising techniques. Experts in related fields will host these seminars and give participants the ability to incorporate what they learn back into the workplace. On March 12, presentation coach Ellen Kern will present a half-day seminar on overcoming public speaking fears. Kern’s “Calm Down & Speak Up” workshop helps participants learn to manage nervous energy and improve speech delivery. “Most people fear public speaking. However, we can learn basic skills to calm down or manage nervous energy and speak up to deliver our message in a clear, concise way to our audience,” said Kern. “My goal is to coach participants how to calm down and speak up in order for them to gain the skills and tools to speak more effectively with greater comfort and confidence.” On March 24, Kevin Kragenbrink, CEO and head business coach of Estrada Strategies and interim executive director at Tech2020, will present “Leadership and Team Development Strategies to build a Winning Business.” Participants will learn the key elements of an effective leadership and team culture and how to utilize the elements to build and maintain a top performing team in any organization. “Building on more than 30 years of success in leadership development and more than 15 years of training leaders in business, I will describe three key elements of a success-oriented leadership culture and how any organization, large or small, can build those elements in their leadership team,” Kragenbrink said. “I will be describing practical, immediately relevant systems and methods that can be put into practice in any size business or organization.” Chris W. McCarty, attorney at Lewis, Thomason, King, Krieg & Waldrop, P.C., will present “To Friend or Not to Friend: HR in the Social Media Age” on April 21. His presentation will highlight some of the real-world issues employers now face concerning social media as the popularity of websites like Facebook and Twitter increases. This prevalent social media activity has created new problems for employees and a new set of hazards for employers, and McCarty will address the legality of these issues and offer practical tips for handling them in the future. “The real world and the cyber world are the same place when it comes to consequences,” McCarty said. “If you expect your employees to behave professionally in public, you can also expect them to behave professionally online.” On May 19, J.R. Hertwig, business consultant and account executive at TradeMark Advertising, will host “Fundraising 4.0: Using Technology and the Web to Do More” to give professionals new ideas to making fundraising easier and more effective. By utilizing certain techniques and technologies, participants can get increased fundraising results with less effort by focusing on convenience. “Top businesses today like banks and others in the service industry have to ask themselves how easy they are to do business with,” Hertwig said. “Ease of doing business is an intangible element that is too often forgotten. Because modern profits are already serving their audience of recipients, they are even further from the question, ‘How easy are we to donate to or volunteer for?’” Each seminar runs from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and is $25 for members and $35 for non-members. For more information or to register for any of these events, please visit the events section on Chamber intern Jessica Karsten contributed this story.

Sponsored by:

MARCH MEMBER ANNIVERSARIES Since 1869, the Knoxville Chamber has been the leading voice for business in our region. Each of these businesses are celebrating milestone anniversaries as Chamber members during the month of March. Thank you for your commitment to the Chamber and the community!



25 – 30 YEARS


20 – 24 YEARS


MWC Media 1960 Pugh CPAs 1965 Armstrong Relocation/United Van Lines 1972 Bertelkamp Automation, Inc. 1975 Pellissippi State Community College 1976 Brown, Brown & West 1978 Rouse Construction Company 1978 First Utility District of Knox County 1982 Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority 1982 Volunteer Lumber Sales, Inc. 1982 CH2M HILL 1983 Triple C Distributing Company 1984 U.S. Cellular 1985 Monday Realty Waste Management, Inc. of Tennessee Knoxville Track Club Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union

1987 1987 1988 1988

Cellular Sales of Knoxville, Inc. 1991 Stonecraft, Inc. 1991 YMCA of East Tennessee, Inc. 1992 The Salvation Army 1992 Edfinancial Services 1992 Robert Half Finance & Accounting 1993 Delta Dental of Tennessee 1995 High Resolutions 1995

15-19 YEARS


Land Development Solutions Tennessee Associated Electric SITE, Inc. Beaty Chevrolet Company Tennessee Career Center at University Avenue Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center Home Federal Bank of Tennessee University of Tennessee Medical Center Knoxville Pediatric Associates, P.C. Orkin Pest Control 2000 I. C. Thomasson Associates, Inc.

1997 1997 1999 1999 1999 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000

10 – 14 YEARS



Faith Promise Church 2001 New Balance Knoxville 2001 TJ Development & Management, LLC 2001 Digital Crossing 2001 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame 2001 Hiscall Incorporated 2003 East Tennessee PBS 2003 The University of Tennessee Foundation, Inc. 2003 Visit Knoxville 2003 Steiner & Ellis, PLLC 2003 All Occasions Party Rentals 2003 Geosyntec Consultants 2003 Utilities Management Federation, Inc. 2003 Alsco Inc 2004 North American Merchant Services, Inc. 2004 Guardsmark, LLC 2004 SSC Service Solutions 2005 Knowledge Launch 2005 Dollar & Ewers Architecture, Inc. 2005

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(January 2015)

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. ’13Dec. ‘14

Dec. 2014

Nov. 2014

Dec. 2013

% Change Nov. ’14Dec. ‘14

224,600 353,010 2,985,300 155,521,000

227,210 356,850 3,011,300 156,297,000

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

-1.1 -1.1 -0.9 -0.5

-0.3 -0.5 -1.3 0.7

347,900 2,865,500

348,200 2,862,000

336,800 2,798,200

-0.1 -0.1

3.3 2.4

12,580 20,970 213,760

12,730 20,900 212,560

14,520 24,210 249,860

-1.2 0.3 0.6

-13.4 -13.4 -14.4

5.0 5.4 6.4 5.4

5.1 5.3 6.4 5.5

5.7 6.0 7.3 6.5

-0.1 0.1 0.0 -0.1

-0.7 -0.6 -0.9 -1.1

Non-Ag Employment Knoxville MSA Tennessee

Residential Closings Residential Inventory Median Residential Price

Dec. 2014 1,107 9,294 $155,000

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

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


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

% Change Dec. ’12Dec. ‘14 -1.3 -0.7

Dec. ’13-‘14

Nov. ’13-‘14

Dec. ’12-‘13

0.4 0.8

1.1 1.3

1.7 1.5

-0.7 -0.5

% Change Jan. ’13Jan. ‘14

Knoxville (City)

Total Single-Family Multi-Family

Dec. 2014* 247 10 237

Dec. 2013 12 12 0

% Change Dec. ’13Dec. ‘14 1,958.3 -16.7 100.0

Knox Co.

Total Single-Family Multi-Family

330 93 237

62 62 0

432.3 50.0 100.0

Knoxville MSA

Total Single-Family Multi-Family

363 126 237

100 100 0

263.0 26.0 100.0


Total Single-Family Multi-Family

1,936 1,219 717

1,572 969 603

23.2 25.8 18.9

Knox Co. Knoxville MSA Tennessee

Jan. 2015

Dec. 2014

Jan. 2014

% Change Dec. ’14Jan. ‘14

60,036,866 81,801,258 801,042,830

49,167,431 67,741,722 611,538,756

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

22.1 20.8 31.0

7.0 6.9 7.8

13,905,893 19,622,283

16,036,609 22,119,763

23.5 22.5

7.1 8.7


Passengers Cargo

Nov. 2014 140,470 5,700,611

Oct. 2014 165,247 6,797,596

Nov. 2013 139,280 6,391,819

% Change Oct. ’14Nov. ‘14 -15.0 -16.1

% Change Nov. ’13Nov. ‘14 0.9 -10.8

Source: Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority

Local Sales Tax Knox Co. Knoxville MSA

*All 2014 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


889 9,746 $142,900


CONSUMER PRICE INDEX (CPI) - ALL ITEMS % Change Nov. ’13Dec. ‘14

Dec. 2013

% Change Dec. ’13Dec. ‘14 24.5 -4.6 8.5

Source: Knoxville Area Association of Realtors

Available Labor Knox Co. Knoxville MSA Tennessee

Nov. 2014 943 10,170 $145,000

% Change Nov. ’14Dec. ‘14 17.4 -8.6 6.9

17,180,714 24,038,000

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. 2015

Dec. 2014

399,338 21,516 15,982 8,243 56,279 48,153 7,742 32,088 48,334 25,464 9,082 79,347 40,346

506,062 25,365 33,339 13,592 61,133 50,317 10,448 36,381 74,469 28,904 11,736 89,700 58,040

388,279 20,447 15,390 7,966 54,297 42,580 7,355 42,010 47,223 24,150 8,513 72,750 39,334

% Change Dec. ’14Jan. ‘15 -21.1 -15.2 -52.1 -39.4 -7.9 -4.3 -25.9 -11.8 -35.1 -11.9 -22.6 -11.5 -30.5





Jan. 2014

% Change Jan. ’14Jan. ‘15 2.8 5.2 3.8 3.5 3.7 13.1 5.3 -23.6 2.4 5.4 6.7 9.1 2.6 8.0

EST. 1869 For more information on research, contact Joe Riley,

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

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MENTOR/PROTÉGÉ PROFILE PROTÉGÉ: EXPOQUIP, INC. Owners: Jorge and Deana Sanabria Website: Industry Type: Sales and distribution of heavy machinery What is the importance of having a mentor to you? Having a successful mentor is very important at this point on the overall timeline of my company. A successful mentor serves as a role model and guide. A mentor is someone who can help you answer critical questions that will provide real advice from a person who has been where you are. A mentor can counsel you on dos and don’ts that can save you hours of time and spare you from mistakes they may have made along the way. It provides you with a fountain of information that you can use to develop your company or take it to a higher level. My company is not a new business but I believe my relationship with my mentor will help move me to a new level as I look for ways to expand my company’s capabilities. How has this program added to or changed your value of Chamber membership? It has provided opportunities and has encouraged me to network through events and activities that I may not otherwise have had access to. It has provided training opportunities that have been extremely beneficial to my endeavors to move forward and propel my company to the next level. What do you want to learn from your mentor? I would like my mentor to help me in establishing relationships within the construction/road building industry as I work toward opening a small construction division within Expoquip.

MENTOR: STOWERS MACHINERY CORPORATION Owner: Wes Stowers Website: Industry Type: Caterpillar Equipment Distributor for East Tennessee Who has been one of your important mentors and why? What were key lessons learned? I have had several different people who have been mentors during my business career, but one who stands out is David Waddilove. David was the Caterpillar district manager responsible for working with our dealership when I joined Stowers Machinery in 1988. In 1989 he retired from Caterpillar and joined our company as executive vice president, working here for 25 years and recently retiring as company president. One of the key lessons I learned from David was how he solved problems, addressing the root cause instead of just dealing with the symptoms. He is highly effective in developing people, especially young managers. He built confidence and follow-through. He was always looking for ways to raise the performance bar through measurable process improvement. David is a great listener and counselor, and he has the ability to keep discussions focused and on task. How has being a mentor helped you or your firm? I have enjoyed getting to know Jorge and Deana Sanabria and learning about some of the challenges that they face in growing their business. They have significant expertise and a successful track record in their core business, and since meeting, we have been able to do business together to the benefit of both of our companies. What do you want your protégé to learn from you? Jorge and Deana have the opportunity to significantly expand their operations as contractors in the coming months and years, especially in government-funded projects taking place on the Oak Ridge complex. They have already seized new opportunities, and they have a clear vision of where they want to grow their company.

Microenterprise Grant Expands Propel Program Across Innovation Valley Knoxville Chamber’s Propel mentor/protégé program has received a $50,000 “LiftTN: Microenterprise” grant, which was launched by the Tennessee Economic and Community Development Department to expand the program to rural counties in the Innovation Valley region. “LiftTN: Microenterprise,” a pilot program aimed at expanding microenterprise development across the state, awarded $400,000 in total grant money to five grantees over a two-year contract period. “This grant is essential to the expansion of the Propel program throughout Innovation Valley,” said Doug Minter, business development manager at the Chamber. “This program is designed for companies that have less than five employees and therefore may not have the capital to currently enroll in our program.” Propel is a two-year program which pairs an established community business leader with a protégé that is either running a startup, first, or second stage business development. The money from the grant will allow Propel to grow from its current number of 20 teams to 30, as well as expand into Jefferson, Roane, Blount, and Anderson counties. Companies in the program receive individual coaching, technical assistance, and mentoring from a successful business owner in their region. “Often the perception is that chambers of commerce only care about big business, but that’s not true. More than 80 percent of our members at the Knoxville Chamber are small businesses,” said Minter. “I have always had a passion for all things rural and helping folks that are typically not on the radar. Anytime we can help the microenterprises grow so the owner can increase revenue and hire more employees is a good thing.” Businesses that are accepted into the program in the expanded counties will be given scholarships to help offset the cost of joining their local chamber as well as the program fees. Minter will work with the surrounding counties and their respective chambers of commerce to recruit companies in April and May, with the program officially beginning in July. If your small business is interested in learning more about the Propel program, contact Doug Minter at or 865-246-2662. Kayla Witt, Chamber marketing coordinator, contributed this story.

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Educational Children’s App Wins What’s the Big Idea 48-Hour Launch After a whirlwind weekend of competition, a winner was crowned for the What’s the Big Idea 48-Hour Launch. On Jan. 25, seven finalists took to the stage at Scruffy City Hall to present their final pitches to a panel of judges and a standing-room-only crowd. While all of the pitches were impressive, it was Cathy Vangieri’s Children’s Media Studio Sing and Spell that took home the grand prize — up to $10,000 in startup reimbursement costs, one year of free rent at the Fairview Technology Center, and complimentary business services. Sing and Spell is an interactive learning program that uses colorful animation and original music to teach children the foundations of phonics. “The intense learning and mentoring of the 48-Hour Launch helped us bring two years of our hard work into the sharp focus necessary to get our great business idea off the runway and into the air,” Vangieri said. During the finale, each finalist had six minutes to pitch their ideas and two min-

utes for questions from a panel of judges. Leading up to the event, the finalists worked around the clock to refine and develop their “big ideas” with the help of mentors and coaches at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. Event sponsors Rodefer Moss & Company, PLLC, and Pitts & Lake, P.C, also gave the contestants valuable lessons on accounting and intellectual property law. “We could not have asked for anything more from our seven teams over the 48-Hour Launch. With the tremendous help of our mentors, every team was able to significantly transform their idea from just a concept into a viable business plan,” said Emily Skaar, entrepreneur coordinator for the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. “Sing and Spell in particular was able to develop an app over the weekend, which is currently live in the Google Play app store. Having these resources in a concentrated period of time allowed for huge growth in Sing and Spell, and resulted in their win.” Vangieri said the Sing and Spell team plans to use the prize money to further develop the app. The six other “big ideas” competing against Sing and Spell were Michael Bowie’s Barboards, specializing in beverage-coaster advertising; Michael Goldsborough’s Resque, a social media manager for real estate professionals;

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Kevin White’s College Weekend, offering college away-game travel packages; Lisa Page’s Pixel Zombies, creating gear for serious gamers; Zachary Slabaugh’s Traditional Cigar, a custom cigar company; and Ben Farmer’s Maker Networks, a 3-D printing network. “Everyone who competed in the 48-Hour Launch is a winner,” said Todd Napier, president and CEO of The Development Corporation of Knox County. “With the help of mentors and coaches, these entrepreneurs were able to grow tremendously in just 48 hours, and that is a win in itself.” This is the first year that the Knoxville Chamber, along with The Development Corporation of Knox County, the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, and Tech20/20, has presented the What’s the Big Idea 48-Hour Launch competition. Prior to this format, the What’s the Big Idea competition stretched over two months. Napier said the 48-Hour Launch brought an exciting new element to the competition. “The compressed timeline of the competition really tested the participants’ ability to think on their feet and perform under pressure,” Napier said.

ABOVE: The seven What’s the Big Idea 48-Hour Launch finalists were given around the clock access to the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center to prefect their ideas prior to the finale on Jan. 25. PREVIOUS PAGE: The Sing and Spell team pose for a photo with the presenters of the What’s the Big Idea 48-Hour Launch competition. Left to right: Michael Edwards of the Knoxville Chamber, Kevin Kragenbrink of Tech 2020, Todd Napier of The Development Corporation of Knox County, Jim Biggs of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, and Sing and Spell’s Cathy Vangieri, Todd Carter, and David Grimes.



FSGBank Signs On as New Presenting Sponsor of Pinnacle Business Awards The Knoxville Chamber’s Pinnacle Business Awards has a new presenting sponsor. FSGBank will present the annual business awards gala for the next three years. “The Chamber is thrilled to have FSGBank on board as the presenting sponsor of the Pinnacle Business Awards,” said Mark Field, senior vice president of the Knoxville Chamber. “We look forward to producing the marquee social event for the business community alongside the folks at FSGBank and helping them establish their brand in the Knoxville area.” Along with presenting the awards gala, FSGBank is also sponsoring the Young Entrepreneur award, which recognizes a young professional, 40 years of age or younger, who lives and works in East Tennessee and has achieved success while overcoming obstacles to become one of tomorrow’s top business leaders. “We are looking forward to the Pinnacle Business Awards again this year. Being associated with the Knoxville Chamber as the presenting sponsor of the event will make it a special occasion for all of us at FSGBank,” said Robert Baird, the market executive for FSGBank’s north region. “The level of business talent associated with the Pinnacle Business Awards is extraordinary, which along with recognizing the Young Entrepreneur of the year, will make this event a business highlight for the year.” FSGBank has had a presence in the Knoxville market since 2002, with offices in Bearden, Farragut, Lenoir City, Jefferson City, and Maynardville. The bank also operates a total of 26 full service offices in Tennessee and Georgia, including its headquarters in Chattanooga. “Our focus is on owner-managed businesses and individuals that place a high value on experience and advice that comes from experienced bankers,” Baird said. “Since the Pinnacle Business Awards recognizes outstanding contributions from all area businesses and business leaders, we felt that this sponsorship was a great fit for FSG.” Baird joined the bank in February 2014 with more than 30 years of experience in regional and community banking. FSGBank has five veteran bankers in the Knoxville market with an average of 18 years banking experience. “FSGBank offers its clients the unique opportunity to deal with experienced bankers familiar with a wide variety of businesses accompanied with the high level of service that is usually associated with community banks,” Baird said.


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MARCH 3 Schmoozapalooza

4 – 7 p.m. • Knoxville Expo Center - Hall B, 5441 Clinton Highway

Tabletop Expo: $200 for members and $300 for non-members General Admission: $10 (members can save $5 by pre-registering online prior to Feb. 26) Sponsored by: Media Sponsor:

Goody Bag Sponsor: ¥ (865) 525-2830

MARCH 10 New Member Orientation 4 – 6 p.m. • Knoxville Chamber, 17 Market Square, #201 Sponsored by:

MARCH 12 Bright Ideas Half-Day Seminar: Fear Public Speaking? Learn to Calm Down & Speak Up! Presented by Ellen Kern, Stand and Deliver 8:30 a.m. – Noon • Knoxville Chamber, 17 Market Square, #201 $50 for Chamber Members; $75 for non-members Sponsored by:

MARCH 24 Bright Ideas Seminar: Leadership and Team Development Strategies to build a Winning Business Presented by Kevin Kragenbrink, Estrada Strategies 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. • Knoxville Chamber, 17 Market Square, #201 $25 for Chamber Members / $35 for non-members Sponsored by:

MARCH 27 Legislative Briefing 7:30 – 8:30 a.m. • Knoxville Chamber, 17 Market Square, #201 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 2015  
Commerce - March 2015  

The official newsletter of the Knoxville Chamber.