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INSIDE: Social Media Series Recap pg. 51


Monthly Economic Indicators

pg. 54


CONNECT with the


Events Coordinator Lynsey Wilson presents Membership Development Manager Ashleigh Adkins with February’s Chamber Employee of the Month award.


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.


ALLISON ROOP Image Matters Print & Copy Center CHAMBER STAFF Doug Lawyer @knoxoakridgeIV Jennifer Evans @knoxevans Kyle Touchstone @knoxecondevguy Mark Field @field101 Michelle Kiely @mkiely1


NEW MEMBERS / NEW PREMIER PARTNERS TITANIUM SunTrust Bank of East Tennessee (865) 544-2102 Financial Services

GOLD Virginia College School of Business and Health (865) 745-4500 Education & Training: Colleges

SILVER Ernst & Young (865) 405-4903 Business & Professional Services: Accounting, Auditing, & Bookkeeping

NovaCopy, Inc. (865) 243-2679 Office Equipment, Furniture, Supplies & Printing Services

BRONZE M Force Staffing, Inc. (865) 246-2842 Employment, Career, & Staffing Services

Quality Rx Returns (865) 660-6558 Medical Equipment, Supplies, Sales & Services RELYANT (865) 984-1330 Business & Professional Service



Vistage (404) 307-8594 Education & Training A.K. Consulting LLC (865) 363-9605 Business & Professional Services: Not-for-Profit Consulting American Medical Response (865) 824-2779 Healthcare Providers & Services

Carson-Newman College (865) 471-3587 Education & Training:Colleges Civis Capital a Division of the Citizens Bank of East Tennessee (865) 329-1108 Financial Services Dunkin Donuts (865) 690-4670 Restaurants - Eating & Drinking Places

Buddy Gregg Motor Homes (865) 675-1986 Automotive Sales, Parts, & Service

Farmer Garage Door / The Total Garage Store of Knoxville (865) 675-2033 Residential Services: Garage

CareAll Home Care Services (865) 531-9713 Social Services: Senior Services

GFS Marketplace (865) 560-8859 Food/Food Service Distributors

Gray Shadow Financial Services, LLC (877) 575-9925 Financial Services HR Comp (865) 938-3555 Business & Professional Services: Human Resources Steve Helton (865) 256-6448 Financial Services Tech USA (865) 291-4601 Employment, Career, & Staffing Services TMX Finance (912) 629-5197 Financial Services University Physicians’ Association, Inc. (865) 305-8872 Healthcare Providers & Services
















t can’t be an easy task trying to get more than half a million East Tennesseans on the same page, but Plan ET is striving to hear what the communities in Knox, Loudon, Anderson, Blount, and Union Counties have to say about their futures as East Tennessee moves forward. “Whenever there is a conversation about the future of our home, it’s important for the business community to be sure their voices are heard,” Mike Edwards, president and CEO of the Knoxville Chamber said. “While past efforts may not have resulted in drastic policy change, we look forward to being involved in the conversation as we continue our work to make Knoxville, Tennessee America’s Best Business Address®.” Plan ET is a regional partnership of communities with the goal of building a shared vision for the future. The partnership aims to create long-term solutions for investments in East Tennessee that will leave a legacy of optimism and opportunity for future generations. “You’ve got to have the strength, the bones there, the willingness of the community to say ‘hey, what can you do in Union County to stand out.’ The things that will attract some businesses,” Jeff Welch, of the Transportation Planning Organization said. Funded largely by a Housing and Urban Development Grant, Plan ET is focusing on five main areas, most of which have a monumental impact on the business community. As the partnership evolves, thousands of East Tennesseans are expected to give their opinion on where the region is now and what community leaders should take into consideration as East Tennessee grows. Several of the topics in focus for Plan ET are already areas the Knoxville Chamber through the Innovation Valley strategic plan look to improve upon every day in the Knoxville area. The Plan ET regional livability effort is a totally separate effort from the Innovation Valley Strategic Plan. However, its vital to note that the data and input collected via the Plan ET effort will provide strong insight into the foundation of the next 5-year plan for Innovation Valley - a process which will commence later this spring. Several Chamber staff are highly involved in the Plan ET efforts. “We have to do better if we’re going to compete. We know that, the Chamber knows that,” Welch said.


WHAT THE CHAMBER IS DOING: Growing jobs through our regional economic development plan, Innovation Valley is a key to economic prosper ity. The quality of life available is attractive to residents both new and old. The economic development team touts those in addition to the unparalleled assets such as ORNL, Y-12, The University of Tennessee and TVA to recruit companies to grow and expand. A trained & educated workforce is essential for those companies. The Chamber’s extensive programs in education & workforce work to continue to improve education in our region.

2. Environment Residents feel East Tennessee holds an incredible amount of natural beauty and worry that issues like air and water quality will get in the way of the region meeting its potential.

WHAT THE CHAMBER IS DOING: The environment, and air quality in particular, has been an issue for East Tennessee for years and the Chamber has fought for improvement. In early 2011, Knoxville met the federal ozone standard for the first time since the standard was established in 1997. Working closely with Knox County’s department of air quality management, the Chamber through its existing industry outreach, works with area businesses in an effort to help reduce industrial emissions.

3. Transportation and Infrastructure East Tennesseans feel interstate highway access is a strength for the region but would like to see more transportation options.

WHAT THE CHAMBER IS DOING: The Chamber and Innovation Valley promote the area’s access to the East Coast via interstate highways when recruiting industry to the area and will continue to push for strong, responsible access to transportation in East Tennessee. For example, the Pellissippi Parkway extension in Blount County is among the top priorities for the Chamber this year as the state legislature meets. This 4.4-mile stretch of interstate is expected to bring thousands of additional jobs and millions of dollars in economic impact for the area. Also, the Chamber is supportive of efforts to reduce airfares and maintain and improve service at Tyson-McGee Airport.

1. Economy and Workforce Early results indicate a strong public concern over the value of mountains, rivers, and lakes in the region. While Oak Ridge National Lab, the University of Tennessee, and our local medical centers are strongly valued, many residents would like to see more jobs throughout the region. KNOXVILLE CHAMBER 49

See “Future” on pg. 50

“Future” continued from pg. 49

4. Housing While East Tennesseans enjoy a low cost of living, the commute distance for residents between their workplace and their homes can sometimes add enough cost to make the region more expensive than other regions for individual homeowners.

What the Chamber is doing: Our low cost of living is an absolute competitive advantage in recruiting jobs to the area and an asset the Chamber and Innovation Valley feel must be preserved. Access to interstate transportation and increased usage of public transit will assist both industry and commuting workers as East Tennessee continues to grow.

5. Health Residents expressed concerns about several significant health issues that included drug use, asthma, and obesity.

What the Chamber is doing: Our region is fortunate to have significant medical resources in UT Medical Center, Tennova, Covenant Health, and East Tennessee Children’s Hospital. The Chamber staff is involved in a variety of committees (The University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, Knoxville Area Childhood Obesity Coalition, etc.) that work with those entities to address these issues. The Chamber also hosts educational events for membership to be more engaged in these issues. Several groups have tried similar planning efforts but eventually those fizzled out. For example, many East Tennesseans remember nine Counties, One Vision, but that effort has dissolved. Welch is quick to point out there were several victories that

came out of the Nine Counties effort. He points to things like historic preservation and credits Nine Counties, One Vision with assisting Knox Heritage to spread to a 16 county region. “I think what happened was they [Nine Counties, One Vision] decided it was time to let the sunset. I think probably one of the struggles was that there was no structure in place to carry some of the key things of it out.” For the next several months, Plan ET will continue to gather community input across the five-county area. The organizers are taking feedback any way they can– social media outreach, public meetings, and even offering to help facilitate private meetings through a “meeting in a box” campaign. “We want to hear from all sides. We’ve been working on a planning process related to how we’ll gather feedback over the past 6-8 months and we’ve been really reaching out. There are a lot of folks we want to hear from in all different sectors of the community, from the business community to area churches,” Welch said. Plan ET is still in the first phase of a three-phase process. At the end of April, it will host a series of forums across the five-county region, and toward the end of 2013 hopes to have a plan to move East Tennessee forward. Essentially, Welch’s team wants to have statistically valid survey results to share with lawmakers about what public sentiment is when considering the future, and that might be different for each county within our region. “This is something they can choose what’s best for their community. What’s good in Townsend may not be what’s best in Farragut,” Welch said. “There are going to be conflicts, there are folks that don’t believe in planning or zoning all together. But we need each other. We all thrive on each other. We all want to have a healthy place to live, work, and play.” To find out more about Plan ET, visit

2012 Casino Night a Big Winner Jubilee Banquet Facility proved to be a great host for nearly 100 funny-money gamblers at the Chamber’s annual Casino Night. Fantasy Casino Events offered roulette, craps, blackjack, and poker for guests. Gamblers used their fake cash to buy-in on raffle tickets at the end of the night for a chance at a number of great prizes. Winners included: Kimberly Loryea of New Horizons Computer Learning Center (4 tickets to the St.

Patrick’s Day 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway) Steve Dockery of Sun Electric Company (a framed print, courtesy of Fast Frame) Jeffrey Gotcher of Appademia (Exhibitor Table at Schmoozapalooza VI) Julie DeGeorge of Calhoun’s (Downtown prize package that includes a $50 Regal gift card and $100 gift card at Latitude 35) Phil Colston of Ideal Exteriors ($100 Downtown Knoxville gift card).

Left: Fantasy Casino Events provided craps and other traditional games. Middle: Jeffrey Gotcher of Appademia grabs a bite to eat from the spread prepared by the Jubilee Banquet Facility. Right: Blackjack was among the more popular tables at this year’s event. KNOXVILLE CHAMBER 50

Social Media Series Remains a Hit The Knoxville Chamber’s social media series returned in the month of January with four presentations focusing on what East Tennessee organizations can do to harness the power of social media. The sessions remain a hot ticket, averaging over 60 attendees.

Thanks to BlueGill Creative’s Jeremy Floyd, Moxley-Carmichael’s Gavin Baker, The Tombras Group’s Laura Bower, and Ackermann PR’s Shane Rhyne for their expertise. If you missed any of the sessions, you can catch a video replay of each one on the Chamber’s YouTube channel.

Left: Jeremy Floyd shows Chamber members how social media has empowered the powerless and what organizations can expect in 2012. Right: Shane Rhyne wraps up a Google+ hangout, showing attendees how to use Google’s free video conferencing tool.

Left: Gavin Baker explains the online networking tool LinkedIn in the context of the classic book “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” Right: Laura Bower listens to a question during her presentation of social media success stories.

Group Focuses on Aligning K-12 Curriculum with Community Needs A shift is already taking place and if we don’t take action, it could have a big impact in East Tennessee when it comes to workforce development. That’s why the Knoxville Chamber, Knox County Schools, and the business community want to embrace the opportunity presented by a recovering economy by ensuring the workforce of tomorrow has the skills necessary to contribute. A national economy that once supported every retiree with about 10 active working adults is heading toward a one-to-one ratio. Making matters even more complicated, the one working adult needs to have more than a high school education to be productive, Jennifer Evans, the chamber’s vice president of workforce development and education told several dozen business owners at a recent Career and Technical Education Advisory Council meeting. “We’re still hearing from manufacturers who are struggling to find workers,” Evans said. Evans told the crowd about one-third of the projected workforce in 2020 is expected to require at least short-term training after high school, another

roughly one-third is expected to have at least an Associate’s degree, and the final third a Bachelor’s degree. To help combat the upcoming disparity, the Knoxville Chamber, Knox County Schools, and the community as a whole are looking for ways to better align district curriculum with the needs of the community. The CTE Advisory Council is a group of educators, business community members, and Chamber members working to bridge the gap and ensure the education in the classrooms is as relevant as possible for the students who will be entering the workforce. “We’re going straight into the nuts and bolts of why we exist,” Buck Coatney, Knox County Schools representative for business partnerships said. Over the past several years, Knox County Schools and the Chamber have worked to develop a more open relationship with one another. Today, that relationship includes a dialogue between the business community and the district as East Tennessee manufacturers realize the benefits of telling the school district what skills their employees need and what pieces of curriculum may not be as relevant as they once were.


Chamber and Pellissippi State Look to Tackle Workforce Development As Pellissippi State Community College looks to add a new east Knox County campus, the institution and the Knoxville Chamber want to make sure they’re doing everything they can to help the business community address workforce concerns. To make that a reality, business leaders, the Chamber, and officials from several secondary education facilities heard how to improve Knox County’s workforce at a meeting recently hosted by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters at its Forks of the River facility. Pellissippi State is in the process of purchasing a 223,000 square-foot building on Strawberry Plains Pike. It plans to start offering classes in the fall, just a few miles away from a pair of large industrial parks. “It gives us an opportunity to fill workforce development needs in the community,” Dr. Anthony Wise, the President of Pellissippi State Community College said. With its fourth Knox County campus, Pellissippi State is reaching out to Knox County’s corporate residents at the Forks of the River and Eastbridge Industrial Parks to find out what training, academic coursework, and facilities the business community would deem most beneficial. “We are so excited about the space to do some innovative things when it comes to partnership and meeting workforce development needs,” Teri Bra-

hams, Pellissippi State’s executive director of economic and workforce development said. Preliminary feedback at that recent meeting indicated a strong desire for technically-skilled labor that has maintenance, machinery operation, and other advanced skills. “It’s just getting people familiar with a technical level that’s beyond pushing a start/stop button. They need to have next-level troubleshooting skills as well,” Teri Williams, Melaleuca Inc.’s vice president of operations said. While Knox County currently enjoys an unemployment rate among the lowest in the state, local manufacturers say a majority of those who are unable to find work are lacking in the skills necessary to contribute at facilities. That puts especially high value on the partnerships the Knoxville Chamber, Pellissippi State, and the business community are working to build as they eye training programs and curriculums that could benefit all parties involved. “It’s, how do you get them into programs like this and ready for the workforce?” Mike Brennan, the director of operations at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters’ Knox County facility said. Tennessee’s population ranks 42nd in the nation with regards to post secondary degree attainment. Pellissippi State hopes to close that gap with a goal of reaching the national average for citizens with an Associates degree or higher by 2025.

Jewelry Television Welcomes Chamber for Business After Hours Jewelry Television recently welcomed hundreds of Knoxville Chamber members to its new Parkside facility for a huge Business After Hours event. Jewelry Television CEO and President Tim Matthews welcomed the crowd to the facility and noted the company is looking to keep growing in Knoxville. Matthews said JTV’s studio and office space is as good if not better than any network’s in the country. The largest shopping network dedicated to gems and jewelry offered tours to Chamber members to let them get a peak at how it works. “We’re broadcasting on the air to more than 65 million viewers every day, but very few people actually get to visit our headquarters and go behind the scenes,” said Matthews. “We recently completed an expansion and remodeling project and thought it would be a good opportunity to invite the business community to see what it’s like behind the scenes of a 24/7, 365 days per year business.” To help welcome the crowd, Jewelry Television provided several great door prizes for guests in attendance. WINNERS INCLUDED: Pete Hendrix, Southwestern Consulting – 1-carat champagne and white diamond ring Mike Niemeyer, First Citizens Bank – 4.25-carat Brazilian amethyst ring with diamond accents Cathy Upchurch, The Company Benefits Store – 4.6 carat treated Brazilian

Jewelry Television had a great pre-Valentine’s Day display out for Chamber members to browse as President and CEO Tim Matthews welcomed the crowd.

london blue topaz ring with diamond accents Marilyn Cobble, TSBDC – Cultured akoya pearl necklace Dan Rawls, BNI – Carved white mother of pearl necklace with 2.2 carat treated glacier topaz


Member MD Now More Accessible Than Ever After a monumental first year of its Chamber Member MD® program, the Knoxville Chamber is now expanding the reach of its proprietary business analysis tool to even more East Tennessee business owners. Now more can assess the strengths and weaknesses of their businesses. Chamber Member MD® is an online tool and questionnaire that helps business owners examine their organizations and identify areas that can be strengthened. The analysis focuses on five areas of importance – finance and operations,

awareness of technology, market and relationship building, personal and professional preparedness, and being politically informed. New this spring, the Chamber has partnered with a number of business coaches throughout the region who are also members of the Chamber. The partnership will allow the program to move from a one-on-one tool facilitated by Chamber staff to an online program that can help even more businesses in the area. “We want to help all the businesses, both member and non-members,” Mark Field, vice president of membership for the Knoxville Chamber, said. “In order to make sure we maximize the impact of the Chamber Member MD® program, we’ve solicited local business coaches who have a track record of success and have put this powerful tool in their hands.” Formally launched last March, Chamber Member MD® has already helped more than 100 businesses evaluate their structure, systems, market, and processes. Now, in the program’s second year, it’s going to become even more accessible. Chamber Member MD® will be fully available on the web, including the Chamber Member Rx®, the prescription to help businesses address areas of concern. To use the tool and see how healthy your business is, contact the Knoxville Chamber at (865) 637-4550.


Mentor/Protégé Program Graduates Its First Class The Knoxville Chamber’s one-of-a-kind Propel program celebrated the first class of Mentor/Protégé program graduates in February at a reception in the Chamber’s Market House room. Doug Minter, the Chamber’s business development manager congratulated Accord Federal Services, Always Moore Janitorial, and Quality Rx Returns

Jonathan Williams of Accord Federal Services accepts the Innovation Award. The business has also grown to Premier Partner status with the Chamber.

for their successful completion of the program and, more importantly, their success as small business in Knox County. Minter also welcomed the incoming class to the program and introduced the newest class of small business owners to their mentors. Since its start in 2009, Propel has helped small businesses create more than 50 jobs with an economic impact to the area more than $20 million.

Doug Minter congratulates Delnise Moore of Always Moore Janitorial. Moore’s business has grown to the point where it is now a Chamber Premier Partner. KNOXVILLE CHAMBER 53

Teresa Silva of Quality Rx Returns is also now a Premier Partner with the Chamber.

Monthly Economic Indicators

(January 2012)

NOTES - Knoxville MSA includes: Anderson, Blount, Knox, Loudon & Union Counties January & February labor estimates will not be released until March 2012

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

HOUSING MARKET % Change Dec. ’10Dec. ‘11

Dec. 2011

Nov. 2011

Dec. 2010

% Change Nov. ’11Dec. ‘11

238,030 373,860 3,099,800 153,373,000

238,430 374,040 3,118,800 153,683,000

234,710 369,480 3,059,000 153,156,000

-0.2 0.0 -0.6 -0.2

1.4 1.2 1.3 0.1

332,300 2,675,600

331,900 2,680,300

326,600 2,644,400

0.1 -0.2

1.7 1.2

Residential Closings Residential Inventory Median Residential Price

Annual 2011 9,386 37,943 $142,950

% Change Annual ’10Annual ‘11 -8.0 -12.4 -1.9

Annual 2010 10,133 42,653 $145,600

Source: Knoxville Area Association of Realtors

Non-Ag Employment Knoxville MSA Tennessee


Knoxville (City)

Total Single-Family Multi-Family

Annual 2011* 167 167 0

Annual 2010 842 192 650

% Change Annual ’10Annual ‘11 -404.2 -149.7 -100.0

Knox Co.

Total Single-Family Multi-Family

741 731 10

1,606 878 728

-116.7 -20.1 -7180.0

Knoxville MSA

Total Single-Family Multi-Family

981 971 10

1,926 1,198 728

-96.3 -23.4 -7180.0


Total Single-Family Multi-Family

12,812 10,169 2,643

14,607 10,153 4,454

-14.0 0.2 -68.5

Available Labor Knox Co. Knoxville MSA Tennessee

15,590 26,340 280,640

16,790 27,760 295,060

18,060 30,600 316,850

-7.7 -5.4 -5.1

-15.8 -16.2 -12.9

5.9 6.4 8.1 8.3

6.3 6.6 8.4 8.2

6.8 7.3 9.1 9.1

-0.4 -0.2 -0.3 0.1

-0.9 -0.9 -1.0 -0.8

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

Jan. ’11-‘12

Dec. ’10-‘11

Jan. ’10-‘11

3.3 2.9

3.4 3.0

1.8 1.6


% Change Dec. ’10Jan. ‘12

% Change Jan. ’10Jan. ‘12

-0.1 -0.1

1.5 1.3

*South – City Size Class B/C

*All 2011 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

SALES TAX REVENUE - STATE & LOCAL ($) State Sales Tax Knox Co. Knoxville MSA Tennessee

Jan. 2012

Dec. 2011

Jan. 2011

58,431,702 79,315,769 710,227,711

46,094,800 63,381,166 536,535,249

53,484,464 73,160,511 660,883,595

26.8 25.1 32.4

9.2 8.4 7.5

16,591,828 22,489,974

13,026,958 17,954,942

15,247,125 20,843,273

27.4 25.3

8.8 7.9

Local Sales Tax Knox Co. Knoxville MSA

% Change Jan. ’11Jan. ‘12

% Change Dec ’11Jan. ‘12


Passengers Cargo

Source: Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority

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

Nov. 2011 145,847 7,430,031

Jan. 2012 361,351 19,480 14,127 7,537 50,294 39,464 6,908 40,991 46,919 22,651 8,497 62,863 34,610

Dec. 2011 459,829 23,439 30,784 12,837 56,607 43,036 9,398 42,390 74,201 25,652 11,654 70,931 46,838

Jan. 2011 342,082 17,625 13,669 7,618 48,825 36,798 6,402 38,216 44,805 22,426 8,190 58,225 32,513

% Change Dec. ’11Jan. ‘12 -27.3 -20.3 -117.9 -70.3 -12.6 -9.1 -36.0 -3.4 -58.1 -13.2 -37.2 -12.8 -35.3





% Change Jan. ’11Jan. ‘12 5.6 10.5 3.4 -1.1 3.0 7.2 7.9 7.3 4.7 1.0 3.7 8.0 6.4 3.5

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


Oct. 2011 167,328 7,486,322

Nov. 2010 140,171 7,193,945

% Change Oct. ’11Nov. ‘11 -14.7 -0.8

% Change Nov. ’10Nov. ‘11 4.0 3.3

Chamber Hosts Senator Becky Duncan Massey es were taken care of,” Massey told Tennessee State Senator Becky Duna crowd of Chamber members. “I’m can Massey told Chamber members her really proud to be a part of a state first legislative session has offered few that does a good job of managing its surprises at a briefing event sponsored resources. I truly believe Tennessee by AT&T in late February. is in the top five in the nation when Massey is in her first legislative session it comes to fiscal responsibility and following a special election to fill Jamie management.” Woodson’s 6th District senate seat. Massey went on to say a recent The two women are rooming together in state report found in 2011 Tennessee Nashville while Woodson now leads the enjoyed the highest job growth of State Collaborative on Reforming Educaany of the past five years but that she tion (SCORE) and Massey experiences knew the legislature could do more to the state capital as a state senator. get the state economy cooking even The sister to Congressman Jimmy Senator Becky Duncan Massey poses with AT&T’s Alan Hill after the legislative briefing. AT&T graciously sponsored the event. more. Duncan touched on a number of issues You can find Senator Massey’s ranging from redistricting to the job entire briefing on the Knoxville Chamber’s YouTube channel. growth. Massey stressed she believes Tennessee is becoming a friendlier state for business while maximizing the resources available. Governor Bill Haslam’s proposed $31 billion budget is $1 billion lower than the current budget. Sponsored by: “I felt with the money he had he did a good job to make sure critical servic-

FIRST Robotics Showcases Students, Inspires Future Workforce Tim Sanderson’s FIRST Robotics experience all started with a forwarded email from his boss just like the emails being circulated by the Knoxville Chamber and other organizations right now. The competition, which pits high school students against one another in a robotics building competition, needed volunteers for the first-ever Smoky Mountain Regional in Knoxville. “I’d never heard about it until I got that email,” Sanderson said. “I started to do some research, looked on YouTube and everything online. I saw this and saw that it was teenagers doing robotics, the hydraulics, the pneumatics, and I thought ‘man, I’ve got to see this.’” A techie at heart, Sanderson signed up to help with the 2011 competition. He was immediately thrust into the middle of it all as a head referee. “It really gets electric, you’ve got six teams on the field at any given time. Of course, each team has their own group of people in the stands and they get to doing school cheers and singing songs and oh my goodness. It gets nuts, it really does.” While the atmosphere is one you won’t find anywhere else, it can’t happen without volunteers like Sanderson. In fact, the 41-year-old thinks so highly of FIRST, he travels outside his East Tennessee home region to volunteer at other regionals, like the one in Washington, D.C. But in early March, Sanderson will be at the Knoxville Convention Center with 57 teams all using robotics knowledge in competition against one another in the 2nd Annual Smoky Mountains Regional of the FIRST Robotics Competition. “FIRST is a great way to showcase what students can accomplish with skills in STEM and with mentorship from area STEM professionals. These students are our future workforce and are not only gaining critical skills for the workplace but are also developing a passion for learning and for STEM through this competition,” Jennifer Evans, the Knoxville Chamber’s vice president of workforce

development and education, said. That education component is clear to see, according to Sanderson. While walking through the pits, where students repair and reconfigure their robots, he says students interact more cordially than their adult counterparts in the working ranks while under This is the second year Knoxville will host the Smoky Mountains Regional as part of the national FIRST Ropressure and deadlines. botics competition. There will be 57 teams from as far “I have never, never in away as Canada competing at the Knoxville Conven20-plus years of doing tion Center March 2-3. what I do, I’ve never seen the level of cooperation and sheer respect for your peers that these high school students have for each other.” Getting students and the community excited about science isn’t something you see everyday, but Sanderson says it is something he believes will help techindustries in East Tennessee over the long-haul, and could encourage more students to pursue technical courses and careers. “Do I think it will help the workforce in the long run? Yes. In a very broad sense, yes,” he said. To find out more about the FIRST Robotics Regional or sign up to volunteer, please visit FIRST’s website at



Jim Branham President of Virginia College School of Business and Health

What’s The Big Idea?! Business Plan Competition Looks to Highlight Entrepreneurialism

As the president of Virginia College’s new Knoxville campus, Jim Branham brings two decades of military service with the United States Air Force and NATO along with nearly a decade working in higher education to Knoxville. Branham traded in a thrilling life of traveling across the European theatre of operations during the Bosnian conflict and providing operational support for airborne early warning surveillance missions for a life with a new thrill: changing students’ lives and working with local economic leaders to help supply the workforce they need to be successful. “If you would have asked me 10 years ago what do you see yourself doing 10 years from now, I wouldn’t have seen this,” Branham said. “I was intrigued by the whole thing, changing lives and everything that goes into what we do,” he said. After retiring from the Air Force, Branham landed a job as an admissions associate for a private college in Austin, Texas. It didn’t take long before management promoted him to director of career services, a position that had Braham working closely with the business community. “I really enjoyed it because I got to work with the employers who hired the graduates. It was refreshing to see that I could go back to the admissions folks and say ‘look, this stuff is really happening. These people are getting jobs and you’re changing lives. You’re doing what you’re telling these prospective students you’re going to do,’” he said. Eventually, Branham found his way to Virginia College where he’s helped introduce a number of campuses to new communities as the institution grows across the United States. The 22nd Virginia College campus is preparing to open in Knoxville, moving into what used to be a Kroger grocery store on Broadway in Fountain City. While Branham has been a new campus specialist of sorts, the Missouri native says he’s not planning to leave Knoxville anytime soon and East Tennessee is home. The formula that’s helped Virginia College grow into a national brand is the same strategy Branham brings to the Knoxville campus, including what he calls the “3 C’s,” commitment, communication, and career. In large part, success for Virginia College starts with the promise of a new career for prospective students and ends when that student crosses the graduation stage with a paycheck in that industry secured. “From day one, it’s always been about the student here at Virginia College. That’s the question you ask yourself no matter what you’re doing, what’s in the best interest of the student,” he said. While the college gets settled into the impressively renovated building, Branham is busy with the task of hiring nearly 100 faculty members. At home, the father of two and husband works to get himself settled in with eyes on joining the East Tennessee Military Affairs Council, economic development groups, and any other areas he sees a need, including work with the United Way. “I plan on being here as long as they want me here. We want to be a integral part of the community,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the change, the green grass, the mountains, and everything in the area,” he said. KNOXVILLE CHAMBER 56

Recognizing the importance of entrepreneurialism on the economic vitality of our region, The Development Corporation of Knox County, the Knoxville Chamber, and Tech2020 have partnered to present What’s The Big Idea?! a business plan competition. The winning entrepreneur could walk away with over $15,000 in capital, investment money, and services. “Entrepreneurialism is alive and well in the Innovation Valley and plays a key role in economic development and job growth,” said Todd Napier, executive vice president of The Development Corporation of Knox County. “This program is designed to bring attention to the entrepreneurial spirit and recognize those who have a great idea and just need a little help to get it off the ground,” he continued. Formerly known as the Fairview Business Plan Competition, in recognition of the Fairview Technology Center’s business incubator operated by The Development Corporation, this year’s competition has been rebranded and the Knoxville Chamber has been added as a partner along with The Development Corporation and Tech2020. “Getting involved with this program was a no-brainer for the Knoxville Chamber,” commented Lori Fuller, vice president of marketing and events for the Chamber. “Fostering entrepreneurialism is a key strategy in our goal to become America’s Best Business Address® and this program will help us identify and shepherd business concepts with growth potential.” Applications are currently available on The application deadline will be April 13. Twelve finalists will be selected from the initial pool of applicants and required to attend four “Idea Launch” seminars to help them write a formal executive summary for their business concept. Six semi-finalists will then have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges on May 24. Following that, three finalists will be identified to participate in the What’s The Big Idea?! finale event on June 14, which will determine the winner.

Chamber to Launch Business Roundtables for Second-Stage Entrepreneurs



The Knoxville Chamber is launching a new program to help second-stage businesses undertake the unique challenges that come after the start-up phase of the business cycle. Second-stage businesses are organizations that typically have 5 to 25 employees and more than $1 million in annual sales. These businesses have enough employees to exceed the comfortable control span of only having one person in charge and benefit from adding managers, but often don’t yet have a full-scale professional management team. “National data shows most job growth comes from established companies, so we need to be sure we’re doing everything we can to help these organizations overcome whatever challenges they are facing in their day-to-day operations,” Mark Field, the Chamber’s senior vice president of membership said. “I believe these business roundtables will help nurture our second-stage businesses into even larger, more successful organizations.” Stage 2 businesses are the largest employers in the country, according to the Edward Lowe Foundation. While they make up just 11 percent of the establishments in the United States, they account for nearly 36 percent of the nation’s jobs. It’s a logical step for the Chamber, which has seen tremendous success helping start-ups get off the ground. These business roundtables will help those organizations further build upon that success. The Chamber’s business roundtables, will follow a PeerSpectives format, putting 12 business leaders in a room together to discuss the challenges each one faces. The Knoxville Chamber will be the first economic development organization in Tennessee to offer the PeerSpectives style roundtable. The peer-learning format is different than seminars and other educational tools because it incorporates the knowledge of an entire group, allowing entrepreneurs to learn from one another’s successes and failures. The Kauffman Foundation, one of the world’s largest foundations dedicated to entrepreneurship found businesses in that second stage of growth learn best from their peers and find these individuals the most credible sources for information. “These business roundtables will allow businesses to get opinions from people who have been there. It’s really like having a dozen experienced, onthe-job-training consultants,” Field said. Earlier this year, the Chamber launched a beta-version of the program to see it in action and collect feedback from local entrepreneurs. “The feedback was incredible. All of the businesses that participated in that test roundtable rated it as ‘valuable,’” commented Field. With that positive feedback, the Chamber is moving forward to implement the program. Eligible businesses will receive invitations from the Chamber to take part in the monthly business roundtables. Kevin Kragenbrink, of Estrada Strategies will be trained in the PeerSpectives format by the Edward Lowe Foundation and will facilitate the monthly conversations. The $249 registration cost will cover one roundtable each month, breakfast at the meeting, as well as facilitator training. As the roundtables grow in popularity, the Chamber hopes to offer industry specific roundtables to allow more segmented conversations in areas like business services and light manufacturing.

NovaCopy is an award-winning copier and document solutions company providing customized office equipment, on-site services and workflow solutions to over 5,000 businesses throughout the United States. Recently opening a branch office in Knoxville, NovaCopy is not only recognized as Konica Minolta’s top color copier dealer in the U.S. and their fifth largest dealer in North America, but they are also known as a company that regards customer service as the key to success. “Our solutions and services are geared to help our Knoxville-area customers reach the next level, said NovaCopy President Benny Malicoat. “By providing a cost-effective and environmentally responsible approach to their unique business needs, simple solutions go a long way, especially when times are tough.” Armed with an in-house call center, staffed throughout the business week, NovaCopy ensures customers are top priority. “Good customer service is a lost art,” said Malicoat. “People often use technology as a barrier between themselves and the customer. At NovaCopy, we utilize technology to help our customers.” NovaCopy is proud to offer all its customers four-hour turnaround service and one-hour emergency service by certified technicians equipped with GPS allowing for timely and effective service delivery throughout the business day. NovaCopy recently earned Dealer of the Year honors from the Business Technology Association in part for their performance and customer service record. A leader in the B2B office technology world, NovaCopy’s document management solutions help improve organizational effectiveness by providing simple, yet comprehensive content management and enterprise search. Coupled with a powerful e-commerce supply solution, at, NovaCopy is truly a “one-stop shop” for any business seeking to enhance its bottom line. Another honor for the company is being named Tennessee’s only licensed reseller of 3D printers for 3D Systems (the leading, global provider of 3D print and rapid prototyping solutions). This printing technology can help save Knoxville-area manufacturers time and money. With NovaCopy’s help, Knoxville businesses can create intricately-detailed prototypes and end-user parts within hours, offering a competitive advantage as well as financial savings. Committed to the community, NovaCopy has worked to achieve a strong track record in each community they serve. Through its donated copier program, NovaCopy offers copiers to charities and non-profits. Hundreds of churches and start-ups have benefitted from the program to date. Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, with branch offices in Memphis, Jackson, Chattanooga, Dallas, and now Knoxville, NovaCopy can take your company to the next level making it more cost-efficient while at the same time giving you a more environmentally responsible approach to your office processes. Ask for your free cost analysis and two-week demo today, and easily choose the exact document solutions, equipment, accessories and software to meet your needs – within your budget. You can contact NovaCopy in Knoxville at (865) 243-2679 or visit them online at




New Member Reception 4 – 6 p.m. Knoxville Chamber, 17 Market Square

Sponsored by:

MARCH 15 a.m. Exchange at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame 8 – 9 a.m. 700 Hall of Fame Drive Sponsored by:

MARCH 27 Schmoozapalooza VI 4 – 7 p.m. Turkey Creek Public Market, 11221 Outlet Drive Showcase your business with a table, $200 for members and $300 for non-members Registration: $10 (Chamber members can save $5 by registering in advance) Sponsored by:

MARCH 28 Bright Ideas – Successful Surveys that Work

presented by Adam Weilbaecher and Cynthia Ward Hackney, Impact Associates 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. Knoxville Chamber, 17 Market Square #201

MARCH 30 Legislative Briefing - Featuring Representative Bill Dunn 7:30 – 8:30 a.m. Knoxville Chamber, 17 Market Square 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. KNOXVILLE CHAMBER 58