Business Briefs:

Pickard Distributing Company receives award
Community Coffee Company honored Pickard Distributing Company with the "Certified Distributor of the Year" award for 2006. The award was presented at a special dinner held in Maryville, Tennessee, at Ruby T’s, part of the Ruby Tuesday® family, a partner with Community Coffee Company. Attendees to the event included Pickard Distributing Company owners Oakie and Ozella Pickard.

"Pickard Distributing Company is an outstanding partner," said Ron Mannino, General Manager of Business Development for Community Coffee Company. "We are pleased to present this award of excellence to Pickard Distributing, and we are very impressed with the company’s quality and representation of the Community Coffee brand."

"We are honored to receive this annual award from Community Coffee Company," said Oakie Pickard, owner of Pickard Distributing Company. "Our partnership with Community Coffee Company has provided us with the opportunity to reach our company goals and demonstrate our dedication to quality, service and strong partnerships."

Pickard Distributing Company, based in Knoxville earned this honor by accomplishing the largest annual volume increase in coffee and tea products distributed. In addition, it has successfully converted its fleet and café equipment to the Community® Coffee brand while achieving excellence in customer service.

Citigroup provides grant for environmental education
Citigroup Financial has directed a $3,000 grant through its foundation towards arts and science programs in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The money will go to Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, a residential environmental learning center located within the national park. Tremont has been providing the park with environmental education programs for nearly 40 years.

This grant from Citigroup helps Tremont to provide opportunities for students and teachers to have hands-on science and cultural arts experiences with guest performers and scientists. "The arts and science are both important vehicles for teaching kids about the Smokies," said Jeremy Lloyd, naturalist and arts programmer at Tremont. "Our ultimate goal is teaching kids the importance of conservation. We do that through connecting them to nature in a direct way and providing enriching interactions with local artists and scientists."

The funds provided by Citigroup will help defray the cost of schools wishing to host artists and scientists during their stay at Tremont. Many artists and scientists live in the Maryville or Knoxville area and are experts in their field.

"The arts, especially through song and story, can give students a strong sense of place," adds Lloyd. "Not to mention the added benefits of helping them do better in school, which multiple studies reveal the arts can do.

"When kids see live musicians, or a storyteller, or an expert who shares live predators with them, they think, ‘That’s what I want to do.’ All kinds of possibilities they never dreamed of before open up to them."

Such exposure to experts helps teachers as well, providing methodologies they can take back to their classroom at the conclusion of their trip to Tremont.

According to Ken Voorhis, executive director, "Organizations that invest an interest in environmental education is a great investment because it continues giving long after the experience."
For more information please visit www.gsmit.org.

Caughron named Director of Financial Services
City Manager Greg McClain announced the restructuring of the City of Maryville’s Finance Department. McClain stated the City’s Finance Department will now be known as the Financial Services Department. In addition, he announced that 28 year veteran Debbie Caughron will head the department as Director of the Financial Services.

"The decision to promote Assistant Finance Director and City Recorder Debbie Caughron to the position of director is a perfect fit for the City. She has a wealth of knowledge not only in the operations end but also is outstanding in handling the wide variety of financial issues within the department." He added, "Debbie’s 28 years of experience will also be a great asset to us Citywide since the Financial Services Department handles the purchasing and accounting for all our departments." Caughron’s responsibilities will be to oversee the operation of the Financial Services Department including the finance manager, collections, purchasing, accounting, property and business taxes, and beer and liquor licenses. In addition, she will continue in her role as City Recorder.

Caughron was hired in 1978 as an accounting clerk and promoted to accounting technician in 1981. She was named assistant finance director in 1991 a position she held until being named Director of Financial Services. She received certification as a municipal clerk and recorder in 1998 and was named Clerk of the Year in 2003 by the Tennessee Association of Municipal Clerks and Recorders representing her outstanding efficiency within the City of Maryville Finance Department.

A graduate of Everett High School, Caughron received training in bookkeeping and accounting at the State Vocational-Technical Training School. She is a member of and plays the organ at Hillcrest Baptist Church. She and her husband, Phil, have one son, Justin.

Scooter Clippard leaving FirstBank posts
Scooter Clippard, formerly of Knoxville and Maryville, is stepping down as chief development officer and chairman of advisory boards for Lexington, Tenn.-based FirstBank, effective on Feb. 15.

Clippard is leaving his positions to focus on fundraising for the Center for Living and Learning, a Williamson County facility dedicated to treatment of individuals with severe mental illness.

He will remain as president of the Ayers Foundation, founded in 1999 by FirstBank chairman Jim Ayers to support a wide range of causes aimed at improving the quality of life in Tennessee communities, with a special emphasis on education.

"Scooter Clippard has played an instrumental role in FirstBank’s growth over the past eight years in terms of business development and our branch office expansions, and I appreciate his contributions," Ayers said. "I look forward to our continuing to work together at the foundation."

Clippard and his wife, Fran, co-founded the Center for Living and Learning in 1987, and each year they host a golf tournament to raise funds for the center. Clippard said he will be launching a capital campaign for the Center this spring to
fund an expansion of services.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed my eight years with FirstBank and look forward to continuing my work with the Ayers Foundation while also being able to devote more time to the Center," Clippard said.

Low-interest housing loans available in Blount County
Rural Development Area Director Jerry Amonett today announced a Housing Fair to help eligible families and individuals achieve the dream of homeownership in rural areas of Blount and the surrounding counties. The Housing Fair will take place from 9 - 11:30 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 17, in Room 315 of the Blount County Courthouse, 341 Court Street.

"This is an opportunity for local residents to learn about technical and financial assistance available through Rural Development and our partner agencies to help families and individuals own their own home or make needed repairs to one they already have," Amonett said. "We look forward to visiting with members of the community and explaining the step-by-step process to help them achieve the American Dream for themselves."

Eligibility for assistance is based on family income and varies by county. For example, a four person household living in Blount County with an adjusted household income up to $43,850.00 may qualify for a low interest home loan through Rural Development. This Housing Fair is an opportunity for those interested to receive face-to-face help in calculating their adjusted family income and completing the application process.

Rural Development’s housing programs are designed to increase homeownership by assisting eligible families and individuals in purchasing or building a home in rural areas of Tennessee. Loans may be made without a down payment, and eligible applicants may qualify for loan financing up to 100 percent of the appraised value. Depending on an applicant’s income, interest can be as low as one percent. Loans are typically made for 33 years at a fixed interest rate, with a maximum loan amount of $128,400. Monthly payment assistance is also available for those who qualify.

USDA Rural Development is committed to the future of rural communities in Tennessee by providing financial and technical assistance through housing, community and business development programs. In Fiscal Year 2006 Rural Development assisted more than 467,575 Tennessee families and businesses with more than $288 million in financial assistance through loans and grants. For more information on homeownership or business development programs available in Blount County, contact the Rural Development Area Office in Knoxville at 865-523-3338 ext 4 or call toll free at 800-342-3149. Information
is also available online at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/tn.

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