Recognizing winners

Chamber celebrates 90 years with look back at Blount County history

The county’s first industrial recruiter went out on his own and landed a big catch - Pittsburg Reduction Co., the company that would one day become Alcoa, Inc.

Maryville City Manager Greg McClain told those gathered for the Blount County Chamber of Commerce annual meeting at the Hilton that in 1907 most folks weren’t too happy with Sam Everett for bringing the big company to town.

They wanted to tar and feather him, McClain said.

The Maryville City manager was the keynote speaker and master of ceremonies for the annual meeting and banquet of the Blount County Chamber of Commerce. The event recognized incoming and outgoing board members and presented the Business Excellence awards. The Maryville City manager said up until the early 20th century, much of the Blount County economy was still based on farming. “In 1902, there are six cotton mills along the river, and there were 275,000 acres of farm land,” he said. “Virtually all the county was a farm. Up until that point things had remained the same, but things were about to change.”

In 1907, Everett was a Maryville businessman who realized there was opportunity with a company that was looking to locate in the area to build aluminum. “He took money out of his own pocket to chase a company – Pittsburg Reduction Co. He decided he was going to bring them home. So he got on a train and went to Pittsburg,” McClain said.

McClain said Everett, a smooth talker, was the area’s first industrial recruiter. But when he returned home, newspaper accounts tell that residents were upset with McClain and the big fish he brought home because it was going to cause so much change. “When he got home he realized the people didn’t want the plant,” McClain said.

The City Manager said Everett’s work left a positive impression because of how integral Alcoa, Inc., has become to the local economy. “They have become such an important part of this community,” he said. “It changed the whole community.”

When the Alcoa plant did come to town, they wanted to be in control of their own destiny. “The plant did not feel the county was doing anything for them. They wanted to incorporate and pay taxes to themselves,” he said.

J. Walker McMahan was a state senator and had worked for Alcoa, Inc., in 1919. He introduced legislation that enabled the town to incorporate. All the planning was done in secret. “Everyone thought the company was incorporating in Calderwood when actually the area being incorporate was North Maryville,” he said. “They did the survey of the boundaries in the dead of night.”

When the incorporation happened, it caused a rift. “Maryville was upset, and Alcoa was gloating,” McClain said. It was at this point business people and civic leaders said a Chamber of Commerce was needed, said McClain.

McClain said the Chamber has played a key role in the community in its 90 years. It brought industry to the region and progress we had never seen,” he said.

“We’re glad to celebrate that this chamber is 90 years old. That’s a great accomplishment,” McClain said. “The Kiwanis Club formed the chamber in 1920. There were 52 members. We’ve come a long way.”

Originally the founders encouraged members to always be active as boosters in the community. “It is going to be a live chamber … not built on hot air,” McClain said of how the organizers set up the first chamber.

“As you see, the legacy is here today. We’re here to celebrate a spirit of cooperation and working together,” he said.

The city manager said that in 2010, there are 1,367 businesses or individuals represented in the Chamber. “The Chamber was relevant in 1920, and it is relevant today. It ties the community together. The caring this community has, you can’t put a price tag on it,” he said.

Doug Horn, the incoming chair of the Blount County Chamber of Commerce, praised outgoing chair Bill Marrison for his service and volunteerism to the community. Horn said the Chamber will continue in the coming year to offer valuable resources to businesses and the community. “We’ll look for opportunities. We’re committed to making Blount County a better place to live, work and play,” he said.

Chris Gamble of Database Consultants took home honors as the Chamber’s Ambassador of the Year. McClain praised Gamble in his role as a go-between with the chamber and the 1,300 members. “I don’t know if I can say enough about how important these individuals are,” McClain said.

McClain said the Above and Beyond Award recognized someone who went beyond the normal requirements of being a Chamber board member, calling on new prospects, encouraging inactive members and representing the Chamber at ribbon cuttings and other events. “This is someone who has done a great job,” he said before presenting the award to Blount Today publisher Sherri Gardner Howell.

The Dean Stone Excellence in Tourism Award went to Bob Sullivan of BankEast for his contributions to tourism. Sullivan was instrumental in forming the first Blount County tourism commission and also served as a board member for ten years. He has also been a member of the Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

Taking home the top Business Excellence Award was First Tennessee Bank, which won in the Service category and the overall top award. Winner in the Retail category was Capitol Theatre. Newell Rubbermaid won in the Manufacturing category and Maryville Alcoa Blount County Parks and Recreation won the Non-Profit/Governmental category.

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