Honoring excellence

Blount partnership recognizes local business with awards breakfast

Gratitude was the attitude of the day this past Friday Oct. 22 when the Blount County Chamber Partnership handed out their Business Excellence Awards.

The winners recognized at the annual Business Excellence Awards breakfast gathered at the Airport Hilton and beamed with a mix of pride and enthusiasm at being honored.

Sara Hedstrom-Pinell of Hedstrom Design won in Minority/Woman Owned Business Excellence Criteria.

“I was really excited. I have a great team,” she said. “This award recognizes the whole team.”

LeConte Wealth Management and Boyd Thomas Clothing along with Above and Beyond Custom Interiors, Graphics FX and Lauderdale Design Group won in the Five Businesses under Five Employees Awards.

LeConte is owned by Kevin Painter and Hoy Grimm. “We’re so blessed. We work so hard through different markets to establish an independent office that provides our clients with wealth management advice,” Painter said.

Boyd Thomas Clothing is owned by Bill Womac. “It’s a pleasure and a privilege to be nominated for an award such as this,” he said. “It’s a nice accolade during such a difficult economy.”

Lauderdale Design Group is owned by Joy Lauderdale, who said she was surprised by the Five Businesses under Five Employees honor. “I wasn’t aware I was nominated,” she said. “It’s fantastic.”

The “Over 40 Entrepreneur of the Year Award” was for a business independently owned by one individual 40 or older who has been in business two years, demonstrates innovative marketing and business practices and demonstrates perseverance in establishing their business. The winner was Clint Allison of Rainscapes. “A lot of hard work goes into our business with our team of people and to see our organization recognized is very gratifying,” he said.

Two “Award in Innovation” honors were given. Criteria stated the winners must have developed technology, incorporated technology into a process, or utilized green technology as demonstrated by cost savings in utilities and/or process costs.

Winners were Butterfly Gap Retreat and the United Way of Blount County. Mandy Sitzler accepted on behalf of Butterfly Gap Retreat and Michelle Hankes accepted on behalf of the United Way of Blount County.

Sitzler said she and her family were very excited when told they had won the “Award in Innovation.”

“After six years of being in business, being recognized for being innovative, we were thrilled to be nominated,” she said.

Other individuals honored included:

Dean Zacharias, a Maryville High School student, was honored with the “Up and Comer” Award which went to a student who has participated and won recognition in business-related competition on a local, regional, or national level and presently attends a local high school, Pellissippi State, Maryville College, UT, or other local education institution. Dean Zacharias, a Maryville High School, won the award.

Dr. Chip Webb won the “Young Entrepreneur” Award. The honor went to an individual who was 40 or younger who had started a business and still owned 51 percent of it.

Blount Memorial Hospital won “The Captain’s Award”. Criteria stated the winner had to be a large business or industry with 500 or more employees. The winner had to show innovation in areas of professional development, social responsibility, support of community and chamber activities, and commitment to utilize local small businesses for resources. Administrator Don Heinemann accepted the award.

The “Extra Mile Award” went to BB&T Bank. Criteria state the winner had to be nominated by someone who had an experience with a business that was so positive that it left a memorable and lasting impression. Vice president Regina Jennings accepted the award.

“The Impact Award” was given to two winners, Impact Associates and Alcoa, Inc. Criteria stated the winners had business programs that included mentoring students, job shadowing, internship, professional development, team building, employee retention efforts, and work-school arrangements. Kathy Metts accepted on behalf of Impact Associates and Chris Jackson accepted for Alcoa, Inc.

Winners from Taste of Blount were also recognized.

Winners of other categories included: Appetizer - Laurel Valley Restaurant; Main Course -Lemon Grass; Sandwich - Full Service BBQ; Dessert - Kathy’s Deli; Beverage first place - McAlister’s Deli, Beverage second place - Vienna Coffee Company and Presentation - Puleo’s Grille. The theme for the 2010 event was “The Art of Food.”

Melinda Stewart, catering manager for McAllister’s Deli was thankful for the first place honor for Best Beverage during Taste of Blount. “We were excited. It was pretty awesome,” she said. “Everybody loves McAllister’s tea.”

Anthony DeFranco of Full Service Barbecue appreciated being recognized with “Best Sandwich” during Taste of Blount, because it meant his team’s effort paid off. “I wasn’t too surprised because we work really, really hard at what we do and put everything into it,” he said. “With our location lacking a lot of amenities, we have to produce the best product that we can and we do it day in and day out.”

Blount Partnership leaders shared organizational highlights from the past year.

Doug Horn, chair of the Chamber reported that despite a weak economy, the Chamber exceeded the 2009 national member retention rate by 6 percent. This is according to the chamber operations survey conducted annually by the American Chamber of Commerce Executives.

“We believe there are several reasons why we exceeded the national retention rate,” said Horn. “Every year we offer over 100 Chamber member networking and learning opportunities.”

The Economic Development Board echoed that despite a slow economy, Blount County has done better than most communities in terms of economic development. Recently, the Economic Development Board announced several new business opportunities. First Tennessee Bank announced plans to begin in-house management of its computer technology infrastructure, bringing 65 information technology jobs to Maryville. In August, the EDB announced the opening of the 450 acre Pellissippi Place Research and Development Park.

According to EDB Board Member Joe Dawson, “We just received word this week from TVA that one of the properties in Partnership Park South was selected, out of eighty sites, as one of 12 primary data center sites throughout the TVA service area.”

Chair of the Smoky Mountain Convention & Visitors Bureau Bryan Cable gave an update on tourism activities and the impact these activities have on Blount County. In 2009, $257.22 million was generated in tourist spending which produced $71.38 million in worker income and generated 2,832 jobs. Additionally, tourist activity created $9.20 million in local county tax revenues and saved each household in Blount County $900 in local and state taxes. These figures were recently released from a study conducted by the University of Tennessee.

“The activities and efforts of the Visitors Bureau directly support tourism spending in Blount County,” said Cable. “The CVBs’ activities attribute to increased tourist spending.”

This past year, the Chamber Foundation administered, mentored and coached 16 program partners such as: Primary Players, Empty Pantry Fund, Maryville Downtown Association, Fine Arts Blount, Kingdom Design Ministries, Newspapers in Education, Special Opps, Experience Your Smokies and the Farmer’s Market. Year-to-date, the Foundation has administered $305,841 in revenue and donations to support these program partners.

Most recently, the Martin Luther King Celebration Planning committee and the Foundation announced a new program called blountAchieves to help first-generation college attendees pay for their post-secondary education.

“This program will provide the opportunity for high school graduates to receive up to $3,000 annually for community college tuition,” said Sharon Hannum, Chair of the Foundation. “A student's total scholarship amount will be determined after all other sources of scholarships and financial aid have been awarded, and the money will be provided directly to the college.

To date, blountAchieves has received $45,000 in funding and has pledges for an additional $83,000 for future years.”

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