When the Greater Knoxville Business Journal’s annual list of “40 Under 40” was revealed in mid-December, five from Blount County were on the list.
The Business Journal is in its fourth year of honoring individuals under the age of 40 who are leaving their mark on East Tennessee through their professional achievements and philanthropic efforts. This year the number of nominations reached nearly 250. Judges winnowed the list with the aim of creating a diverse group representative of the many ways individuals make a living in our community and make our community a better place to live.
On Tuesday, Jan. 11, the 40 will be honored at a reception at the Knoxville Convention Center. The five honorees who either live, work or both in Blount County are profiled here today. The event is presented by the University of Tennessee Professional MBA Program. For a complete list, go to www.knoxnews.com/40-under-40/2010.
The profiles were written by Business Journal contributing writer Laura Ayo.
Eric Barton, 35 Chairman, Relyant
Eric Barton likes to talk and move fast.
“I love to be doing 40 things at once,” he says.
One of the reasons he stepped aside in November as president and CEO of Relyant is so he has more time to dedicate to other ventures, including a $6 million horse farm he operates in Lenoir City with his family, as well as an overseas training and manpower organization.
“I’ve got Relyant healthy and now I need to get these other companies built up,” he says.
As chairman of Relyant, a company that provides construction, spray foam insulation, life support, vehicle maintenance and a variety of other services to government and commercial clients in the Middle East and elsewhere, Barton will facilitate the board of directors’ long-range strategic planning.
“This is a way for me to not have to report every day to an office and be free to go wherever I’m needed most,” he says. “Our goal now is to diversify and work with other large businesses.”
He credits the leadership skills he developed while in the U.S. Marine Corps with helping him make Relyant a success.
In 2002, Barton traveled to Africa as a senior analyst for the Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa National Intelligence Cell.
“I was able to go into that part of the world and learn about it because it was my job, but I also learned about the people and the opportunities there for business and about a different way of life,” he says.
The experience, he says, changed his perspective and solidified his faith.
He learned of Americans for African Adoptions Inc. and later adopted two sons from Ethiopia through the organization, which he supports today as a board member.
He has returned several times, scouting out business opportunities and helping to remove more than 100 children and women from dangerous working conditions in a rock quarry last fall.
Barton, who holds four advanced degrees and several professional certifications, felt called to be a chaplain after his military tour. He moved his family to Atlanta to pursue a master’s of divinity from Columbia Seminary.
But with mounting bills to pay, he signed with a recruiting agency and went to Iraq in 2005. By 2007, he had teamed with colleagues to form Relyant and the company landed a $17 million vehicle maintenance contract. Contracts for relocatable buildings, spray foam insulation and demining services soon followed.
“Now it’s my turn to step away and start looking at it from a corporate health perspective,” Barton says of his new role. “The real test is long-term sustainability.”
Bryan Daniels, 38 President and CEO, Blount Partnership
Bryan Daniels draws on his experience in economic development for the state, private sector and local communities to help bring new businesses and jobs to Blount County.
“I’ve seen it from all three angles,” he says. “I understand what everybody’s values and their needs are.”
Daniels, named president and CEO of the Blount Partnership in December, believes the different perspectives have made him better at his job.
He credits his family with teaching him that hard work and an education could help him achieve his goals.
Daniels earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and communications in 1995 and a master’s in manufacturing engineering technology in 1997 from East Tennessee State University. He later obtained industry certifications, certified economic developer in 2005 and certified chamber executive in 2009.
“I never wanted to be in a situation where people were evaluating candidates and began to question, ‘Do they have the knowledge to do this job?’ “ he says.
After completing graduate school, Daniels worked for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s Industrial Training Service, helped municipalities in Virginia establish economic development programs and worked as a planner for Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon.
In 2001, he was encouraged to apply to become executive vice president of the Economic Development Board of Blount County, which along with the Blount County Chamber of Commerce, Chamber Foundation and Smoky Mountain Convention & Visitors Bureau, is housed in the Blount Partnership. After meeting Fred Forster, the partnership’s president, Daniels knew the move would be a good one. “There’s a lot of pride in this community in the partnership,” he says.
Daniels says Forster, who died in late November after battling cancer, “meant everything to me as a person, as a mentor in my career, and as a best friend.”
Daniels counts Denso’s expansion and the creation of Pellissippi Place, a regional technology research and development park, as among his proudest professional accomplishments.
“There are a lot of people, besides me, who have their hand in these projects,” he says. “We’re fortunate to have good people around who are trying to think outside the box about what we can do to take the economy forward.”
Tom Gallaher, 39 President and CEO, Gallaher and Associates
When Tom Gallaher was in high school and first began working for the company his father founded, his dad let him know he was going to be harder on his son than other employees.
“By design, he was going to be tougher on me than any individual that ever worked in the company with the intent of preparing me for the best and the toughest times that business presents and how to appropriately handle those through having experience in many different situations,” he says.
Roy Gallaher began transitioning his son to take over Gallaher and Associates a few years ago, and the younger Gallaher assumed the role of CEO in March.
Gallaher, who earned a bachelor’s of business administration in operations management from Virginia’s Radford University in 1993, started his full-time career with the company in sales. At the time, the firm primarily focused on fire alarm sales, installation and service.
Gallaher helped expand that focus so that today the company is a technology integrator that provides life safety, security, communications, audio-video and computer network infrastructure for commercial, health care and education markets.
“I would have never dreamed we would have grown to the size we are currently and that we would get the recognition that our company has gotten in the past few years,” he says.
Among its notable projects, Gallaher and Associates outfitted the audio-video equipment at the Clayton Center for the Arts and was responsible for installing the computer and telephone infrastructure, as well as a nurse call communication system, at Parkwest Medical Center during its renovation and expansion.
“The vision I have created for our company is to help our clients and the community we serve live safer and more enjoyable lives, and part of the reason why I worded it that way is I believe we, as a business, ought to serve our community and, as individuals within our business, we need to serve our community,” Gallaher says.
He has made it a priority to back up that vision with action.
He is chairman of the board of directors for Junior Achievement of East Tennessee, serves on the Knoxville Chamber’s Economic Development Committee and as a mentor in its small business protege program and UT career transition program and as president of the East Tennessee chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization.
“I’m focused on ways to be able to help others through there being more opportunities in East Tennessee,” he says.
David Schwall, 39 Vice president of marketing, Clayton Homes
A decade ago, Clayton Homes tasked David Schwall with figuring out how to use the Internet to better reach its customers.
“At the time, we had a website because you were supposed to have a website,” he says.
As the company’s new lead generation manager, Schwall read whatever he could find and talked to entrepreneurs about using websites to generate business.
“We had to start learning the Internet, how to advertise on the Internet, where to advertise and how to push this out to our home centers,” he says.
Schwall said he’s often been a part of new endeavors since joining Clayton Homes fresh out of East Tennessee State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in human resource management in 1996.
He credits company leaders with giving him the freedom in managing those initiatives. “If I had been micromanaged, I probably would not have done well or I would not have enjoyed it,” he says. “You can create your own success here.”
Schwall began as a loan auditor in the direct lending department, managing mortgage broker relationships and helping to establish a telemarketing department.
Promoted to lead generation manager in 2000, Schwall helped home center managers around the country understand how technology was changing the way customers shopped.
Under his direction, leads generated by the website accounted for 25 percent of Clayton’s retail business and the company launched a digital marketing strategy that included paid searches, banner ads and e-mail marketing campaigns.
“We were able to expand what we did and what we offered,” he says. “Now we can deliver much more rich content, more dynamic content because of newer technology.”
Schwall, who coaches youth sports and serves as treasurer of the Bennington Farrington Recreation Association, became vice president of marketing for Clayton Homes’ retail company in September. In that role, Schwall supports 365 retail home centers nationwide in a weakened housing market caused by tough economic times.
“We believe there’s blue sky out there for us,” he says. “Our 2010 sales are ahead of last year, so there’s a good foundation in place. We’ll keep promoting the Clayton brand and tell our story as we’ve done for years.”
Mary Beth West, 38Principal, Mary Beth West Consulting
When Mary Beth West works with new clients she makes sure the message they’re communicating to employees and customers aligns with their organization’s values.
“Where so many companies get off track with their public relations program is they say one thing publicly, but then the decisions they’re making, or their policies or business practices, clearly do not match up to the expectations they set up,” she says.
As a 16-year PR veteran active with the Public Relations Society of America, West works to promote the profession to business leaders as key to their companies’ success.
“Public relations is effectively managing your communications, your relationships and your reputation with every stakeholder group that constitutes your audience,” she says.
West worked in agency, corporate and banking roles before founding her own firm in 2003.
“Every organization is an open book now because of the Internet and social media,” she says. “The issue of transparency is one that not only PR professionals have to be focused on, but all areas of management have to be focused on.”
In 2010, West partnered with Tori Rose of Blue Media Boutique to launch Interactive Springboard to provide specialized services in online and social media research, relationship management and evaluation.
In October, the PRSA recognized West for her outstanding contributions to public relations education by presenting her with the David Ferguson Award.
In addition to co-founding the PRSA’s New Professionals Group, West was a founding donor for two PR scholarships at UT and has been appointed national co-chair of Champions for the Public Relations Student Society of America. She also leads two Girl Scout troops
“This is such a dynamic profession, and it’s changing at a meteoric pace,” she says. “I think it is going in a very positive direction.”