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Former mayoral candidate addresses area ranking

Former mayoral

candidate addresses area ranking

I would like to offer a couple of insights to the “Our View” piece on Knoxville’s recent ranking, “Innovation Valley,” and Farragut: Knoxville will always be ranked high on most “good to do business” types of lists but they do not offer a complete snapshot of our local economy. The attributes that help Knoxville remain on these lists are: 1) Stable workforce / low unemployment (due to large amount of those employed with the government or its contractors such as the DOE, UT, TVA, etc.); 2) Centralized location (I-40, I-75, and I-81); 3) Low cost of living; 4) Low cost of doing business (low taxes and the low cost of employing personnel when compared to other cities — people “settle” on salaries and opportunities in our region in exchange for a better quality of life); and 5) Outstanding quality of life.

As a member of the KOIV branding team, when we developed the “Knoxville - Oak Ridge Innovation Valley” brand, it was to bring attention to our area (16 county region) to outside businesses / organizations and to the internal stakeholders of the region. This brand is supported by the Jobs Now! program and is implemented by three key partners (Oak Ridge chamber, Knoxville chamber, and the East Tennessee Economic Develop-ment Agency).

Farragut is not a supporter of Jobs Now! and historically has not participated in these key initiatives, meetings and/or activities.

The Farragut/West Knox chamber has done excellent work in membership recruitment and offering innovative activities.

Farragut does not have “property/zoning” for manufacturing plants, distribution operations and/or proving grounds (which we all support); however, Farragut does have the capability of having “office” solutions.

This leaves an opportunity for shared service operations (customer service, call centers, insurance, financial, etc.). These types of organizations that are recruited by economic developers are generally large enough to employ large numbers of employees and are eligible for incentive packages by local and state economic development organizations. Examples of this would be the Talbot’s and Marriott support centers off Pellissippi Parkway.

There may be some opportunities for Farragut with some of the office zoned areas on Parkside Drive and/or with the former Kmart building. The Kmart building could benefit such as how Knoxville has benefited from the local Ed Financial (student loan) business. Ed Financial has expanded quite a bit over the years and moved into the former unoccupied Sports Unlimited building on Kingston Pike. In recent years, it has grown and is currently occupying more of the vacant shops, etc. that are in the shopping complex.

As a former homeowner’s association president of this community and another, neighborhoods adjacent to office and commercial property sites should be concerned about such developments and spend time doing due diligence. No one wants “big box” retail next door, however, even large office buildings/complexes can be a nuisance to neighborhoods. Many neighborhoods welcome office over retail developments but later find that some of the tenants are operating 24 hours a day, are operating small laboratories (medical support) with bio-hazards and/or operating questionable businesses. Many of these complexes/office buildings also have a large silhouette and are lit up throughout the night.

On another note, office does not provide much direct financial benefit to a community as retail. Banks, offices, churches, professional services (accountants, attorneys, consultants, engineers, doctors, dentists, etc.), hospitals and not-for-profits do not provide direct tax revenue (sales tax) to the local economy.

Farragut has limited land resources and is very dependent on retail (sales) tax. A strategy for Farragut and the town’s financial wellbeing would be to have low impact, tax generating and upscale retail establishments (eateries, shopping and speciality stores). These businesses provide sales tax, are low impact on the environment, are subject to more regulation (hours of operation) and are key in building a positive brand while maintaining high community standards. Much of the Bearden area is being revitalized to fit this model and Farragut can do it too! There are plenty of opportunities for such organizations along Kingston Pike. By focusing on these types of establishments, Farragut would rank high as a good place to shop and this would in turn directly help our local tax base. That is good business and it would also improve the ranking and perception of Farragut as a good place of establishing successful businesses.

Bill Johns

Bluewater Consulting



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