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Chamber reacts to Petersen visit

Chamber members were “impressed,” “pleased” and “interested” in topics University of Tennessee president Dr. John Petersen spoke about during the Farragut/West Knox Chamber Speaker Series Breakfast Tuesday, Aug. 23, at Fox Den Country Club.

Knick Myers, Myers Bros. Holdings and Chamber board member, said, “I thought he did a good job. He touched on where the university is going and where it’s been, and I think the emphasis on the strengths between Oak Ridge and the University of Tennessee, … on needs to be marketed out there how lucky we are to have such an incredible research institution in our backyard, especially for promoting new companies.

“I think he quoted that there were sixty companies [that] have spun out of Oak Ridge, and I’m not sure that he talked about the length of time, but I think it was a pretty short period of time they were referring to.”

Jimmy Matlock, owner of Matlock Tire, added he felt very positive about Petersen and the University of Tennessee’s influence on economic development.

“You know, anything that encourages more job development in East Tennessee, it encourages people who were born here to stay here, anything that brings the national attention to the Knoxville area, it’s got to be positive for all of us,” Matlock said.

Chamber president Bettye Sisco said she also thinks people are concerned about people staying in Tennessee, and knowing what Petersen is doing at UT is important.

“I think we’ve all had some concerns about wanting to have more people to stay in Tennessee and work in Tennessee and the more we can educate our adults, not just our youth, the more important it is [to inform people] what we have to offer as a town, as a community … .” Sisco said.

Matlock said, Petersen brings a positive image to UT.

“Well, obviously following the two men who were asked to leave, he has brought back respect to the office of presidency,” he said.

Sisco said, “I was very pleased to hear about the growth of U-T. The education level of the people entering U-T is very impressive.”

Myers said, “… you need somebody extremely stable, so it would be fine if we had somebody who kind of shocked us once in a while, but I think we’ve been there and done that and hopefully we don’t need to repeat ourselves.”

Myers added, “ … just as [State Sen.] Tim Burchett said, ‘You’re the most boring president we’ve had in a long time,’ and I think he meant that in a kind way …”

Although Myers, who is from Oklahoma and said he is a University of Oklahoma sports fan first with “Tennessee … a very, very close second,” said, “Pretty much when we first moved here and we were so heavily involved in the retail, it really had an impact in how profound an effect football has on this area and how strong University of Tennessee support is.”

However, Matlock said he was pleased to hear Petersen talk about women’s athletics at UT.

“I liked the fact that he talked about women’s athletics because that’s where we seem to be doing so much better than just a football team,” he said.

But Sisco said the most important thing Petersen talked about is working to meet three challenges from Gov. Phil Bredesen: to have an institution to rise to the top in research, an institution with good student retention and an institution with student access that allows students in Tennessee to stay in Tennessee and get jobs in Tennessee.

In addition to research, economic development and athletics, Matlock said he thought it was important that Petersen said UT gives Knoxville, a “small town,” a “large city feel” by having a symphony and an orchestra.

Alderman Dorothy “Dot” LaMarche said, “I’m very impressed by all the things he’s accomplished so far in just the one year that he’s been here.”

Myers added, “I have nothing negative and nothing that I would like to hear him say that he hadn’t already said.”


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