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West Knox connects to KCC

Tom Conaway, Farragut resident, was recently appointed as director of finance at Knoxville Convention Center.

Conaway, a certified public accountant and certified management accountant and graduate of the University of Florida, moved to Knoxville while employed by Comcast Cable. He worked for Comcast for 19 years, first as the regional financial planning and analysis manager for Comcast’s southeast regional office in West Palm Beach, Fla., and as director of business operations for Comcast’s Knoxville system.

In 2000, Conaway and his family were given the opportunity to move to Atlanta or Knoxville. They chose Knoxville.

“When we first moved up here, it was somewhat traumatic,” Conaway said. “The first year in Knoxville, I think my wife and family took a while to settle in. We missed Florida, but then we grew to love Knoxville and wanted to stay here.”

That next career move with Comcast probably would have taken the Conaways out of Knoxville. Oct. 22, 2007, Conaway joined the Convention Center. “We just really wanted to stay in Knoxville and thought that this move was better for that,” he said.

As financial director, Conaway is certainly kept busy. His job, he said, is to oversee anything and everything financial. “Everything touches the money, and therefore you end up involved in just about everything. It makes it interesting, but it keeps you hopping, sometimes a little too much,” he said.

When he first began working for the Center, Conaway had many questions about the Center’s financial position, specifically the fact that it does not generate revenue to equal its own expenses.

“While the Center does not net positive, the primary goal of the Center is to bring ‘economic impact’ to the city by bringing in people from out of town who come here to spend money and impact the tax base of the city. The data that I’ve seen shows that the Center’s been very successful from that perspective,” Conaway said.

Such data estimates that visitors to Knoxville who use the Convention Center spend $230 a day in hotels and at restaurants and attractions.

“I have seen the improvement in the numbers over the last five years. Again, I’ve only been here for three months, but looking over the history in the few months, I do see the positive improvement,” he said.

“The primary objective is to bring economic impact to the city; the secondary objective is to minimize the cost of running the Center. I think this group [of employees at the Center] has done both,” he added. Revenue per event at the Center continues to rise, at a rate of about 15 to 20 percent per year.

Conaway lives in Sweetbriar subdivision off Campbell Station Road. “We just found a home that we loved and a neighborhood that we thought was pretty nice. With the shopping and the schools, when you put it all together, we thought Farragut was a pretty good place,” he said.

“Being from West Knoxville, I was somewhat disconnected from downtown and everything in it, including the Convention Center.”

“That’s one of the reasons I took the job. I thought that the Center connects to so many of the major companies and at some point during the year, I think that everybody gets through here at some time or another,” he added. Conaway hopes to continue the Center’s tradition of connecting people from across Knoxville.


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