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Meeting planners visit Farragut

Meeting planners from across the country converged on Knoxville over the weekend for a FAM, or familiarization, weekend, sponsored by Knoxville Tourism and Sports Corporation in cooperation with Farragut West Knox Chamber of Commerce.

The FAM theme was “Look What’s Cooking in West Knoxville,” and the three-day event introduced meeting planners to the hotels and meeting venues in West Knoxville and Farragut.

“We bring meeting planners in from all over the world to familiarize them with our city,” said Linda Milan, senior sales manager for KTSC.

“We wanted to focus on West Knoxville so the meeting planners would know that there was an area of Knoxville that could easily [hold] small meetings. So our focus was groups of 200 [or less] that would need limited meeting space,” she added.

About 16 planners attended the weekend event. The attendees stayed in West Knoxville hotels and toured Farragut Folklife Museum, Regal’s Pinnacle Theater and other West Knoxville landmarks.

“We were just talking about, even if you live in the area, there’s so much growth in the area, there’s a lot that you don’t realize is here,” said Becky Byrd, with Fresenius Medical Care.

Angela Fincher, an ORNL employee, said, “people prefer meeting in West Knoxville because it’s between Oak Ridge and the airport.”

Jean Strauber, travel editor for Government Center Gazette and Van Nuys News Press, traveled to Knoxville from Encino, Calif.

“I was here earlier this year with a public relations [event] and I loved it so much that when this invitation came, I said ‘yes’ immediately,” she said.

After breakfast at the Chamber building, Michael Bates, of Southern Home Development, Inc., presented the plans for Downtown at Farragut.

“We have lots of great businesses and lots of wonderful people who live here from all over the country and the world,” Bates said.

“As a developer, as a builder and as a homeowner [in Farragut] what we have thought all along is that we were kind of missing something here in the Town, and that was a sense of place, of true identity,” he added.

Bates explained the process of acquiring the land, located off Kingston Pike and adjacent to Kohl’s department store, and of deciding how to use it.

“The property is so unique: it has natural, cultural and historic qualities … It needed something other than another strip center or another big box retailer,” Bates said.

The result was the Downtown development, with “a nostalgic Main Street feel.”

Attendees were impressed by the development’s pedestrian friendliness and unique design.

“I want to live here,” said Rosa Lee Merritt, with Fresenius Medical Care.

“We’re bringing the communities back together,” said Deborah Bradley, with U.S. Department of Labor.

“I think any of you who have any interest in this area will find this very exciting and something of great interest … and we ask you to share the wealth and share this with anyone else who might be interested,” said Chamber president, Bettye Sisco.

“It’s going to be really a very, very positive thing for our community,” she added.

Knoxville Tourism plans to continue to have a West Knoxville FAM weekend every fiscal year.


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