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Town Economic Development Committee fields grant requests

Farragut’s Economic Development Committee heard from two community grant applicants representing business associations — one a start-up and one long established — the Farragut Business Alliance and the Farragut West Knox Chamber of Commerce.

The EDC was hearing presentations from applicants whose projects had economic impact, with the intent to make recommendations to Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen. But the EDC didn’t take a vote Thursday; recommendations were put off until the EDC’s meeting Wednesday, June 2.

“Our strength has always been in the town of Farragut and it always will be,” Chamber president and CEO Bettye Sisco told EDC members.

“Our membership is stretched into both places — Farragut and West Knoxville,” she added.

Sisco estimated that, of the Chamber’s 650-business membership, about 33 percent are businesses in Town limits.

Tonya Vest, Chamber Board vice chair, told EDC members, “The percentage of Farragut businesses [that are members of the Chamber] don’t show the people who live here, shop here and spend money here.”

In addition, the Chamber holds multiple events in Town, including its annual 5K run/walk, new member orientation and most speaker series breakfasts.

“That is doing economic development. That is helping Farragut businesses,” Sisco said.

Sisco is requesting $15,000 from the Town: money she said would be used for events, Chamber programs and for replacing outdated computer equipment at the Chamber offices.

EDC Chair Jim Holladay asked Sisco what percentage of her income came from the Town grant, which in the past several years always has been at the $10,000 mark. Sisco wasn’t sure, but estimated it to be about 3 to 4 percent.

Bill Johns, EDC member and owner of Bluewater Consulting, asked Sisco why the Chamber had changed its name to incorporate “West Knox.”

“I’ve been with the Chamber 10 years and it’s taken me nine-and-a-half to get that answer,” Sisco said.

According to her, the Chamber Board voted to change the name before her tenure — and they did so without a Town representative present.

“That was a mistake, in my opinion. … But they just wanted to reach further. They wanted to get more membership,” Sisco said.

David Purvis, founder of Farragut Business Alliance, is requesting $8,500 from the Town: $4,000 to help the FBA continue to establish itself as a non-profit; $2,500 for the Red, White & Blues event July 2; and $2,000 for economic impact ads to run during the Buy in Farragut campaign.

“We’ve asked for $4,000 to help get us started,” Purvis explained.

“We really feel like we’re getting momentum … it’s all volunteer work; we don’t have a staff,” he added.

The Business Alliance is a merchants’ association, Purvis said, and the group is planning to have several events each year to spotlight Farragut businesses — Taste of Farragut; Red, White & Blues and a spring arts event.

“We want to do a lot of things in the community to keep people engaged. When you do things like this, you realize how much people want that, that entertainment,” Purvis said.

Johns pointed out to Purvis that he needed to establish a Board and adopt by-laws; Purvis said he was in the process of doing just that.

“I think you have a lot of momentum and that’s good,” Johns said.

Johns also pointed out the overlap between the EDC, the Chamber and the Business Alliance. Several EDC members also are members of the FBA, the Chamber, or both.

“Eventually, everyone’s going to be in the same house,” Johns said.

“There will be one brand and one Farragut out there eventually. There will have to be.

“That’s not a concern or a challenge … but something we need to keep in mind. With limited resources, we need to get the biggest bang for our buck,” he added.

Town Administrator David Smoak agreed.

“All three [groups] need to work together for the betterment of Farragut,” he said.

The EDC does not decide which requests get funded and which don’t; they make recommendations to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, which makes final decisions.


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