It started out as National Small Business Week, something established annually by presidential proclamation going back more than 50 years.
Seemed like a good idea. More than half of Americans either own or work for a small business. They create about two out of three jobs. The Small Business Administration promotes the celebration.
Then in the early 1980s, backed by the U.S. Travel Association, the government gave official sanction to National Travel & Tourism Week, recognizing an industry that annually generates more than $1 trillion today. Now the two celebrations happen the same week in early May.
Seemed like a good idea. The Blount Partnership thought so, too. Wednesday, on the terrace behind the Chamber of Commerce, was an opportunity to recognize both weeks together.
Bryan Daniels, president and CEO of the Partnership, noted as much at the gathering, saying the parallel weeks “fit perfectly into the fabric that is the economy of Blount County.”
And why not? Nearly 90% of the Blount Chamber’s membership and almost all the tourism-related commerce in the county is small businesses.
“I cannot stress enough how small businesses are vital to our county’s economy. Owners and employees of small businesses need the daily commerce where friends and neighbors buy and sell from each other. They need this to not only stimulate growth, innovation and offer new employment opportunities, but also to provide for their own families,” Daniels said.
Data from the Tennessee Small Business Development Center shows there are nearly 4,000 businesses in Blount. Tourism supports 3,500 jobs in the county with a payroll of just over $100 million.
Without the economic impact of $378 million in direct tourism expenditures in Blount County in 2017, Daniels said each county resident would pay $689 more in taxes.
In Blount, which is partially inside the most visited national park in America, small business and tourism are closely linked together and key to the quality of life. Celebrate them together? Seemed like a good idea.
Walk of Fame
On Wednesday, it was that and then some. Unbeknownst to the invited honorees, the partnership had installed stars into the chamber’s terrace with the names of five individuals who are the first group of lifetime Blount Chamber members. It’s called the Blount Partnership Walk of Fame.
Daniels said the partnership pondered for a long time how to honor and recognize individuals who had impacted the organization and also been major influences in the community. A small group within the partnership took on the task of making the selections.
“After some deliberation and a lot of good storytelling, they offered up five befitting names to comprise the inaugural class and afforded the status of Blount County Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Members,” Daniels said.
“These people have meant so much to our organization and this community over the last 50-plus years, that we felt it was time to make sure they were honored correctly.”
The first class
The inaugural honorees: Joy Bishop, Dick Ray, Marty and David Black, and Wilson Borden.
Bishop joined the chamber after she retired from a 30-year career in the U.S. Air Force, where she was the first woman to receive an appointment to the Senior Executive Service. In Blount County she started her own consulting firm, the Emerald Group, which helped underdeveloped countries. She has belonged to many organizations’ boards ranging from the Blount County Public Library to the Clayton Center for the Arts. She was named the partnership’s Philanthropist of the Year in 2012 and received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Philanthropy from the Tennessee Board of Regents.
Ray held management positions at a number of ALCOA Inc. locations and retired after serving 15 years as operations manager at Tennessee Operations. He was active as a member of the chamber and of the Blount County Industrial Board, longtime member of the Tennessee Board of Education, head of the Southeastern United States-Japan Association, a University of Tennessee Volunteer of the Year and the first member to the inducted into the Blount County Hall of Fame.
The Blacks are a husband-and-wife team inducted together. They have been active members of the community as small business owners with Kizer & Black Attorneys. Marty Black was a tenured professor at the University of Tennessee as well as an attorney practicing in areas of business entities, estate planning, estate administration and elder law. She organized and chaired the Blount County Foster Review Board, was director and president of the Blount County Children’s Home, provided legal organization for and was director of the Foothills Land Conservancy and served on the Maryville College Advisory Council.
David Black, who formed Kizer and Black Attorneys, served as an officer with the U.S. Army Security Agency, worked as a part-time assistant attorney general and practiced law in the areas of civil, business and estate litigation. He served as a director and vice president of the Blount Chamber, on the Industrial Development Board, chaired the Blount County Planning Commission and on the Tellico Reservoir Development Agency.
Borden was executive director of the Blount Chamber from 1963-70 and served as board chair in 1974. He worked in private business with the Bank of Maryville and Lawler-Wood. He assumed the lead role for Blount County United, which eventually became Blount County United Way. He also served on many boards, among them the Alcoa and the Maryville Kiwanis, Maryville School Board, Sam Houston Schoolhouse Memorial Association, East Tennessee Development District and more.