January 15, 2014

This article originally appeared in the Knoxville News Sentinel on Jan. 5, 2014.

By Carly Harrington

Many Knoxville business leaders expect new year to bring growth, improved economy

The News Sentinel asked businesses to reflect on the past year and share their goals for the new year. Here’s what a few of them said (Comments have been edited for length and clarity):

Archer Bagley, Archer’s BBQ

We completely changed our concept with the opening of our commissary kitchen. That’s been the key to everything we’ve done. It allowed us to open two new restaurants this year in Karns and Powell, bringing our locations to three.

Our plans going forward are to open two or three more stores in 2014. I would like to even expand this to outside of Knoxville. We’ve had some stumbles along the way, but we have a great concept that’s easy to run.

We’ve grown in spite of the economy. I’ve done this for three years now, making freshly prepared, made-from-scratch food. We try our best to serve the best food we can, and I think that puts us in a unique class. We’ve got some good folks with us.

Michael T. Strickland, CEO, Bandit Lites

2013 was a banner year for Bandit, with growth in all areas. The world has “come out of its’ shell” and things are very bright!

Bandit is rolling out a new LED Sports Lighter in partnership with LED North America, and this promises to be a global game changer. We are very excited about this opportunity. We are also moving further into the music festival scene and into other new areas. We anticipate a 20 percent growth in 2014 in our current core business. We are well into making a strategic acquisition that should be announced in the first quarter. All in all, the world is good at Bandit!

Unlike others companies that may have slowed down because of the economy, Bandit was not encumbered with large debt and did not work in market sectors that were depressed. Most of the Bandit client list were “A”-list artists that continued to do well.

(In 2013) we marked many successes, including our 45th anniversary. We took part in a number of festivals (CMA, Bonnaroo, NASCAR Awards) and lit “America’s Got Talent.” We were the exclusive rental partner of Parasol Systems moving truss system and named the Parnelli Awards Lighting Company of the Year.

Gary Watlington, founder/owner, FireProof Safety Solutions

2013 was definitely a defining year for my business; it was the beginning of my venture into the small-business world. There were, and still are, many challenges I need to overcome — like marketing, PR, funds — along with changing people’s reactive knowledge to proactive knowledge. The exciting part is that even though they may seem small, I was able to meet my objectives by getting to teach and give people information that may save their lives.

My goal for 2014 is to educate and teach families, communities, groups, and more about the importance of home fire safety and prevention with our fire safety presentation. I am also promoting the importance of knowing how to use fire extinguishers, the one thing that the majority of people have but are unaware how to accurately use it in the event of a fire emergency. We are now able to teach actual hands-on extinguisher training in the comfort of one, s home or business with our LED training prop.

Frankie Padilla, Frankie’s Body Shop

We are proud to say that we have not stopped growing since we opened our doors for business back in 2009. This past year, we have been very blessed, as we have quadrupled our square footage to 7,000 square feet as well as added locker rooms with showers. We continuously upgrade our equipment so our members and clients can always find exactly what they need.

This is the year we opened our gym to the public by selling no-contract memberships. We also added three additional experienced trainers, which brings us to 11 to chose from. .

Lee Ann Furrow Tolsma, President, Furrow Automotive

It’s really energizing to see people starting to feel more confident about the economy. We felt it in 2013, as people were willing to invest back into themselves by getting behind the wheels of our luxury auto brands more than ever before, both here and in Chattanooga.

Now we’re excited about getting ready for a 2014 where we know we have to deliver a more distinct experience than ever for our clients and to get more creative about how we partner with the communities we’re blessed to be a part of.

Debra Dylan, Editor/Writer, KnoxZine

In May 2013, Nolichucky Pictures, an award-winning local cinematic media company, launched, an online magazine celebrating better living in Knoxville. KnoxZine explores the quirky side of Knoxville through original stories and videos about local unsung heroes and hard-core hobbyists; social issues through personal narratives; and thought-provoking entertainment for curious individuals seeking inspiration and motivation through adventures in travel, arts and culture, volunteering, and more.

Our seven months in business have been amazing. In 2014, KnoxZine will partner with Reseeding Grassroots, a Knoxville not-for-profit. We will work together to try to bring urban fish farming to a local farm/nature facility. The goal is to teach others how to raise clean fish in a rubber-ware pond as a protein source for supplemental nutrition.

KnoxZine’s goals for 2014 also include hiring more local artists and becoming more interactive with its audience by hosting events that will bring KnoxZine subjects and fans together to create something positive.

Jason Brooks, President/CEO, LDA Engineering

Founded in 1982, Lamar Dunn & Associates Inc. has a 30-year reputation of civil and environmental engineering innovation in East Tennessee and around the world. In that time, the firm has grown from a one-man shop to include 16 licensed engineers in three offices throughout Tennessee.

In 2013, we realized our branding needed an update to accurately reflect our company’s significant growth. Lamar Dunn & Associates Inc. re-emerged as LDA Engineering, created a new logo, and launched a website and blog that showcases the firm’s greatest strength — its people.

LDA Engineering’s diverse and talented engineers have always been a major part of our brand. In 2014, we look to continue to build on this branding to place our personnel in the spotlight with clients and in the community.

Dawn Steimer, CEO, Master Custom Home Remodeling

I think 2013 has proved that Knoxville weathered the economic downturn better than most areas of the country. We have seen our neighbors look for practical, efficient and innovative ways to improve their home — looking to the future. Our year was filled with internal team growth and learning myriad new techniques and products to improve options for customers.

As I look toward 2014, I am excited that we will offer expanded opportunities for public education — helping those interested in a project learn how to make the most of it. The LIRA (Leading Indicator for Remodeling Activity) is predicting a 60 percent growth for the upcoming year, and we have seen the momentum beginning to build this last quarter. It is going to be a great year for us and our customers — I am sure.

Andy Lorenz, Vice President, Messer Construction Co.

As an employee-owned company, Messer Construction Co. places its staff, their families, and the communities where they live and work at the highest priority. In 2013, we were looking for a way to become even more involved in Knoxville nonprofits.

Messer licensed and organized “Holiday Canstruction,” an art exhibition and competition of massive can structures built by local teams of architects, engineers and construction companies. All food was donated to Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee.

The event accomplished all of our goals. It raised awareness for East Tennessee hunger and for Messer, provided a team-building experience to employees, created closer partnerships with local architects and engineers, and provided nearly 6 tons of food to Second Harvest.

In 2014, we look to build on the inaugural year’s success to increase the number of participants and the amount of food donated from Canstruction.

Mark Nadolski, Owner/General Manager, Russell’s Pest Control

2013 was a year of exciting change for us. We brought new expertise to our team and have successfully executed our strategic plan for strong growth — especially during the last half of the year. We could have hidden under our rock and waited for the sun to shine again, but we chose to believe in our plans, the economy, and this terrific community in which we live and work.

We expect great things in 2014. We have additional eco-friendly methods and certifications on the horizon and are confident we can deliver an even higher quality service than ever before. We are committed to meeting our customers’ needs consistently as we grow. I think 2014 will set the stage for a new era for our company while staying committed to our vision, mission and culture.

Jacob Timmons, Founder/President, S.D. Professionals

We’re a multimedia/digital marketing firm based in Sevierville. Our most notable achievement to date has been Web-based book-order system responsible for running Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

I can say that, thankfully, 2013 brought a bottom line not seen since the recession started. For us, we focused on key areas such as social networking service expansion for our clients as well as our usual tech adventures.

For year’s end and to kick off 2014, we’re working with Google Glass for new application development, and we’re moving away from our blimp aerial photo/video and into a more green UAV aerial photo/video system.

Sean Christman, Founder/CEO, Slamdot

In 2013, we added two more employees to our sales and support teams, with plans to hire several more in 2014. We also signed more than 200 new client and increased our revenues by a little over 30 percent. We introduced several new products and services, such as our mobile website package for smartphone users, and an advanced search engine optimization upgrade to help our customers increase their search visibility.

We are looking (in 2014) to expand to a larger location, or open a second store, to better accommodate our customers. We’ll also be announcing some exciting new services that will help our customers grow their businesses through inbound marketing. .

Steve South, President, South College

When Gov. Bill Haslam launched the Drive to 55 initiative to bring the percentage of Tennesseans with a college degree from 32 to 55 percent by 2025, higher-education institutions across the state joined the mission.

Throughout 2013, South College saw enrollment expand as more students began seeking college degrees. South College offers degrees in much-needed fields of health care, business and education. In 2013, the South College nursing program posted a 100 percent pass rate for the NCLEX-RN licensure exam. It is the only program in the state to achieve a perfect record over that time period. Also in 2013, South College added a professional brewing science certificate program in the growing career field craft-brewing, and available slots were quickly filled.

We’re projecting a great year in 2014, with more than 1,000 students starting class Jan. 15.

Becky Hancock, interim Executive Director, Tennessee Theatre

In 2013, the Tennessee Theatre celebrated its 85th anniversary of providing excellent, diverse entertainment to the region and raised $3 million of a $4 million total capital sustainability campaign to preserve the theater for another 85 years. We also marked the 1 millionth ticket sold since the restoration.

This year, the theater also raised the bar on its Broadway series with an impressive eight-show run of “Mary Poppins.” To better compete with medium-sized markets for the hottest Broadway shows, the Tennessee Theatre joined the National Broadway League, the 700-plus member national trade association for the Broadway industry, and used its new industry position to book the headline musical, “Jersey Boys,” for 2014.

In 2014 and beyond, Knoxville can continue to expect high-quality Broadway shows traveling to the area and an array of touring artists. The Tennessee Theatre will also continue being an excellent venue for local performers and organizations.

Jack Brundige, Director of Sales, U.S. Cellular

We had a very successful year in continuing to provide a better wireless experience for our customers by adding Apple products to our lineup in 2013. We were thrilled to bring the iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c and iPad Air to our loyal customers, and we’re looking forward to more iPhone fans experiencing it on our high-quality network in 2014.

U.S. Cellular also continued to give back to the communities it serves in 2013. Brickey McCloud Elementary School and Powell Elementary School in Knox County as well as Seymour Intermediate School in Sever County each received $25,000 after being named a 2013 Calling All Communities Champion.

Our local team of associates is so proud that U.S. Cellular has now given more than $1 million to Tennessee schools through the Calling All Communities program. It’s a testament to the school spirit and communitywide efforts here in the Volunteer State.