CEO, Young-Williams Animal Center
All cities want to attract new businesses that will provide its residents with well paying jobs. What qualities do you think a city should have to attract these kinds of businesses?
During my time at Scripps Networks, we had this discussion often as we looked to recruit talent to Knoxville. As happened with companies like Scripps, Whittle and Regal Entertainment, once people choose Knoxville for a career opportunity, they establish roots because of the quality of life Knoxville provides. In recruiting, however, I maintain a city needs a 360 experience that includes a vibrant downtown, arts and culture, culinary experiences, outdoor recreation, which includes transportation options and walkability, along with quality schools and safe neighborhoods. On the flip side, companies looking to relocate look for a skilled workforce, and I feel Knoxville offers that, especially as we invest more on vocational skills education and training. Affordability is also key, and Knoxville is attractive because of our low taxes and has been on multiple best-places-to-live lists, which companies seek by looking at accolades a city has received as part of their decision-making process.
What is the best use of the former St. Mary’s Hospital campus?
The city has already acquired the former St. Mary’s Hospital campus and is in the process of site planning for the Knoxville Police Department and Knoxville Fire Department. That said, I have met with the leadership of KPD and KFD who are all excited about the move to a new location, which will grant them more space but also help streamline the resources of our top first-responder agencies along with the city municipal court system. In addition, spending time with members of the 5th District, I have heard nothing but an overwhelming response from residents in favor of the relocation and will be committed to working with the neighborhood on the use of the old hospital and its grounds. I know there is conversation as well with members of the private sector to lease any additional space that would likely result in shared responsibility with certain overhead expenses.
What do you think are the best ways for the city to generate increased revenue?
Discovery, Regal and Gannett/KNS are divesting/transitioning in Knoxville, and with the investment of Berkshire Hathaway in Pilot/Flying J and Clayton, the long-term presence of these companies remains unclear. With so much transition among our largest employers, we need to leverage our city for opportunities that create jobs as well as build/expand our tax base to, in turn, provide, support and fund much-needed social services. The new Chamber leader is also a critical role for business development and selling our city to prospective employers looking to relocate to Knoxville. Another revenue generator is finding solutions for vacant properties. Blight isn’t an option, so let's promote new business and local entrepreneurs to get these properties back on the tax rolls and generating income. Having been a small business owner, I know the blood, sweat and tears a start-up takes, but getting the doors open is not enough. We need to be self-sustaining and set them up for long-term success.