The new members of the Business Advisory Council, from left: Deputy to the Mayor Christi Branscom; Wade Esau; Mackey Brownlee; Lisa Cyr; Deidra Harper; Josh Smith; Mayor Madeline Rogero; Mary Ann Stackhouse; Tommy Smith; Phyllis Burns; Jody Collins; Business Liaison Patricia Robledo; Charles Houston; Raul Rangel; and Kira Frazier-Jones.
Deidra Harper, co-owner of B&B Lawn Services, hails from a family of business self-starters and entrepreneurs. So she was a natural fit to be appointed by Mayor Madeline Rogero to her Business Advisory Council.
“It’s exciting to see how the City and community can work together,” she said Thursday morning, as the new BAC members met for the first time with the Mayor, Deputy to the Mayor Christi Branscom and Business Liaison Patricia Robledo.
Mayor Rogero has appointed 12 new members of her Business Advisory Council, and those appointees reflect the wide diversity of entrepreneurs, professionals, retailers and service providers that make up Knoxville’s business community.
The members of the BAC serve in an advisory and partnership capacity to promote regular and open communication between City government and businesses. The council gives advice to the Office of Business Support, and it serves as a sounding board for evaluating proposals aimed at making it easier to do business in the city of Knoxville.
That’s appealing to Josh Smith of Master Service Companies LLC, who manages more than 100 employees.
“We see the different challenges,” he said. “Serving on this committee excites me. A good leader wants to put something like this together. … It’s an opportunity to listen and see opportunities to streamline the bureaucracy.”
There’s heavy private investment and energized entrepreneurship happening throughout Knoxville, leveraged in part by the City’s investments in public infrastructure. And while the city is a good place to start and grow businesses, City government is always looking for ways to help make running or expanding a business less complicated and time-consuming.
“When I was running for Mayor, one of things I kept hearing from the business community was that it was difficult to do business with the City,” Rogero said. “So one of the first things I did was create the Office of Business Support.”
Numerous common-sense upgrades have been put in place: For example, online options have been expanded, giving people a choice if they prefer not to make trips to City offices.
Another example: Since 2014, the City’s Plans Review and Inspections Department has been scheduling free, voluntary and informal monthly meetings with property owners, developers, architects, contractors and engineers who want to ask questions and iron out details about their property-improvement projects. It’s intended to be convenient one-stop shopping for anyone with questions about a building project.
Jorge Sanabria of Expoquip finished his BAC term Thursday. He encouraged his successors on the council to not miss a single meeting, because the discussions are so helpful and important.
“Serving was an incredible experience for me,” Sanabria said. “I learned a great deal about our city. I loved Knoxville before, but I love it even more now. We’ve got such a bright future.”