The occasion was a “Small Business Networking Event” hosted by the Campbell County Small Business Incubator and several of its partners. Oak Ridge-based Tech 20/20 organized the program that featured the owners of three small businesses who are models for what the new county initiative is trying to achieve.
“We want to expose as many people as possible to what we have” with the new incubator, County Mayor William Baird said. “Rural counties have trouble recruiting industry. We want to grow and expand existing businesses and help local people with ideas to start a business.”
The event at the Cove Lake Pavilion spotlighted three very different companies located in three different communities in Campbell County.
Martin Trowbridge founded BeeKeepers of America in LaFollette in 1997 with a focus on honey production, pollination services, and honeybee swarm removal. The self-described “bee lover” wants to expand nationally and is using the new counseling services available at the Incubator to help him develop a plan.
Brenda Polland’s Artist’s Village has only been in business in Caryville since the doors opened March 1. She describes Artist’s Village as “a venue for area artists to showcase and sell their work.” The facility provides space for artists and is readily accessible to tourists who use the heavily traveled I-75 corridor. Polland’s plans include adding a studio to offer art classes and start selling art supplies so that local artists don’t have to travel to Knoxville.
Jessica Westray is part of the family-owned Ride Royal Blue all-terrain vehicle resort in Pioneer. It is a 200,000-acre site with 600 miles of trails, 32 cabins, 31 sites for recreational vehicles and a capacity to house 600 to 700 people each weekend. Like others, she is looking to expand in a variety of ways such as opening the restaurant at times other than just weekends. Ride Royal Blue already gets 17,000 hits a month on its web page.
The Campbell County Incubator is funded by a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission to the county which, in turn, leased space in the Jacksboro office of Community Trust Bank as a place where existing and prospective business owners can come for help.
“It’s a success to see this many business folks seeing what the business incubator is about,” Baird said.
For Billie Russell, Economic and Community Development Manager in the Mayor’s Office, it’s simply “thinking out of the box” to find ways to help bring jobs to a rural county.
Tech 20/20, which has been in the venture development business for nearly two decades, is bringing its training and business consulting expertise to the effort. John Branam, a Campbell County native, runs the activities day-to-day.
More information about the Campbell County effort can be found at http://www.campbellcountysbi.org/.