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Knoxville celebrates local companies on Inc. magazine’s 5000 fastest growing list

Eight of the 11 local companies that made the latest list of Inc. magazine’s fastest growing companies in America shared how the recognition has benefitted their enterprises during a Tuesday celebration organized by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC) and sponsored by PYA, the power behind teknovation.biz.

From four that made the list for the first time to another four multiple winners including KaTom Restaurant Supply Inc. that recorded its 11th recognition on the list, two key words – “validation” and “credibility” – were most frequently used to describe the impact of being listed.

“It’s that validation,” said Harry Boston, President of Boston Government Services. “It let’s us talk about it and tell our story.”

The event featured introductory comments by Jim Biggs, KEC’s Executive Director, and Marty Brown, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of PYA, followed by two panels – one with four of the five first-time winners and the second with four of the six repeat recipients – that were moderated by KEC Board Chair Brandon Bruce. (Brown, in photo on the right, is pictured with Ken Baer of K & P Enterprises {right} and Merle Glasgow, a PYA Principal from our Nashville Office.)

For PYA, founded in late 1983 and now ranked as the nation’s 13th largest healthcare consulting company and a top 100 national accounting firm, celebrating growth accomplishments like those of the 11 companies is an important statement about the Knoxville community where PYA is headquartered. Brown noted the importance of entrepreneurial spirit, saying that PYA had founded 14 companies and six were still in business.

The diversity of the Knoxville business community was reflected in the wide-ranging sectors represented on the stage at The Square Room. They ranged from Construction Plus Inc., a long-standing company that revamped its business model after the economic downturn more than a decade ago, to Mac’s LTC Pharmacy Solutions that evolved from a small pharmacy in Claxton to a major supplier for nursing homes and assisted living facilities and K&P Enterprises that is the second start-up for the founders after they lost their first business during the economic downturn that also affected Construction Plus.

Patricia Bible, President and CEO of KaTom, literally wowed the attendees with her story of entrepreneurial persistence in spite of the unexpected. In KaTom’s case, Bible explained that she and her late husband (Tim) founded the company to supply the restaurants that he was building.

“It literally started in our garage,” she explained, adding that her husband was a visionary who, among other trends, saw the emergence of eCommerce and developed KaTom.com. Launch date for the online site was November 1, 2001, the day that Tim died very unexpectedly. After a 30-day period to regroup, she pushed forward with those plans.

“We had $4 million in revenue then; we’ll do $200 million this year,” Bible said. “Nothing that we’ve done is anything that you can’t do.”

Her message of perseverance and never giving-up was echoed by other panelists including Ken Baer of K & P Enterprises – “we lost everything in 2009,” but he and his Co-Founder have rebounded and now provide cabinet refacing and home organization services for 73 Home Depot Stores in seven states.

The highest ranked local company by Inc.’s measures of growth is RDI Technologies Inc. at number 33. Jena Johns, Chief Operating Officer, shared some tips on how the region’s fastest growing, first-time listee has been successful.

“Do something that no one else is doing,” she said, emphasizing the dual importance of focusing on the customer in product development while also staying on the leading edge in innovation.

Several of the panelists said that being recognized on the Inc. 5000 list provides a variety of tangible rewards. For M&M Productions, President and CEO Mike Brown said, “It’s a great morale booster for employees.” Others like Jon Clay of Axle Logistics agreed that recognition like this is a real motivation for current employees as well as a vehicle for attracting new associates.

Ironically, the application for the next annual listing came via email on Tuesday morning, so it was only natural that Bruce asked if they planned to apply again. “We’ve already submitted ours,” Bible said. Most of the others said they would.

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