By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
The operative phrase at an economic development announcement yesterday was “on fire,” a description for both the State of Tennessee and the Knoxville region.
It was first uttered by Bob Rolfe, Tennessee’s Commissioner of Economic and Community Development, in reference to the Volunteer State and the announcements that seem to come almost daily, and reiterated just a little later in comments by Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs in terms of this area.
While the dollar value of the investment by Lending Solutions Inc. (LSI) is not huge – $2 million, the number of jobs created – 265 – is significant. More important, however, is the fact that the announcement reaffirms the interest in and attractiveness of the community to companies looking to attract new talent. It comes just a little more than two months after CGI Inc. announced at the end of February that it was bringing 300 jobs and investing $27 million in a new information technology delivery center.
We have posted a number of articles in the past several months discussing the attractiveness of Knoxville and other communities in East Tennessee for those who can work remotely. The LSI call center operation here will operate primarily as a training site for new employees. Once trained, the company says those new hires will be approved to work from home.
During a networking event ahead of the announcement, we had a chance to talk briefly with Justin Cazana, Principal in the Avison Young Knoxville office, who was the leasing agent for The Atrium at 1225 East Weisgarber Road from which LSI is already operating. He also talked about the vibrancy of the local commercial and office market, saying he has three large showings today (Tuesday).
“Congratulations to LSI for choosing Knoxville as its newest location,” Jacobs said, adding something for which he is adamant: “The importance of the 260 jobs LSI is creating here is matched by the company’s commitment to skill development so their employees can further careers in the financial services industry.”
Headquartered in Elgin, IL, LSI was founded in 1994 and has grown to more than 900 people serving 300 credit union clients from its main office, another in Naperville, IL, and a third in Albuquerque. Those services include consumer lending, internet loan processing, indirect underwriting, collections outsourcing, and credit to business enterprises for relatively short periods.
Yesterday’s ribbon cutting for the new LSI office was coordinated by the Knoxville Chamber, and the announcement was emceed by Doug Lawyer, the Chamber’s Vice President of Economic Development.