Commerce, transportation and industry have long been a vital part of Knoxville's history. In 1855, the expansion of the railroad improved the ability of the wholesale businesses to transport goods and helped put the Knoxville business community on the map. In 1869, Knoxville businessmen organized the Board of Trade. The mission of the newly formed board was to promote the business prosperity of the city, but the organization's first goals were to establish a customhouse and to lower the rates for rail transportation.
Over the years the Chamber has been known by several different names. The original Board of Trade became known as the Board of Commerce. Then in 1887, it became the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce, in 1963 the Greater Knoxville Chamber, and in 1998 the Knoxville Area Chamber Partnership was formed.
The Partnership includes several business-oriented organizations including the Tennessee Small Business Development Center, the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Center, the Development Corporation, the Central Business Improvement District, and Leadership Knoxville. The Knoxville Entrepreneur's Center will open on the first floor of 17 Market Square during the first quarter of 2013.
Now known as the Knoxville Chamber, the organization has recently initiated a dynamic transformation. In September 2009, the Chamber's board of directors announced a new goal of becoming America's Best Business Address®. In May 2010, the board approved a staff-authored strategic plan that will provide a road map for achieving the lofty goal.
The strategic plan is all-encompassing and includes the following objectives:
- To become a leading market in the southeast for new business recruitment.
- To become a leading place to start and grow a business in the southeast.
- To become the region's most effective voice for business.
- To become a national leader in skilled and educated workforce.
Provide the infrastructure and support needed to achieve the status of Amercia's Best Business Address®.
(to view the entire strategic plan click the link in the left margin)
The Chamber has several new programs and services it will be unveiling to help its member businesses. The launch of this online interactive business directory in November 2010 was one of those services. The old online directory was one-dimensional and was not search engine optimized. iKnowKnoxville.com not only provides an enhanced platform for promoting member companies, but it also allows member listings to be found on Google, Bing and other search engines.
In early 2011 the Chamber unveiled Chamber Member MD®, a business analysis tool that helps small businesses navigate their way to health by asking a series of questions broken down into four area's important to running a successful business:
- Operations & Finance
- Employee Development
In August of 2011 the Knoxville Chamber was recognized by its peers at the American Chamber of Commerce Executives as the national Chamber of the Year due to its cutting edge products and services.
The Knoxville Chamber is the official economic development agency for the City of Knoxville and Knox County. It is also the leading organization in Innovation Valley, a regional economic development initiative centered on a 25-mile Technology Corridor with world-class resources in science, technology, and business. Experience shows that a regional approach to economic development offers the most advantages to businesses planning a corporate relocation or expansion and the communities involved.
The partnership was created to implement a five-year economic development blueprint for business growth in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge area of East Tennessee. The blueprint outlines 13 targeted industry sectors that are based on an analysis of the region’s world-class resources. Six program areas provide the framework for the group’s business relocation and industrial development efforts.
To learn more about Innovation Valley, click the link to the left to visit their website.
Workforce and Education
Recognizing that today's students are tomorrow's workforce, the Knoxville Chamber has been a leading voice for public education reform in the state of Tennessee. Chamber staff members have initiated and participated in discussions that led to landmark state-wide public education reform which allowed the state to win $500 million in Race to the Top funding from the federal government.
The Chamber's workforce and education staff is dedicated to creating, attracting and sustaining a world class workforce for the area's existing businesses and target industries. They provide a critical bridge between the education community and the business community.
To learn more about our role with workforce and education, click the link to the left.
“As a veteran-owned small business and participant in the Propel Mentor/Protégé Program, my company has benefited greatly from the Knoxville Chamber. We spent two years as a Protégé, and now we are giving back to the program as a mentor. This program has been a big part of our business growth.”
Accord Federal Services
“The Knoxville Chamber has helped my business stay strong in downtown Knoxville for a quarter-century. Through innovative resources like iKnowKnoxville.com, the online business directory, my membership does more than just help me network in the business community. I know I am getting a return on my investment through my Chamber membership.”
Pete’s Coffee Shop
“As the CEO of an award-winning organization with a robust foundation in Knoxville, I am proud to be a member of another award-winning organization like the Knoxville Chamber. The Chamber is a tremendous resource for anyone interested in and committed to doing business in the greater Knoxville region. They create a network of invaluable connections to help businesses succeed, extend an exuberant welcome to companies coming to the area, and constantly advocate for East Tennessee businesses.”
“As a small business owner, I have thoroughly enjoyed being a Chamber member. The Mentor/Protégé program has helped me grow my business and the Chamber has helped me meet so many individuals who I can help as well. It is a great feeling both spiritually and emotionally when you can help others grow their business. The Knoxville Chamber is truly an asset to the Knoxville Business Community.”
Always Moore Janitorial Services
“The Knoxville Chamber has been a good investment for us. It has given a young, growing tax practice access to a business network of immense value. We have attended many seminars at the Chamber and Tennessee Small Business Development Center which have helped stay in touch with current trends and learn about topics important to small businesses. I would highly recommend the Knoxville Chamber membership.”
Lalka Tax Services, LLC
“Our organization relies on a strong regional economy and high employment rate for sustained success. The Knoxville Chamber is the best investment we make in support of these important efforts in our community”
“Being a member of the Knoxville Chamber has been enjoyable and rewarding, especially to Humana. It has helped me to network with people and companies to become more active in our ever growing city. I am honored to be an Ambassador of the Chamber. The opportunity to serve and to help impact the growth and success in the Knoxville region is an excellent value as a Chamber member.”