Welcome to the Sweat Tea & Strategy podcast produced by Ackermann Marketing & PR. We speak with business and community leaders about challenges in their industry and communication strategies to take on those challenges over a glass of sweet tea.
Bob Rolfe serves as the commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. The department is responsible for recruiting business and industry to the state, supporting existing companies and expanding economic opportunities across rural Tennessee and boosting the state’s overall economic prosperity. Rolfe has more than three decades of experience in business and investment banking in Tennessee.
Rolfe has served as commissioner since 2017. Under his leadership, TNECD has increased Tennessee’s global footprint – leading Tennessee’s efforts in the recruitment and expansion of over 100 international projects, which represent an investment of $5.6 billion and 18,000 job commitments.
Since 2017, the department has provided more than $240 million in funding to rural communities throughout the state. In addition, companies have invested $4 billion and committed to create 21,500 new jobs in rural communities over the past three years.
“How do we prepare our workforce,” said Rolfe. “We have Tennessee Connect and Tennessee Reconnect. Every high school graduating senior can go to college for a 2-year associates degree or TCAT certification, tuition free. It was so successful that it was expanded so any Tennessean can go back and further their education.”
Since Tennessee created these programs, nine other states have adopted similar programs to help their citizens.
Listen to Bob Rolfe’s full episode below!
Bob Raines is the Executive Director of the Tennessee Entertainment Commission. In his current role, Raines administers the state’s film and TV incentive program; negotiates film, television, and music projects; and markets the unique aspects of doing business in Tennessee to companies throughout the country and around the world.
Tennessee is a unique place for filmmakers and artists to come to because of the creative class.
“Our main two competitive advantages are our workforce and infrastructure,” said Raines. “Our workforce here is a very uniquely positioned workforce in the music industry primarily because we have so many musicians here in the state. We are actually ranked number one in the nation relative to the total workforce size. We also rank number one in artists and groups.”
Raines also gave us some insight into how Knoxville fits into the Tennessee entertainment sphere.
“Knoxville is unique because it is basically a television hub for non-scripted television,” said Raines. “Discovery is headquartered out of Knoxville…it has 14 brands under it now. What happens in Knoxville has built up this engine around Scripps and now Discovery and the other production companies like Jupiter and Lucid Media, they go and produce content for these networks.”
Listen to the full episode now!
12. Chancellor of The University of Tennessee Knoxville, Donde PlowmanOn this episode of Sweet Tea & Strategy, Cathy Ackermann sits down with Dr. Donde Plowman to discuss her role as the ninth Chancellor for The University of Tennessee Knoxville. She has returned to Rocky Top after nine years at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In her short time at the university thus far, Plowman has made it a point to be accessible to faculty, students and the community, and wants to share the "Volunteer Way" with everyone. “We’ve got a great story to tell and we’ve started telling it, and we’re going to get better at it,” said Plowman. Plowman believes that "leadership is the courage to act". She wants all UT studnets leave with more than a degree.-- They will be equipped with the knowledge and confidence to go out and change the world. “Being a volunteer that’s what it means…to serve, to lead, to act,” said Plowman. Listen to the full episode below to hear all the insights this true Volunteer shared with us!
11. President and CEO of UCOR, Ken RueterKen Rueter is UCOR’s President and Cleanup Project Manager for the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP). As President of UCOR, Ken has guided and motivated a professional management team and hundreds of skilled workers as they successfully undertake the largest environmental cleanup in the Department of Energy’s history. Ken is a member of the Board of Directors of East Tennessee Children's Hospital and also serves on the Board of Directors of the Center for Construction Research and Training. He was the 2016 recipient of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers' prestigious Management Division Award. In 2017, he was presented with the East Tennessee Economic Council Muddy Boot Award, recognizing his contributions to the Oak Ridge community. In 2019, the National Safety Council recognized Ken's personal commitment to safety and his philosophy of safety as a prerequisite to all work by naming him a CEO who "Gets It." This prestigious designation is presented to leaders who go above and beyond to protect employees both on and off the job. Ken puts a strong emphasis on the safety of his employees. “We have to have a very different approach to safety and health. We implement what we call the culture of excellence, in which we culturally develop our organization with an understanding and an appreciation that every task, every activity, every time can be done safely. High performing safety is high performing productivity.” To hear more from this great Tennessee leader, listen to Ken’s episode below!
10. President and COO of Titanic Museum Attractions, Mary Kellogg-JoslynMs. Kellogg-Joslyn has an extensive background in entertainment, marketing and production. She served for 20 years as Executive Senior Vice President Television for The Walt Disney Company. During this period, she worked directly with Disney CEO, Michael Eisner and Studio Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg, contributing to their successful effort to revitalize the Walt Disney Company with creative energy and evolutionary concepts. In her operations capacity she worked closely with Don Ohlmeyer, former President of NBC’s West Coast Division, in overseeing production of Disney LIVE Event Specials. As Cedar Bay Entertainment’s President & COO, Ms. Kellogg-Joslyn is in charge of operations, developing and marketing, advertising, sales, public relations and merchandising strategies for the company’s Titanic Branson operation, and for the Pigeon Forge Titanic attraction. In addition, she creates year-round local and national media events for the museum attractions. Ms. Kellogg-Joslyn is an expert in what it takes to run a ship as big as the Titanic Museum Attraction. She created a Titanic college for employees to understand what Titanic is, the philosophy of the company and ultimately, why they are all there. “I always teach everyone, during their Titanic college, that this ship is to pay respect to the 2,208 that were aboard this ship. And we’ve had over 300 Titanic descendants come and they all say the same thing, ‘Thank you for telling our stories.’” Listen below to hear Ms. Kellogg-Joslyn's story.
9. VP Sponsorship for Topgolf Media, Ed WillettEd Willett is a veteran of the golf and digital gaming industry. Willett is currently the VP of Sponsorships for Topgolf Media but has an extensive background in the sports industry. He previously served as the VP Business Development for the LPGA, held a senior sales position at ESPN and was VP Sales for Quick Hit, an online football game producer. Willett was able to give us some insights into the changing aspects of golf, especially sponsorships. “It’s interesting, when you watch a tournament, the top ten players will have several logos and you might have a surprise person show up and really not have any, if you’re out of the top 50 or 100 players, it’s really tough for them to get sponsorship deals.” Because of Topgolf and other online gaming services, people are starting to think differently about the game of golf. 82 percent of Topgolf guests say that playing there influenced their decision to play golf. It has brought new people to the game and Willett says most importantly, brings people together. “It’s great for someone who hasn’t played the game to experience that fun,” Willett shared. “A lot people feel like golf isn’t the most fun sport, but if you do it at Topgolf, you’ll have a lot of fun.” Listen below to hear more about digital gaming, golf tournaments and that round he played with Arnold Palmer.
8. President and CEO of the Tennessee Aquarium, Keith SanfordFinancier turned non-profit leader, Keith Sanford is the President and CEO of the Tennessee Aquarium. Sanford is well-known throughout Chattanooga, as he was the Market President of First Tennessee Bank and was named Chattanooga Area Manager of the Year in 2014. After 36 years in the banking industry, Sanford felt it was time for a change. “I was on the board and on the search committee and found a job that I didn’t know I was going to apply for, but it’s been a lot of fun.” The Tennessee Aquarium is more than just a tourist attraction, it focuses largely on the conservation of different wildlife throughout Tennessee and across the United States. “15 years ago, Lake Sturgeon who used to be plentiful in the Tennessee river were extinct and we have put 220,000 sturgeon back in the system and we go test the waters, see how big they are. And then secondly, we are now native Brook trout. And back in the 20s, in the streams coming out of the Appalachian Mountains, they actually took out the native Brook trout and brought in a Western trout and Rainbow. And so, the Brook trout were kind of competing for food and didn't do so well. So, we are growing trout and putting them back into the Headland streams and working with Tennessee wildlife and the U.S. Forest service,” explained Sanford. To hear more about all the good things the Tennessee Aquarium is up to and to find out where you can grab the best sweet tea in Chattanooga, listen to the whole episode below!
7. Executive Director of Legacy Parks Foundation, Carol EvansOn this week’s episode of Sweet Tea & Strategy, we sat down with Carol Evans, Executive Director of Legacy Parks Foundation here in Knoxville. Evans’ mission with Legacy Parks is to enhance local parks and provide greenways, trails and any outdoor space needed for the community. An advocate for outdoor recreation, Evans explained to us just how important accessibility is for outdoor spaces. “So now you can get in it and on it a little bit easier. And so, if you wanted to do a bike ride or a hike or a paddle on your way home from work on a Saturday morning, you can do that very easily. And I do think people appreciate that. They appreciate having something in their neighborhood or close to their neighborhood.” Legacy Parks works to conserve our natural assets, create public places and connect communities. The Foundation has raised over $6 million for parks and trails, created over 50 miles of urban trails and added over 500 acres of parkland in Knox County. Evans recognizes that Legacy Parks is not only essential for community recreation, it is also an economic driver. “Simple things like people will pay $9,000 more for a house near a park, your home is worth 25 percent more within a mile [of a park]. Geenways are one of the top three requested amenities when someone’s looking for a home,” said Evans. “Parks make a difference in where people choose to locate themselves now.” Evans also has over 25 years of marketing experience, including leading marketing and communications efforts for the Scripps Networks, Knoxville Chamber and the UT Lady Vols. She holds a bachelor’s in communications from the University of Georgia and a Master of Science in Education from the University of Tennessee. Click below to hear the full episode.
6. Chief Marketing Officer at New York Public Radio, Lisa BairdLisa Baird is the Chief Marketing Officer for New York Public Radio. She has been working hard over the last year to increase audience size, cultivate loyalty and amplify digital membership. NYPR is a mission-based organization, and Baird says that’s one part of why this work is so appealing to her. She also has a great respect for the citizens of New York and really cares about NYPR’s listeners and their opinions. “We have direct relationships with our members, and we engage them in dialogue. We’re actively soliciting their input.” Baird also served as the CMO for the United States Olympic Committee (USCO) for almost 10 years, where she was instrumental in the launch of the Team USA brand. She told us her thinking behind of the most successful launches of her career. “I saw the opportunity for a more accessible brand, a broader brand that not only encompassed the Olympic teams but also the national teams and allowed us to tell, to converse and communicate with Americans as they watched not only athletes on the stage of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, but also compete and make their way towards that.” Earlier in her career, Baird was the Senior Vice President, Marketing and Consumer Products, for the National Football League (NFL). She has also previously worked with brands IBM, General Motors, Johnson & Johnson and Procter and Gamble Company. Listen below to hear more from branding expert, audio enthusiast and sports lover, Lisa Baird.
5. President and CEO of SmartBank, Billy CarrollBilly Carroll is the President and CEO of SmartBank and has been with the bank since its beginning. Billy is a graduate of UT and served on the Federal Reserve Board of Atlanta, so he is no stranger to what it takes to be successful in our market. SmartBank is constantly recognized for its successes and this year received a 1st place mid-size business award. But for Billy, the culture of SmartBank is just as important as the deals. “The culture that we’re building is probably the thing I’m most proud of that we’ve built in this company. We have a culture team that meets on a monthly basis and we talk about how you continue to build the culture as we grow.”
4. UT Medical Center CEO, Joe LandsmanSince 2005, Joe Landsman has served as the President and CEO of The University of Tennessee Medical Center (UTMC) and University Health System (UHS), Inc. Having been with UHS since 1999, prior to being named CEO, Landsman served as the system’s Senior Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President. As the region’s only academic medical center, Magnet® recognized hospital and Level 1 Trauma Center, UTMC serves as a major referral center for East Tennessee, Southeast Kentucky and Western North Carolina. UTMC has a three-fold mission of healing, education and discovery. Under Landsman’s leadership, UTMC has earned recognitions and awards nationwide – including honors from U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, The Joint Commission, Becker’s Hospital Review, Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence, and BlueCross BlueShield, among others – for its commitment to excellence and medical care. Landsman credits UTMC’s physicians and team members for their commitment in collaboratively providing excellent patient-centric care and remaining at the forefront of research, technology and treatments. “Being a healthcare provider…it’s a hard lifestyle and it’s a commitment to serve,” explains Landsman. “I could not value our team members more than I do, and our physicians. They really are a group of individuals that collectively care about the work they do.”
3. CEO of Avertium, Jeff Schmidt
Jeff Schmidt is the newly appointed CEO for Avertium- a new cybersecurity company here in Knoxville that focuses on supporting mid-to-large enterprises security efforts. Jeff has over 30 years of experience, and has worked with some noteworthy clients like Cisco, Paramount Pictures and BT Counterpane. Tommy Smith, Vice President of Marketing Strategy at Ackermann, sat down with Jeff to talk about the importance of cybersecurity. “Security isn’t as spooky as everyone thinks it is,” said Jeff. “Whatever you do in your physical life to protect yourself, whether it be how you protect your valuables in your home, your family, these things are really important, do the same thing in business.” When most people think of cybersecurity, they that its complex or even confusing at times; but Avertium has the ability to manage businesses cybersecurity in a simple way that provides all around protection. At its core, Avertium is a customer-centric company that wants businesses of every kind to feel protected. “We want to make our customers world safer,” said Jeff. “And that’s our mission. We want a team that’s passionate about cybersecurity. We live and breathe this.” Jeff is just as passionate about cybersecurity as he is about Chick-fil-A sweet tea. Listen below.
2. Interim President of the University of Tennessee, Randy BoydThis week, Cathy Ackermann, President and CEO of Ackermann Marketing and PR, sat down with Interim President of the University of Tennessee System Randy Boyd, to talk about his journey to becoming Interim President and the challenges he faces in that role. The native Knoxvillian knew it was his time to step up. “For me, it was about giving back to my alma mater,” said Boyd. “This university has given so much to me and my family and my community and if I have the opportunity to give back to that then this was my opportunity to do so.” Before stepping into his role of Interim President, Boyd ran for Governor of Tennessee in 2018. He is the founder of Radio System’s Corporation and owner of Boyd’s Sports LLC, which owns or operates the Tennessee Smokies, Johnson City Cardinals, Greeneville Reds and Elizabethton Twins. Randy Boyd learned the ins and outs of business at a young age, and with hard work and hustle, he has become one of the best leaders in Tennessee. Listen below for some of his insights.
1. President and CEO of the Knoxville Chamber, Mike Odom
Former President and CEO of the Round Rock, TX. Chamber, Mike Odom, has moved to Knoxville to take over as the new President and CEO of the Knoxville Chamber. Earning the Chamber of the Year Award for 2018 in Round Rock, Mike is no stranger to successful organizational management and community partnerships. His fresh perspective is sure to drive our city’s economic growth. “Our future is extremely bright,” said Mike. “Our mission is to drive regional economic prosperity, for the entire region. We have to make sure that we are communicating effectively, and that we are doing a lot of listening because communication is not a one-way street.” Mike has already started meeting with Knoxville leaders, including Interim President of the UT System Randy Boyd and Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thomas Zacharia, to talk about Knoxville’s economic growth. They all agree that now is Knoxville’s time to reach its full potential. Oh, and he knows a little about good jambalaya and donuts the size of your head. Listen below.