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VOL. 43 | NO. 49 | Friday, December 6, 2019

Chamber announces finalists for Pinnacle Awards

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Pretentious Glass & Brewing Company owner and founder Matthew Cummings shows off his wares. The company is nominated for a Pinnacle Business Award in the Small Business Excellence category.

-- Photo By Adam Taylor Gash | The Ledger

The Knoxville Chamber of Commerce has announced its finalists for the 2020 Pinnacle Business Awards.

“The Pinnacle Business Awards recognize organizations and individuals whose investment is having a positive impact on our region’s economic vitality and sustainability,” says Mike Odom, Knoxville Chamber president and CEO. “Their contributions and commitment enhance our quality of life and drive economic prosperity for everyone living in Knoxville and the surrounding counties.”

The awards are presented by Regions Bank.

More than 250 companies were nominated in eight award categories. Members of the Chamber’s board of directors select the finalists and winners based on information submitted during the application process by the applicant and any information available to the general public. Final scoring is completed independently by each member of the committee on a secure website. Scores are tallied by a third-party agency and presented to the Chamber.

Winners are announced during the Pinnacle Business Awards on Feb. 7 at the Knoxville Convention Center.

The ceremony also honors one outstanding, longtime, regional business leader that exhibits strength in character, resolve, commitment to the community and exemplary success in business. The 2020 recipient of the James A. Haslam Chairman’s Leadership Award sponsored by The Trust Company of Tennessee is Wes Stowers, President and CEO of Stowers Machinery Corporation.

Award categories and finalists:

Impact Award

The Impact Award, sponsored by Publix, is awarded to a non-charitable, East Tennessee business committed to making the region a better place to live through the development and support of a community project or program.


• All Occasion Catering – Knoxville’s most decorated catering company lists supporting causes and missions that are important to its founders and their employees among the organization’s core values. In just the past five years, owners Neal and Susan Green have fed more than 75,000 individuals and contributed nearly $250,000 in time and services to the community.

• Hard Knox Pizzeria – Since opening its first location in 2009, the wood-fired pizza restaurant has also launched The School of Hard Knox at Austin East High School. The culinary program, which resumes in January 2021, builds relationships between students and local chefs while teaching employable, food-industry skills.

• WBIR-TV – The local media organization is committed to providing viewers with relevant, community-focused content, as well as partnering with area nonprofits to support fundraising or need-based programs. In 2019, the station supported more than 50 organizations through on-air promotions, event coverage and appearances by on-air talent.

Innovator Award

The Innovator Award, sponsored by PureMagic Car Wash, is presented to an East Tennessee business that has developed a new technology, innovative product or service or has applied a business system or service in an innovative way.


• Elo Touch Solutions – The technology and solutions service provider, founded in 1971 in Oak Ridge is a global leader in commercial digital interactivity and an established manufacturer of touch computing products. Built on unified architecture, the company’s broad portfolio of interactive touchscreens allows brands, retailers, restaurants and others to easily customize their digital experience.

• Happego – A mobile-based psychological priming tool that utilizes science-backed stimuli to help improve quality of life through subtle, on-screen cues that integrate into an individual’s typical usage behavior.

• LM Industries Group, Inc. – A collaborative, co-creation community focused on improving the future by revolutionizing ground mobility via next generation products and services. The company’s current portfolio includes autonomous vehicles, 3-D printed electric cars and an electric-powered drift trike.

The Business Excellence awards honor non-franchisee companies who with a significant presence in East Tennessee have demonstrated profitability, growth and stability. Applicants are categorized by number of employees.

Small Business Excellence

Small Business Excellence Finalists sponsored by Verizon Wireless (50 employees or less)


• Brown Bag – A quick-service restaurant and catering business that serves made from scratch food at an affordable price. Started as a home kitchen in 2010, the restaurant has scaled to seven locations in three states all with a focus on quality products and quality service.

• Johnson Architecture – The Knoxville-based design firm has been providing architecture, planning and interior design services for 25 years. They are committed to serving East Tennessee with thoughtful design, and their client list includes notable regional businesses like Blackberry Farm, Clayton Homes, Maryville College and Dollywood.

• Pretentious Beer & Glass Co. – Founded in 2012 as a side hustle, the company is the only glassblowing brewery in the world and was the first to make glassware specifically designed for the breadth of flavors in contemporary craft beer.

Mid-Size Business Excellence

Mid-Sized Business Excellence Finalists sponsored by Lloyd’s Electric Service, Inc. (51-200 employees)


• AESSEAL Inc. – A combination of extensive testing and innovative technology has positioned the company as a world leader in sealing technology. The global manufacturer has operated its North American headquarters in East Tennessee since 1990.

• MEDIC Regional Blood Center – Since its beginning in 1958, the organization has existed to be an essential and vital community resource dedicated to saving, extending and improving lives. As the only blood product provider in the region, they have expanded to four locations and 145 employees.

• Petro’s Chili & Chips – A Knoxville-based restaurant chain that got its start at the 1982 World’s Fair, the eatery recently opened its 12th location on Market Square, inked a franchise deal with Love’s Travel Centers and began selling its hint-of-orange tea at area grocers.

Large Business Excellence

Large Business Excellence Finalists sponsored by 21st Mortgage Corporation (201+ employees)


• Goodwill Industries-Knoxville Inc. – The locally-controlled nonprofit provides job and skills training to people of all ability levels, assisting them in overcoming any barriers they might face when trying to enter or grow within today’s workforce. The staff has grown from 7 local employees in 1971 to more than 425 in 2019.

• Hillcrest Healthcare – With a portfolio of professional services to care for patients with a wide spectrum of conditions, the organization operates three skilled nursing, rehabilitation and long-term care facilities. The facilities house 560 beds and employ more than 500 individuals, ranking as the largest provider of skilled nursing care in Knoxville.

• The Christman Company – As a professional construction service firm, the company is currently managing over $3 billion in projects nationwide. Locally, their reputation has earned the company projects with the City of Knoxville and the University of Tennessee, including the new Student Union.

Minority-Owned Business Excellence

The Minority-Owned Business Excellence Award, sponsored by Yassin’s Falafel House, recognizes companies that have achieved notable growth and are at least 51% owned by an ethnic minority.


• Gateway Delivery LLC – Knoxville’s only locally owned and operated multi-industry delivery company, the service has expanded its pickup offerings to hundreds of area locations and experienced exponential revenue growth since its start in 2017.

• GEM Technologies – Founded in 1994, the general contractor services government and commercial agencies in five states, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The business earned the company a Contractor of the Year Award from the Small Business Administration Tennessee District Office.

• Insurefit RM – A personal and commercial insurance agency that maximizes clients’ protection and provides tailor-made services while keeping affordability in mind.

Woman-Owned Business Excellence

The Woman-Owned Business Excellence Award, sponsored by LBMC, P.C., is given to an outstanding woman-owned business in East Tennessee. Companies must be at least 51% owned by one or more women, and one or more women must control daily management operations.


• Dance2Fit, LLC – Fitness guru and YouTuber Jessica Bass James used social media to launch the personal fitness brand. With more than 700 certified instructions worldwide, she has expanded from brick-and-mortar studio to a livestreaming workout channel with more than 120 million views, a supplement line and athletic clothing.

• ONE Inc – Founded in 2014 as a full-service consulting firm, owner Janet Livingstone has morphed her business into the industry’s leading provider of answering and call center services to health care and commercial markets. In four years, they have increased from one account to 2,000 and employ 120 individuals.

• Tennessee Associated Electric – Jennifer Baxter purchased the industrial electrical contracting company in 2012 and, over the past seven years, has expanded their offerings to include an electric apparatus division. Their location has grown from 10,000 square feet to two sites totaling 35,000 square feet and has begun servicing well-known local businesses like the Kimberly Clark Corp.

Young Entrepreneur Award

The Young Entrepreneur Award, sponsored by Rodefer Moss & Company, PLLC, acknowledges the importance of the entrepreneurial spirit. This award recognizes young professionals, 40 years of age or younger as of Feb. 7, 2020, who started or are at risk in ownership of a non-franchise business in East Tennessee. The winner will have overcome obstacles and moved their business from early growth to some maturity.


• Peter Brown & Matthew Mincer, Brown Bag Catering – In 2010, Peter Brown started the quick-service restaurant and catering business out of his kitchen with the goal of providing a healthy and affordable lunch option to businesses in the Knoxville area. With the company experiencing rapid growth, Brown offered Matthew Mincer a partnership stake. Together they have expanded to 7 locations in three states, increased revenue by 445% and achieved an employee turnover rate that is more than 65% below industry average.

• Seth Kehne, Lawn Bulter – Started in 1999 as a means to pay for college, Seth Kehne has grown the landscape maintenance and construction company to 85 full-time employees, 30 owned and operated vehicles, hundreds of pieces of equipment and a 9-acre facility in West Knoxville. Revenue has grown by a minimum of 10% in each year of operation, which Kehne attributes to a commitment to ensuring the company is a great place to work.

• Kevin Ramsey, Advent Electric – Kevin Ramsey, a serial entrepreneur, became an owner of the distressed business in March 2018 and has led the company through a culture and process shift since that time. In 2019, the electrical contractor exceeded $10 million in revenue for one of the first times since their opening in 1973 and opened a satellite office in the Nashville market. They have shared their success with employees, adding a 100% paid employee health insurance and a 401(k) matching program.

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