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Knoxville Biz Ticker: Dollywood announces childcare subsidy benefit for hosts

The Knoxville News-Sentinel logoThe Knoxville News-Sentinel 6/25/2021 Knoxville News Sentinel

Dollywood announces childcare subsidy benefit for hosts

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (Tuesday, June 22, 2021) — Dollywood officials announced an unparalleled benefit for hosts working at the Smoky Mountains theme park. Through a new partnership with WeeCare, the largest childcare network in the United States, hosts at all Dollywood Parks & Resorts properties can find licensed childcare providers who offer flexible schedules for newborns through school-aged children. Additionally, The Dollywood Company will pay a portion of childcare costs for those who enroll in the program.

This new benefit comes at an opportune time, as many parents are unable to return to their jobs following the pandemic due to a shortage of childcare workers. WeeCare concierge care managers are available to help enrolled hosts find and tour licensed, safety-certified family childcare homes. Once a family childcare home is selected, WeeCare assists in enrolling the hosts’ children and provides around-the-clock care support. The network of WeeCare facilities includes full-time, part-time, backup, drop-in, school-aged, after-school and overnight care options in the area.

“Obviously, this is a tremendous benefit for our hosts,” said Tim Berry, Dollywood Vice President of Human Resources. “Simply put, childcare arrangements can be overwhelming to most families. It is our hope that this new partnership takes some of that stress away from our current and future hosts. The Dollywood Company has always been devoted to taking care of its employees and this is the next commitment to that. WeeCare can help hosts find childcare with hours that mirror Dollywood’s operating calendar, allowing our hosts more flexibility in scheduling. As any parent can attest, you can breathe a little easier when you know your kids are taken care of; there is an instant sense of relief. We want this to be the case for our hosts. Additionally, we will pay a portion of the costs for children at enrolled facilities, and all hosts are eligible. This benefit is not dependent on income.”

“The WeeCare program adds to the new benefits we’ve provided to our hosts in recent weeks,” Berry added. “We just introduced a new loyalty bonus as a way to reward our employees for their dedication based on longevity and service to the company. Additionally, we offered pay premiums and free lunches for the month of June. Our hosts are what truly set Dollywood apart, and we want to reward them for what they do to make this a special place for our guests.”

WeeCare carries out its mission by providing an easy platform for parents to find affordable childcare including daycares, preschools, and nannies. Childcare deserts, areas where there are more than three children per childcare spot, are a harsh reality for many communities. WeeCare strives to reduce parental stress and ensure they are supported in the childcare process so they can show up to work ready to conquer the day.

“WeeCare seeks to improve the accessibility, affordability, and quality of daycares, preschools, and overall childcare,” Jessica Chang, CEO of WeeCare, said. “Only 7% of companies provide childcare benefits to their employees, and even fewer provide subsidies, so Dollywood is showing its team how much they truly care.”

Average tuition for full-time, traditional daycare centers can be as high as $2,100 a month or more, pricing out many families. “Our average tuition for WeeCare ranges from $600 - $850 per month, which is much more affordable,” Chang said. “The reason for this is because we exclusively offer home daycares. WeeCare provides lower student to teacher ratios, are often conveniently located in neighborhoods, and offer flexible care schedules for employees who work weekends or holidays. Since we work with home daycare providers to fill their spots, their overhead is often lower, and those savings can be passed down to families to provide affordable, quality care.”

Dollywood launched its childcare benefits program on June 21. Upon joining WeeCare, Dollywood hosts will be able to find the perfect childcare conveniently close to their home or workplace. WeeCare partners with local childcare providers to help them grow their small businesses, supporting them with all business and marketing efforts.

For anyone looking to join Dollywood’s award-winning team, the company is hosting several hiring events at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort & Spa in the coming weeks. Hiring events are planned for June 30, as well as July 7, 12 and 21. All events take place from 2-6 p.m. New job opportunities are always posted throughout the year at Dollywood.com/jobs. 

Earlier this year Forbes named The Dollywood Company as one of the best employers in the United States for 2021, according to a ranking on their website. Dollywood was represented well among the 500 companies on Forbes’ list of the best midsize employers. The list includes companies across 25 industry sectors, with only 20 companies on the list in the “Travel & Leisure” category of which Dollywood was included. Among those companies, Dollywood ranked sixth and was the only theme park on the midsize list. To view the entire list, visit https://www.forbes.com/lists/best-midsize-employers/

Pointing to Dollywood host job satisfaction, the Pigeon Forge park has long been voted as the friendliest theme park in the world. The park also earned the inaugural Golden Ticket Award for Best Guest Experience, which factors friendliness of employees into its criteria. The prestigious Golden Ticket Awards are given annually by industry publication Amusement Today. This recognition is the gold standard for theme parks worldwide.

Hosts at The Dollywood Company receive a variety of unique benefits including access to the Dollywood Family Healthcare Center, along with complimentary Dollywood and Dollywood’s Splash Country admission for family and friends. Employees also take part in Dollywood’s Park Perks program which provides free or reduced admission to a large number of regional attractions, theaters and experiences. A comprehensive benefits package, including medical, dental and vision, is available for qualified full-time employees. Affordable lunch options are available for working hosts at several locations across the properties and are just $2.50 (free in June). Free soft drinks also are available to hosts at multiple locations.

Numerous opportunities are available to help employees develop leadership skills, including a new apprenticeship program in conjunction with Walters State Community College. From part-time positions for students to full-time careers with ample chances for advancement and all points in between, Dollywood offers employment opportunities for a number of career aspirations. The Dollywood Company continues to host a number of hiring events throughout the season to give potential employees the chance to attend at the time that best suits their individual needs.

For more information about Dollywood’s 2021 season, please visit Dollywood.com or download the Dollywood app.

McNabb Center’s Christmas in July Toy Drive begins next week

(KNOXVILLE, Tenn.) The Dear Santa Christmas in July Toy Drive kicks off July 1. The event enables the community to participate easily via an Amazon wish list, while contributing to children and families who will have a need this holiday season.

Each year, approximately 2,300 children and families in the East Tennessee region are served through the Dear Santa Program. Last year, approximately 600 child clients and their siblings received Christmas gifts from the Christmas toy drive donations as part of the Dear Santa Program.

“The Dear Santa program relies heavily on community support to serve children and families who otherwise wouldn’t have Christmas gifts,” said Rebecca McKnight, public relations and communications coordinator. “Donations from the Christmas in July Toy Drive helps us to ensure gifts are readily available to children in need as we enter the holiday season.”

Now in its third year, the Christmas in July Toy Drive began to encourage mid-year donations and help jumpstart the spirit of giving. The Dear Santa program serves children of all ages. Community members are encouraged to utilize the Dear Santa Amazon Wish List (https://a.co/cPvHspS ) or donate to the Dear Santa program at

www.mcnabbfoundation.org/donate. Individuals who want to drop off new/unwrapped toys or clothing may call (800) 255-9711 to schedule a drop-off appointment.

For any additional information, please contact Rebecca McKnight at rebecca.mcknight@mcnabb.org.

The McNabb Center is the region’s leading nonprofit provider of mental health, substance use, social and victim services. By focusing on an individual’s “Well Mind, Well Being,” we provide a quality and compassionate approach to care from infancy through adulthood. Since 1948, the Center has proudly served individuals with the most needs and fewest resources. Today, the McNabb Center delivers support to more than 30,000 people throughout East Tennessee each year. For more information, visit www.mcnabbcenter.org or call 1-800-255-9711.

Green Llama introduces new line of plastic-free, eco-friendly household cleaners

JOHNSON CITY, TN—June 3, 2021--Green Llama, LLC, a startup out of Johnson City, TN, is on a mission to reduce single-use plastic and carbon emissions with effective, non-toxic cleaners. The company launched online sales on May 1, 2021.  

The difference in Green Llama is in its form. Instead of selling cleaners in a plastic bottle, the company provides all-purpose, glass, and bathroom cleaners in pod form. Simply drop the pod in a spray bottle and add water from the tap. The ingredients are biodegradable, non-toxic and naturally occurring or naturally derived. They are scented with essential oils for a touch of aromatherapy. It’s a truly eco-friendly cleaner that eliminates the need to purchase more throw-away plastic bottles.

The idea for Green Llama was born more than a year ago when Kay Baker, an occupational therapist, was cleaning her home. Baker was tired of buying new plastic bottles every time she ran out of cleaner; a light went on. After a lot of research, testing and many different recipes, she created the formulas for Green Llama. 

“I am passionate about the environment and reducing waste,” Baker said. “I love our products because they make it simple to cut out plastic in the home.”

Plastic pollution is a worldwide problem with an estimated 46,000 pieces of floating plastic per square mile of our oceans. This wreaks havoc with an estimated 1 million sea bird and 100,00 marine mammal deaths annually directly from plastic. With increased awareness, individuals can make a big difference, starting in their homes.

“We are trying to reduce the amount of single use plastic while also decreasing the energy cost of shipping water around the country,” Baker explained. “Each ready-made cleaner you buy from the store is more than 90% water. Since you already have water in your home, I removed it.”

Green Llama estimates if each household in the United States bought one single pod instead of a single-use plastic bottle, we would save 128 million plastic spray bottles from the landfill.

Green Llama currently sells kitchen, bathroom and all-purpose cleaning pods; sample packs are also available. The company also sells reusable glass bottles for those who have already recycled their plastic bottles.

To learn more or to purchase, visit greenllamaclean.com.

Do It Yourself Storage in Dandridge sold 

Do It Yourself Storage at 822 US-70 Dandridge, TN sold June 17th for $4,300,000. Chris Bruce of Coldwell Banker Commercial Wallace facilitated the transaction off market after being engaged by the seller. Bruce delivered the investment opportunity to a Georgia based operator/investor. The climate controlled self-storage facility contains 45,000 net rentable square feet and 413 units. Chris Bruce specializes in commercial investment properties and is known for hard work and investor resources. He can be reached at 865-690-1111. 

a close up of a subway station: Do It Yourself Storage at 822 US-70 Dandridge, TN sold June 17th for $4,300,000. Chris Bruce of Coldwell Banker Commercial Wallace facilitated the transaction. 2021 © Courtesy of Coldwell Banker Commercial Wallace Do It Yourself Storage at 822 US-70 Dandridge, TN sold June 17th for $4,300,000. Chris Bruce of Coldwell Banker Commercial Wallace facilitated the transaction. 2021

National HIV Testing Day to raise awareness of Choice Health Network’s year-round services

National HIV Testing Day, held annually on June 27, also will raise awareness of Choice Health Network’s everyday services for East Tennessee’s most vulnerable individuals and families affected by HIV, mental illness, substance use, homelessness, discrimination, and disabilities.

In recognition of this observance, Choice Health Network will provide free HIV testing at the following event:

  • Saturday, June 26; 8-10 p.m.
  • Drag comedy show
  • Free to attend

Hi-Wire Brewing, 2020 Barber St.

People with HIV can live long, healthy lives when receiving quality medical care. When HIV-positive patients stay on HIV-protective medication, the virus is no longer detected in their blood, and the virus is not transmittable to others. Within four to six weeks of starting and maintaining medication, 94 percent of Choice Health Network clients attain viral suppression.

“National HIV Testing Day not only heightens awareness of the need for testing and services across our region, but also allows us to underscore the importance of what we do year-round in Tennessee,” said Steve Jenkins, CEO of Positively Living & Choice Health Network. “We provide affordable medical care for insured or uninsured patients, along with social services for people who need inclusive healthcare and who deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Choice Health Network offers free HIV testing by appointment year-round. In addition to testing and operating a full-service medical clinic, Choice Health Network’s services include mental health care counseling and therapy; food and transportation aid; housing support; telehealth; a syringe service exchange; naloxone distribution; resources and referrals to recovery; and HIV prevention through Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).

Choice Health Network is located at 1925 Ailor Ave. in Knoxville. For more information about Positively Living & Choice Health Network, visit https://choicehealthnetwork.org.

About Positively Living & Choice Health Network

Positively Living & Choice Health Network is a 501(c)(3) public health nonprofit serving East Tennessee’s most vulnerable populations: more than 5,000 individuals and families struggling to survive the challenges created by HIV, homelessness, mental illness, substance use, LGBTQ+ discrimination and disabilities. The organization has offices in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis and Upper Cumberland. For more information, visit https://choicehealthnetwork.org.

Outdoor Concert with “America’s Best Eagles Tribute Band” and Janelle Arthur

at 31st Knoxville Alzheimer’s Tennessee Walk on Sunday, June 27

(June 16, 2021 - Knoxville) Concerts are coming back, and the Alzheimer’s Tennessee Walk & Benefit Concert on Sunday, June 27 at Knoxville’s Lakeshore Park offers everyone the chance to enjoy music and support the Alzheimer’s community.

Not one, but two great acts take the stage following the 31st Walk to Make Alzheimer’s a Memory. Alzheimer’s Tennessee wants to help you make up for lost time with live music from the Eaglemaniacs and Special Guest Janelle Arthur. Called "America's best Eagles tribute band", the Eaglemaniacs bring to life the biggest hits from the Eagles and Don Henley. Sit back and "Take it Easy" with these super talented musicians from Nashville.

Janelle Arthur's beautiful voice took her from home town Oliver Springs to the Grand Ole Opry Stage and to American Idol's Top 5. Hand Me Downs, her newest single, features Super Star Dolly Parton. Sign up for the Knoxville Walk to Make Alzheimer's a Memory for your chance to hear the voice that impressed Dolly at www.alzTennessee.org/KnoxWalk.

“Join us for an amazing outdoor evening of live music with talented musicians who have recorded with famous artists. From ‘Hotel California’ to ‘Desperado’ and ‘Life in the Fast Lane’, the country’s best Eagles tribute band will take us back to the 1980s and perform songs many of us will recognize and appreciate – all while helping those living with Alzheimer’s disease,” Janice Wade-Whitehead, Alzheimer’s Tennessee President & CEO explained. “The breathtaking views from the peak of Lakeshore Park will certainly make this year's walk & post-walk benefit concert even more memorable.”

Everyone who pre-registers by this Sunday, June 20 and donates $50 will qualify for a FREE concert t-shirt at the event on June 27th.  Volunteers will also be collecting donations at the newly constructed Lakeshore Park HGTV Overlook for anyone who wants to bring a lawn chair or blanket and enjoy the concert that starts at 5 p.m. Big Butts BBQ and LB& S Snowballs plus other food trucks will donate a portion of proceeds to Alzheimer's Tennessee. 

FREE food and fun for the whole family – including pets – begins at 3 p.m.  Alzheimer’s Tennessee supporters will provide hot dogs, drinks and snacks. Plus keep cool with water-misting stations while you visit information booths, a kids area and the Pet Supplies Plus pet tent.

Opening ceremonies for the annual Walk to Make Alzheimer’s a Memory start at 4 p.m., and walkers can choose from a short, symbolic route or longer 1.3 mile loop. There is plenty of parking at Lakeshore Park, which is conveniently located at the intersection of Lyons View Pike and Northshore Drive.

For many who participate, the walk is an opportunity to honor a loved one and support Alzheimer’s Tennessee, a locally-based non-profit organization. Families, churches and businesses can sign up and participate as a team. Start a team today at www.AlzTennessee.org/KnoxWalk or call 865.544.6288 for information. You can also donate and register on site.

“I’m walking this year to honor my mother and uncle,” Alzheimer’s Tennessee Walk co-chairperson Jennifer Goodman shared. “I started helping to care for my mom five years ago, and I reached out to the amazing people at Alzheimer’s Tennessee for advice, caregiver training, and a shoulder to lean on. I’ve been part of the fundraising, but this year I stepped up to help contribute more to this organization that has helped me and my family, and I hope to help others learn what a tremendous resource the organization is for our community.”

All proceeds benefit Alzheimer’s Tennessee, which ensures all donations stay local to benefit Tennesseans.  The mission of Alzheimer’s Tennessee is to serve those facing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, promote brain health through education, and champion global research, prevention and treatment efforts. In addition to its Knoxville headquarters, the independent 501(c)(3) not-for-profit has offices in the Tri-Cities, Cookeville, Tullahoma, Jackson, and Nashville.

With the support of WALKers, donors and volunteers, Alzheimer’s Tennessee coordinates support groups and resource referrals, educates family and professional caregivers, and offers financial assistance. If you have questions about yourself or a loved one, please call 865.544.6288 or the 24/7 Help line at 1-800-ALZ-GATEway, or 1-800-259-4283.

Master Services to host job fair at Clinton Highway office

Knoxville, TN - June 18, 2021

Basement and foundation repair company Master Services will host a job fair at its Clinton Highway office on June 26, 2021.

“We need ambitious and hard-working people on our team,” said Director of Talent Acquisition Amanda Pope. “This job fair is an opportunity to meet new talent, talk to them about our open positions, and share a little about our amazing work culture.”

Master Services is the go-to contractor for basement waterproofing, foundation repair, crawl space encapsulation and repair, concrete leveling, humidity and mold control, and sump pump installation. The company has multiple positions available, including positions in its production and service departments. The Junkluggers of East Tennessee, a sister company, also has open positions.

“We offer a welcoming and supportive work environment, as well as great benefits,” explained Pope. “We’re a close-knit team and we support each other in providing the best possible customer service to homeowners.”

The job fair begins at 9 a.m. and will be hosted in the parking lot of the Master Services office. The office is located at 6226 Clinton Highway in Knoxville, TN.

For more information about Master Services and their job opportunities, visit https://www.masterservicestn.com/about-us/jobs.html.

Dollywood's Summer Celebration opens with exclusive Intel drone light show on June 25

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (Monday, June 21, 2021) — Summer in the Smokies is about to get a little bit sweeter and a little more special, thanks to Dollywood’s Summer Celebration which takes place June 25-July 31. Guests visiting during the event can experience the new Sweet Summer Nights as well as new show offerings from the park’s award-winning entertainment team.

Dollywood’s Sweet Summer Nights is a multi-sensory drone light show that creates a symphony of light in the sky above the Pigeon Forge park. Intel Drone Light Shows plans to launch hundreds of drones each evening for a spectacular nighttime experience representing a true evolution in traditional theme park entertainment. The sensational show uses up to 400 drones to animate the spectacular Dollywood-exclusive story. The drone performance is integrated into a musically-choreographed fireworks show, creating a visual and audial event of epic proportions.

As part of the Sweet Summer Nights experience, a DJ and energetic dancers bring fun to the streets of Wildwood Grove during a two dance parties that ensure every member of the family is on their feet. As the party nears its finale, the celebration takes to the sky as the drones launch into the air for an unforgettable end to the evening.

Dollywood’s entertainment team already has debuted several new shows this season, and the trend continues with two new shows that guests are sure to enjoy. Good Vibes begins June 25 at the Back Porch Theater and treats guests to a musical journey through the rhythms of classic and contemporary tunes. It’s about celebrating positivity, counting blessings, and simply enjoying life and happiness.

The Valley Theater is now home to Forever Country, an energetic look at the changing landscape of country music in the late 80s, 90s and early 2000s. Guests can expect to hear popular hits from artists like Garth Brooks and Shania Twain, as well as a nod to several popular dance songs, including Dolly’s “Romeo” and Brooks and Dunn’s “Boot Scootin’ Boogie.”

It’s story time again as Imagination Playhouse showcases three favorite books from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, including “Coat of Many Colors,” based on Parton’s song and children’s book of the same name. “Coat of Many Colors” and “Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon” feature sing-along songs that kids of all ages will enjoy. Everyone’s favorite, “The Little Engine That Could,” also comes to the stage with a delightful reminder of what can happen with just a little bit of determination. Thanks to Penguin Books, guests can enjoy several decorative and interactive photo opportunities for children and their families in the lobby of the theater prior to each show.

A group of special entertainment guests return to Dollywood this summer as well, when the park hosts the Tennessee Air National Guard’s Band of the South (concert band), Blue Groove (jazz band) and Full Throttle (rock group) on Saturday, July 3 and Sunday, July 4. The groups perform at DP’s Celebrity Theater and Showstreet Palace Theater and inspire patriotism by fostering a deep appreciation of the rich history and legacy of the Air Force. One of the group’s missions is to increase the public’s understanding of the importance of air power, the missions and programs of the Air Force and Air National Guard, and the bravery, sacrifice and dedication of Airmen across the globe.

While Dollywood guests have an amazing amount of entertainment options to enjoy during their visit, they also can experience the park’s award-winning rides in a completely different environment. Once the sun sets, Dollywood’s trademark attractions, like Wild Eagle, Lightning Rod and Thunderhead, provide a unique experience for those who climb aboard. These rides thrill guests who race through the summer night with no idea which way the track will turn next!

As the name implies, Dollywood’s Summer Celebration is a celebration of family fun and laughter at a place everyone loves. For more information about Dollywood’s 2021 season, operating calendars, and more, please visit Dollywood.com or download the Dollywood app.

Sevierville development named ‘The 407: Gateway to Adventure’, includes a Buc-ee’s Family Travel Center

SEVIERVILLE, TENN. – June 22, 2021 – Kituwah, LLC and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) announced today the first details for the highly-anticipated 200-acre development at Exit 407 in Sevierville, Tenn. The project, previously referred to simply as Project 407, has been named “The 407: Gateway to Adventure.” The first company that will locate in the development – a flagship Buc-ee’s Family Travel Center– was also disclosed.

Based in Texas, Buc-ee’s is known for its pristine bathrooms, fresh BBQ, friendly service, and providing a unique travel stop unlike any other.  With 38 stores in Texas, Buc-ee’s continues its expansion throughout the Southeast with newly opened stores in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and constructing stores in South Carolina, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The Sevierville location will be the company’s first “Big Store” in the country; at over 74,000 square-feet , more than 120 fueling positions, EV Charging stations,  and a car wash over 250 feet long.

Kituwah CEO Mark Hubble, who has helped other tribes nationally build tribal-owned businesses for the benefit of enrolled members, said, “Our goal is to be the first stop on everyone’s Smoky Mountain adventure – and Buc-ee’s is the perfect partner to ensure we give our customers a great beginning and ending to their family vacation. This is a business about excellence in customer experience with a huge fan following.”

Stan Beard, Director of Real Estate for Buc-ee’s, said, “It is not a coincidence that we chose The 407 as our first big store location outside of Texas.  We will be the proverbial ‘welcome sign’ at the front door of the exceptional travel experience that the Smoky Mountains, Sevierville, and Sevier County has to offer.  You won’t forget your first visit to Buc-ee’s and it won’t be your last!  We are thrilled to share our over the top customer experience and be a pivotal part of the Kituwah and EBCI vision for the Gateway to Adventure.” 

“The goal of The 407: Gateway to Adventure is to create a comprehensive entertainment destination with best in class amenities.” Hubble explained. “Sevier County is a tourism economy, and it will take time to grow into a true entertainment hub. In the short-term, we are focused on offering breathtaking experiences people can enjoy on-property for a few hours or a few days.”

“The City of Sevierville has long recognized the importance of development at I-40, and we are excited to see what Kituwah and Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians are planning,” said Sevierville Mayor Robbie Fox.  “With the largest Buc-ee’s Family Travel Center ever built anchoring this development, we believe the future at The 407: Gateway to Adventure will be incredible.”

Chief Richard Sneed of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians said, “The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is proud to partner with the elected officials and residents of TN on this exciting new opportunity and the vision behind it. Working together, we are uniquely poised to bring an experience not currently seen in Eastern Tennessee, providing an additional source for employment and tourism to the region.”

Additional concepts being explored and pursued for The 407: Gateway to Adventure include a world-class golf attraction, hotels, an ultimate sports experience, a state-of-the-art indoor go-kart facility, a distillery experience, and unique “retailtainment” attractions that are a combination of both themed attractions and stores.

According to Matthew Cross, Founding Partner and CEO of OE Experiences whose company is working with Kituwah, LLC on the project, The 407: Gateway to Adventure has already drawn interest from developers and tenants around the world.

“The 407: Gateway to Adventure is expected to draw 6.7 million visitors in its first full year of operation when Phase I is complete,” Cross said. “The space we have allows us to bring entirely new concepts to market and allows many existing local operators the chance to go big with some mind-blowing new ideas. This is the first of several exciting announcements we will be making in coming months.

“We have been fortunate to have received considerable competitive interest. Our goal is to deliver memorable experiences for our guests that financially rewards Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and allow businesses within the development a compelling and creative environment to participate in and be part of. Quite simply, this project and this property are all about partnerships.”

While later phases for the development remain flexible, the organizers say it will feature destination style placemaking that heightens the experience for visitors. Tourists and shoppers will have dining options, unique shopping experiences, and entertainment attractions that complement the overall vision. 

The site’s location allows easy access from nearby Knoxville, something the developers are counting on to supplement daily visits and labor options.  Chrissy Arch, Chair of the Kituwah Economic Development Board said, “We know Knoxville residents will visit this location for a unique date night, dining experience, shopping trip, or an easy weekend getaway. It is merely a 20-minute drive from Knoxville and a little over an hour from Asheville.

“The tourism and overall economic impact of The 407: Gateway to Adventure will be significant for Sevierville, the entire Smoky Mountain Region, and the State of Tennessee.” 

Three Roots Capital receives $1.8M from U.S. Department of the Treasury to provide access to capital in economically distressed communities

KNOXVILLE, TENN. (June 18, 2021) – This week, the U.S. Department of the Treasury awarded $1,826,265 in COVID-19 relief funds to Three Roots Capital (Three Roots) as part of its CDFI Rapid Response Program (CDFI RRP). Based in Knoxville, Tennessee, Three Roots will use these funds to make loans and investments across East Tennessee and greater Central Appalachia, helping support job-creating small businesses, place-making commercial real estate projects and community facilities.

In total, the U.S. Treasury awarded $1.25 billion to 863 community development financial institutions (CDFIs) in 48 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico. These CDFI RRP grant funds will help recipients build capital reserves and loan-loss reserves, along with providing financial products, financial services, development services and other operational activities in their communities. Three Roots received the maximum award amount given and will use the capital to increase the size of the Three Roots Capital Impact Fund, which is a pool of capital from which it will make equity investments in addition to loans.

Three Roots has a history of providing access to capital for small businesses, entrepreneurs, and projects in rural or low-income areas of East Tennessee and Kentucky. Since its founding in 2016, the CDFI has deployed over $74.5 million of capital, which has created or retained 1,564 jobs and developed 528,732 square feet of real estate. With Three Roots’ support and guidance, small businesses like Southeastern Packaging Technologies have thrived in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and rural, job-creating companies have continued to have positive impacts in their communities like Outdoor Venture Corporation in McCreary County, Kentucky.

“I founded Three Roots in direct response to the chronic need for more investment capital in central and southern Appalachia and in the broader Southeast. This award allows us to continue to support small businesses and entrepreneurs in low-income and economically disadvantaged communities throughout the region,” said Three Roots Capital Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer Grady Vanderhoofven. “CDFIs play an integral role in helping to lift economies, especially in times of need like this pandemic. We are honored to receive the maximum amount of this CDFI RRP award. Receiving these funds helps us continue to do what we do best: providing capital, connections, business coaching and collaboration in our region.”

Three Roots anticipates the CDFI RRP funds could be used to help address an access to capital gap identified by Techstars in their Assessment of the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem of the Greater Knoxville Metropolitan Area. Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the University of Tennessee recently announced the upcoming launch of a Techstars Industries of the Future Accelerator in Oak Ridge-Knoxville, which will foster the growth of 30 startups over three years.

About Three Roots Capital

Three Roots Capital (Three Roots) is certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and as a Community Development Entity (CDE). Because Three Roots is a CDFI, banks that make loans to, grants to, or investments in Three Roots may be eligible to receive Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) credit. Three Roots maintains its CDFI certification by making loans and/or investments to companies and projects located in low and moderate income (LMI) census tracts and by providing operational and technical assistance to companies and projects located in such areas. As a CDE, Three Roots is eligible to receive an allocation of federal New Markets Tax Credits (NMTCs) and to participate in and facilitate NMTC transactions.

McNabb Center to cut ribbon on new Intensive Long-Term Support facility

(KNOXVILLE, Tenn.) The McNabb Center will host a ribbon cutting to celebrate the completion of its newest building. This $1.5 million project will house the Center’s Intensive Long-Term Support (ILS) program, which provides supportive living for adults recovering from psychiatric conditions who need assistance living with more independence.

ILS is a community-based program that focuses on recovery and includes treatment, social activities and skill building. The goal of the program is to help individuals achieve independence and live successfully within the community.

This new building replaces and expands upon Willow Cottage, the Center’s previous ILS location at Lakeshore Park, which will permanently close as Lakeshore Park is further renovated.

This project was made possible by the Haslam 3 Foundation’s Dee and Jimmy Haslam.

The McNabb Center is the region’s leading nonprofit provider of mental health, substance use, social and victim services. By focusing on an individual’s “Well Mind, Well Being,” we provide a quality and compassionate approach to care from infancy through adulthood. Since 1948, the Center has proudly served individuals with the most needs and fewest resources. Today, the McNabb Center delivers support to more than 30,000 people throughout East Tennessee each year. For more information, visit www.mcnabbcenter.org or call 1-800-255-9711.

DENSO’s Fast-Track Hiring Event at Pellissippi State Community College

DENSO, a leading mobility supplier, is looking to fill open production and logistics positions at its Maryville, Tennessee facility. Reservations are required – register at densocareers.com/maryville or call 865-982-7000, x 2553. High school diploma or equivalent certification required; manufacturing experience is not a requirement.

  • Positions offer high earning potential, plus a $500 sign-on bonus.
  • Employees are provided with competitive pay starting at $16/hr. for 2nd and 3rd shifts and $15/hr. for 1st shifts, with increases to more than $22/hr.
  • Company-matched 401-K, paid holidays and vacation, low-cost insurance and on-site doctor and pharmacy, fitness center, cafeterias and more.

At the event:

  • Participants will complete DENSO’s computer-based plant skills review test.
  • Computer proficiency is not required to pass.
  • Registrants will get an email with suggested resources to help prepare.
  • Those who successfully pass will be interviewed by a recruiter.
  • Those who successfully interview will be given a contingent job offer.

Participants can also win tickets to Soaky Mountain Waterpark or a $100 gas card.

Fast-Track hiring event on Wednesday, June 16, 2021, throughout the day at Pellissippi State Community College – Blount Campus, located at 2731 W. Lamar Alexander Pkwy, Friendsville, TN  37737.

About DENSO

DENSO is a $44.6 billion global mobility supplier that develops advanced technology and components for nearly every vehicle make and model on the road today. With manufacturing at its core, DENSO invests in its 200 facilities to produce thermal, powertrain, mobility, electrification, & electronic systems, to create jobs that directly change how the world moves. The company’s 168,000+ employees are paving the way to a mobility future that improves lives, eliminates traffic accidents, and preserves the environment. Globally headquartered in Kariya, Japan, DENSO spent 10.0 percent of its global consolidated sales on research and development in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021. For more information about global DENSO, visit https://www.denso.com/global.

In North America, DENSO is headquartered in Southfield, Michigan, and employs 27,000+ engineers, researchers and skilled workers across 51 sites in the U.S, Canada and Mexico. In the United States alone, DENSO employs 17,700+ employees across 14 states (and the District of Columbia) and 41 sites. In fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, DENSO in North America generated $9.3 billion in consolidated sales. DENSO is committed to advancing diversity and inclusion inside the company and beyond – a principle that brings unique perspectives together, bolsters innovation and pushes DENSO forward. Join us, and craft not only how the world moves, but also your career: densocareers.com. For more information, go to https://www.denso.com/us-ca/en/.

Dollywood's Splash Country offers water safety education during June 17 event

PIGEON FORGE, Tenn. (Tuesday, June 15, 2021) – Last summer, tens of thousands of children in our community missed the opportunity to participate in formal swimming lessons, creating an urgent need for water safety education in 2021. Drowning remains the leading cause of accidental death in children ages 1 - 4, and it’s the second leading cause of injury-related death of children 14 and younger.

Participation in swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning by up to 88 percent! Dollywood’s Splash Country is committed to helping bridge the gap to prevent drowning. This year, swim instructors and community leaders will come together Thursday, June 17 to provide a free 30-minute lesson in the morning and offer education throughout the day. Area partners LeConte Medical Center, The Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation, WVLT Local 8 News and WIVK 107.7 join Splash Country to host the event.

“Dollywood’s Splash Country is committed to doing our part to educate and raise awareness about water safety,” explained Jason Boothe, Vice President of Park Operations. “In fact, we’re offering a $25 ticket and giveaways to incentivize people to join us for the swim lesson at 10 a.m. Research shows that swimming lessons save lives, so we’re inviting the community to join us as we host the World’s Largest Swimming Lesson.”

The World’s Largest Swimming Lesson (WLSL) is a one-day event that happens at pools and water parks around the world. Dollywood’s Splash Country is one of the participating venues, and to build out the event with a greater scope of water awareness, the Smokies’ most-trusted water park created Water Safety Day.

“LeConte Medical Center is honored to be a part of raising community awareness around water safety,” said LeConte Medical Center President and CAO Gaye Jolly. “This event is extremely important to the safety of our community and goes a long way to ensure everyone can enjoy swimming and other water activities. We are blessed to have great partners like the Dr. Robert F. Thomas Foundation and Dollywood’s Splash County for Water Safety Day.”

This year, Dollywood’s Splash Country is partnering with SafeSplash Swim School for the swim lesson. The lesson begins at 10 a.m. at Mountain Waves wave pool. Vendor booths are open from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Guests who visit the vendor booths receive a Splash Pass, allowing them to receive a prize at each booth. Once the participants have visited all vendors, they may turn their pass in for the chance to win two season passes to Dollywood’s Splash Country!

To take advantage of the $25 ticket offer, guests can visit Dollywood.com/watersafety. Water Safety Day and WLSL registration begins Thursday, June 17 at 9 a.m. at Dollywood’s Splash Country. The park opens to guests at 9:30 a.m. To receive a free gift, guests should arrive early to register before the swim lesson begins at 10 a.m. Dollywood’s Splash Country admission is required to participate in Water Safety Day and may be purchased on-site or online at Dollywood.com.

Sage Integration adds Knoxville office

Kent, Ohio –– June 14, 2021 –– Sage Integration, a security integration provider serving enterprise Fortune 100 clients, will deliver its client-centric services to the rapidly-growing eastern Tennessee region through a new office in Knoxville. This is Sage Integration’s fourth office; the others are located in Kent, Ohio, Atlanta and Dallas.

John Nemerofsky, Sage Integration’s chief operating officer, said an increased client base and demand for service in the fast-growing Knoxville area warranted the opening of the new office.

“The Knoxville area is a growing center for higher education, major public and private energy and scientific operations and expanding healthcare campuses – the type of enterprise clients Sage Integration protects,” he said. “Our new office enables us to rapidly deliver innovative security solutions to our expanding list of clients in this area.”

Nemerofsky said another reason for choosing Knoxville was the city’s large number of vendors known for their metal fabrication expertise, an essential aspect of many security projects. Mike Walker, a Sage Integration system engineer and nationally certified project manager, will lead the Knoxville office. 

With a strong leadership team and financial backing, Sage Integration is developing a national footprint for serving enterprise organizations through organic growth and acquisitions of leading regional integrators. Nemerofsky said Sage Integration will continue opening new offices as necessary to meet growing demand.

Sage Integration was formed in 2019 by merging two regional security powerhouses, AYSCO Security Consultants and DTS Security.

About SAGE Integration

SAGE Integration is a leading national systems integrator protecting the people, facilities, and reputation of enterprise clients by advancing the intelligence and integration of security technology. Embedded SAGE teams transform threat protection by sharing risk management responsibility for Fortune 100 clients operating across North America.  Headquartered in Kent, Ohio, SAGE brings the deep commitment of a local provider with the broad reach of a national integrator. For more information on SAGE Integration, visit  www.sageintegration.com

Innovation Center of Excellence advances construction services at Christman

On June 10, The Christman Company, a national construction and real estate development firm, based in Lansing, Michigan, announced the creation of the Christman Building Innovation Group (CBIG) to initiate, champion and drive innovation and excellence across its self-perform services. In addition to its 485 construction management and general contracting professionals, Christman currently employs 400 skilled trades men and women in carpentry, millwork, demolition, concrete, mass timber, earthwork, interiors and more.

From the company’s early roots in the 1900s establishing the building code of ethics and procedures with the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America, to technology innovations today, Christman’s drive to maximize the client experience led to the development of the CBIG. This group will drive better service, cost efficiencies, safety solutions, technology advances and innovative practices for self-perform operations nationally.

“The goal is to provide greater efficiency and building innovation options, ultimately creating a center of excellence at Christman which spans all regional offices,” Christman President and CEO Steve Roznowski said. “This transition connects our craftsmen and women to build on regional successes and lessons learned across Michigan, Texas, Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.”

CBIG is led by longtime Christman executive Douglas J. Peters, transitioning from his previous role as president of Christman Constructors, Inc. (CCI), Christman’s Lansing-based self-perform company. Peters has managed more than $1 billion in self-perform construction projects across the U.S. over the past 29 years. He led the creation of construction machine learning applications and a patent-pending human resource leveling iOS application, CopperWorksSM, to tackle the industry-wide labor shortage challenge. The application earned the AGC of America 2020 Innovation Award.

Peters will be aided in this effort by the following team members in new roles:

Jim Like, president, Christman Constructors, Inc.

Based in Lansing, Michigan

Like will assume full executive leadership of Christman Constructors, Inc., including oversight of management and labor. He joined CCI in 2012 as vice president, bringing extensive experience in industrial contracting. Throughout his career, Like has provided oversight of labor relations, implemented a company-wide safety program and was instrumental in implementing risk management practices and lean manufacturing processes. As a 30-year veteran of the construction industry, he is an experienced leader with expertise in managing risk, controlling costs and delivering a quality product to the client. He is a past president of the Associated General Contractors of Michigan (AGC) and currently serves as vice chairman of the AGC Labor Relations Division. He is a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers, a pension trustee for the Carpenters and Cement Masons and a member of the CCI board of directors. He has a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering from Lawrence Technological University.

Paul Leitert, president, Christman Mid-Atlantic Constructors

Based in Sterling, Virginia

Leitert assumes the key executive role as president of Christman Mid-Atlantic Constructors (CMAC), where he has served as vice president and built the team and the company’s service over the past 10 years. Leitert started his Christman career in 1996 and began working in the Mid-Atlantic region in 2005 as project manager for the general trades work on the Virginia State Capitol. Since that time, he has permanently relocated to our CMAC headquarters in Sterling, Virginia, where he oversees all operations not only for the region’s self-perform group, Christman Mid-Atlantic Constructors, but also for Christman Southeast Constructors units in Greensboro, North Carolina, and Knoxville, Tennessee.

Joe Leone, vice president, Christman Building Innovation Group

Based in Lansing, Michigan

As vice president of CBIG, Leone is responsible for estimating, creating efficiencies and development of “big data” tools to assist in analysis and predictability for Christman’s self-perform efforts. He will draw from expertise gained in his previous role of overseeing and directing all estimating and procurement-related activities for CCI, focusing on the procurement of concrete work and supporting the carpentry and general trades division with estimating. Leone joined Christman in 2006 as a project manager/estimator and was promoted to chief estimator in 2014 and to director of procurement in 2017.  Prior to joining Christman, he worked as a project engineer and project manager on several large stadium and arena projects as well as multiple large industrial projects around the country. Joe is a LEED Accredited Professional and has a Bachelor of Science in construction management from Michigan State University.

Tyler Mance, vice president, Christman Constructors, Inc., Interiors Group

Based in Lansing, Michigan

Mance will expand Christman’s expertise in interiors services, including drywall, doors, frames, acoustical ceilings, hardware and more. In his previous role as director of carpentry services, he was responsible for operations of the carpentry division of CCI, providing oversight and leadership of estimating, procurement, operations, scheduling, safety and budget. Mance joined Christman in 2001 as a project engineer and was promoted to project manager in 2007, to senior project manager in 2012 and to director of carpentry services and the CCI board of directors in 2016. He serves on the Associated General Contractors Workforce Development and Carpenters Joint Apprenticeship Training Committees and is a member of the Michigan Historic Preservation Network and the Preservation Trades Network. He has a Bachelor of Science in construction management from Ferris State University.

Andrew Holman, vice president, Christman Constructors, Inc.

Based in Detroit, Michigan

Holman is responsible for overseeing hiring, scheduling, training, safety and development of CCI’s self-perform workforce. Previously as director of Demolition and Restoration Services, he provided leadership for crews in the field while also providing estimating and business development services for self-perform demolition and concrete operations. Holman came to CCI as an intern and then joined the team full-time in 2007. He has been involved with a variety of high-profile projects, having completed work throughout Michigan, Washington, D.C., and Boston. He is a member of the Greater Michigan chapter of American Concrete Institute, is active in Associated General Contractors of Michigan and sits on the Michigan State University Construction Management Education Board. He has a Bachelor of Science in construction management from Michigan State University and an MBA in marketing and management from Wayne State University.

Steve Naschert, vice president of operations, Christman Mid-Atlantic Constructors

Based in Washington, D.C.

Naschert joined Christman Mid-Atlantic Constructors as director of operations in June 2016 and has overseen self-perform work on significant projects such as the Presidential Inaugural Stands, Cannon House Office Building and Russell Senate Office Building. He has been responsible for a variety of roles, including project planning, estimating, construction management, process scheduling and contract negotiation. Prior to joining Christman, Naschert served as senior project superintendent at a large competitor. His background also includes construction management coursework at Bradley University.

Andy Bellmore, director of operations, Christman Southeast Constructors-Knoxville

Based in Knoxville, Tennessee

Bellmore brings 20 years of self-perform construction experience with Christman in earthwork, concrete, demolition and carpentry trades. His expertise includes leadership on some of Christman’s premier projects, including the Gerald R. Ford Parking Structure, the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams at Michigan State University, the Accident Fund Parking Structure and the Lansing Board of Water and Light REO Town Power Plant. In 2015, he relocated to Christman’s Knoxville branch to expand its self-perform capabilities, including demolition, concrete and general trades services. Bellmore has a Bachelor of Science from Michigan State University.

“Connecting each regional team into a center of excellence brings advantages that we are excited to offer our partners and clients across the country,” Peters said. “Raising the bar on collaboration, innovation and achieving the best possible customer service is critical now, more than ever before.”

About The Christman Company

The Christman Company, founded in 1894, is one of the country’s leading professional construction services firms. The company’s award-winning services include construction management, general contracting, design/build, program management, real estate development, self-perform and millwork services. Christman specializes in a variety of construction markets, including government, higher and K12 education, industrial and power, healthcare, and corporate office. Ranked at No. 92 in the Engineering News-Record ENR 400 top contractors nationally and 54 in the ENR 100 Construction Management-at-Risk firms, Christman has more than $4 billion in construction underway managed by 485 professional employees across five states throughout the Southeast U.S., the Midwest, the Southwest U.S., and the Mid-Atlantic. For more information, visit https://www.christmanco.com, and connect on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter.

Big BBQ Bash returns with delicious competition

Founder’s Square in historic downtown Maryville on June 25 and 26. The professional barbeque cook-off fundraiser was established as a legacy project by the Leadership Blount Class of 2007 and this marks its seventh year as a Kansas City Barbecue Society (KCBS) sanctioned competition.

Since its inception, the Big BBQ Bash has raised more than $200,000 and all proceeds from the 2021 competition will benefit the McNabb Center’s military services.

KCBS sanctions barbecue and grilling contests across the U.S. and advocates barbecue as America’s cuisine. Additionally, KCBS has a vast Certified Barbecue Judging program. KCBS is the largest association of barbecue lovers in the world.

The Big BBQ Bash draws more than 30 teams from across the country to compete for $10,000 in cash and prizes, and of course, bragging rights. Categories include pulled pork, ribs, brisket and chicken. Former governor Bill Haslam proclaimed the Big BBQ Bash as a state championship, making the competition a qualifier for the American Royal Barbecue Cook-Off and Jack Daniel’s World Championship Invitational Barbecue.

Teams can choose to sell their award-winning barbecue or save it all for the competition.

If teams elect to sell, barbecue will be available for purchase on Friday evening and midday Saturday.

To register a barbecue team or for sponsorship information, please visit the event website, www.blountbbqbash.com or contact Lindsay Hughes at (865) 329-9031 or Lindsay.hughes@mcnabb.org.

The Big BBQ Bash is a part of Summer on Broadway, a two-day festival with food and activities for the whole family. Admission is free to the public and more information about Summer on Broadway can be found at www.summeronbroadway.net.

The McNabb Center is the region’s leading nonprofit provider of mental health, substance use, social and victim services. By focusing on an individual’s “Well Mind, Well Being,” we provide a quality and compassionate approach to care from infancy through adulthood. Since 1948, the Center has proudly served individuals with the most needs and fewest resources. Today, the McNabb Center delivers support to more than 30,000 people throughout East Tennessee each year. For more information, visit www.mcnabbcenter.org or call 1-800-255-9711.

UT Extension receives grants for COVID-19 and other vaccine education

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — According to the Tennessee Department of Health, 35.3% of Tennesseans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, of Tennessee’s 95 counties, 18 have vaccination rates of 20% or below. Two grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with funds awarded to University of Tennessee Extension hope to change that.

“UT Extension has offices in all 95 counties across Tennessee, so we are in a unique position to be able to assist with vaccine education and combat misinformation,” states Lisa Washburn, UT Extension community health specialist and principal investigator for the grant. “In many communities across the state and the nation, Extension may be perceived as a more credible or highly trusted source than other government entities that do not have a local presence,” adds Washburn. “Our goal is to utilize local partnerships with the community to increase vaccine rates and continue to eliminate COVID-19 infection and transmission from communities across Tennessee.”

The first of the two projects will help family and consumer sciences agents in high-risk counties in Tennessee identify specific areas of concern among their constituents, such as misinformation about the vaccines, vaccine safety and how the vaccines were developed and produced. Counties that are considered high-risk are primarily rural, have low vaccination rates, and have higher scores on both the Pandemic Vulnerability Index and the Social Vulnerability Index, two tools used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The project will leverage social media outlets in order to target Tennesseans who are 18-50, as this age group represents those with the lowest vaccination rates. Messaging will aim to correct misperceptions, strengthen vaccine norms and provide information on where and how to access vaccines locally.

The second, more extensive project is led by Soghra Jarvandi, assistant professor with UT Extension, in partnership with the UT Health Science Center and the Tennessee Department of Health. Working with community advisory groups in counties with lower rates of vaccinations, grant investigators will hold listening sessions to uncover attitudes and concerns related to not only COVID-19 vaccines but other immunizations that prevent disease. Combining the community expertise of UT Extension with the vast clinical experience of both the UT Health Science Center and the Tennessee Department of Health will support the development of community-based educational events and products that address identified issues and questions related to vaccine hesitancy.

“UT Extension,” asserts Jarvandi, “is proud to be one of 24 grantees across the nation participating in this important two-year project to advance the prevention of infectious diseases through vaccination.”

The projects are funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Cooperative Extension, and the CDC.

Through its mission of research, teaching and extension, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture touches lives and provides Real. Life. Solutions. utia.tennessee.edu.

AT&T invests nearly $1.4 billion over three-year period to connect local customers in Tennessee

NASHVILLE, TN, June 8, 2021 - AT&T* is proud to connect customers across the country by continuing to grow the nation’s best network 1. From 2018-2020, we expanded coverage and improved connectivity in more communities by investing nearly $1.4 billion in our wireless and wireline networks in Tennessee. This includes nearly $250 million in Memphis, more than $120 million in Knoxville and nearly $475 million in the Nashville area.

AT&T’s commitment to communities across the country continues and spans all layers of our network—from fiber to 5G to FirstNet®. These investments are essential to connecting our customers with their family, friends and colleagues by increasing the network’s speed, reliability, coverage and overall performance.

In 2021, we are increasing our fiber footprint by 3 million customer locations across more than 90 metro areas that we currently serve, including in Tennessee. We also recently announced that AT&T will invest $2 billion over the next 3 years to help address the digital divide nationwide. AT&T further improved critical communications for Tennessee’s first responders and improved public safety with FirstNet® – America’s public safety network.

“From connecting family and loved ones to helping first responders during a crisis, AT&T is committed to investing in Tennessee to build state-of-the-art infrastructure that will keep people connected,” said AT&T Tennessee President Joelle Phillips. “By continuing to improve our network at the state and local levels, we are helping businesses grow in Tennessee and helping to ensure that our customers and communities stay connected throughout the country.”

“Access to fast communications infrastructure is a key ingredient of business growth, education, and workforce development,” said Bradley Jackson, President & CEO, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry. “We are thankful for the investment and expanded connectivity and look to our policy makers to continue to be a driving force for the spread of top performing internet access to all of Tennessee’s schools, businesses, and families.”

More details about our wireless coverage in Tennessee, and anywhere in the U.S., can be found on the AT&T Coverage Viewer. For updates on the AT&T wireless network, please visit the AT&T network news page.

Expanding Access to Fiber

In order to meet the continual demands for reliable, high-speed connections in our increasingly virtual world, we are looking to the future and investing in solutions like fiber around the country.

AT&T Fiber® offers speeds of nearly 1 GIG2 for both upload and download, which provides plenty of bandwidth for consumers and businesses and creates a better internet experience for bandwidth-heavy applications like video conferencing, virtual learning, telehealth, and gaming that are growing in popularity and importance. It has also proven to be 99% reliable3 and offers consistently fast speeds, even during peak times.4

Is fiber available in my area? We currently offer AT&T Fiber in more than 90 metro areas across the U.S. AT&T Fiber is currently available in parts of Jackson, Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville and southeast Tennessee.

Bringing fast, reliable, secure AT&T 5G to more Americans

AT&T is also unlocking the power of 5G for consumers, businesses and first responders:

AT&T 5G, delivered over sub-6 spectrum sets us up to offer a better wireless experience with greater capacity to enable faster responses on capable devices. AT&T offers fast, reliable and highly secure 5G to 240 million people in 14,000 cities and towns nationwide including parts of 49 Tennessee counties.

To check out the latest fiber pricing options head to att.com and to learn more about AT&T 5G, visit our AT&T 5G site.

FirstNet: Dedicated to America’s First Responders

We are committed to improving public safety infrastructure.  As a part of that commitment, we have invested and built FirstNet in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) – an independent agency within the federal government. FirstNet is the only nationwide, high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community.

Expanding to serve: FirstNet focuses on where first responders need connectivity. We’ve moved quickly to deliver more coverage, boost capacity and drive new capabilities for first responders. Using all AT&T LTE commercial spectrum as well as high-quality Band 14 spectrum, FirstNet covers 2.71 million square miles nationwide. And we’re actively extending the reach of FirstNet in Tennessee to give agencies large and small the reliable, unthrottled connectivity and modern communications tools they require.

First responder-centric 5G: FirstNet subscribers in parts of 38 cities and more than 20 venues now have access to AT&T 5G+. Our approach to 5G for public safety is unlike anything else. We’ve upgraded the dedicated FirstNet network core to enable 5G connectivity that is being built to intuitively optimize the experience for America’s first responders. First responders maintain voice communications with always-on priority and preemption on LTE, while the FirstNet network determines the best route for data traffic with compatible devices, whether that’s 5G+ or LTE spectrum.

The FirstNet network is providing Tennessee public safety with truly dedicated coverage and capacity when they need. These advanced capabilities enable FirstNet to help fire, EMS, and law enforcement personnel save lives and protect their communities.

The Connect America Fund

Through our participation in the FCC’s Connect America Fund universal service program, we are helping to meet the connectivity needs of customers in largely rural areas and to expand the opportunities enabled by internet access. By the end of 2020, we offered high-speed internet access to over 81,000 locations across Tennessee in mostly rural areas through technologies like Fixed Wireless Internet.

FirstNet and the FirstNet logo are registered trademarks and service marks of the First Responder Network Authority. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.

1 GWS awarded AT&T Best Network OneScore 2020. GWS conducts drive tests for AT&T and uses the data in its OneScore analysis.

2 Speeds vary and not guaranteed. Internet speed claims represent maximum network service capabilities and based on wired connection to gateway. Actual customer speeds may vary based on a number of factors and are not guaranteed. Download speeds for Internet 1000 are typically up to 940Mbps due to overhead capacity reserved to deliver the data. For more information, go to www.att.com/speed101.

3 Based on network availability.

4 Based on wired connection to the gateway.

*About AT&T Communications

We help family, friends and neighbors connect in meaningful ways every day. From the first phone call 140+ years ago to mobile video streaming, we @ATT innovate to improve lives. AT&T Communications is part of AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T). For more information, please visit us at att.com.

UScellular turns on 25 more 5G towers for East Tennessee customers 

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (June 3, 2021) – UScellular customers in East Tennessee now have additional access to the company’s 5G network with the activation of 25 more towers this month. The new 5G equipment in Dandridge, Gainesboro, Knoxville, Livingston, Oak Ridge, Madisonville, Maryville, Seymour, Speedwell, Tazewell, Wartburg and White Pine offers additional coverage to multiple urban and rural communities across East Tennessee.

UScellular continues to expand its 5G network to serve East Tennessee communities. Other towns and communities with access to UScellular’s 5G network in East Tennessee include Arthur, Blaine, Clarkrange, Clinton, Cookeville, Cosby, Crossville, Gainesboro, Grimsley, Harriman, Harrogate, Hartsville, Helenwood, Hilham, Huntsville, Jamestown, Jefferson City, Kingston, Kodak, Lafayette, Lenoir City, Livingston, Loudon, Maynardville, Moss, Newport, New Tazewell, Oak Ridge, Oliver Springs, Pleasant Hill, Powell, Red Boiling Springs, Rickman, Rockwood, Sevierville and Strawberry Plains.

“UScellular customers in East Tennessee will have access to even faster data connection speeds for a better experience on city streets, country roads and in their homes,” said Nathan Waddell, UScellular’s director of sales in East Tennessee. “We encourage our new and current customers to check out the growing number of 5G smartphones and connected devices in our portfolio so they can benefit as we expand our 5G network.”

The multi-year network expansion for 5G in East Tennessee is a result of previous network investments to modernize equipment and software. In 2020, UScellular invested $14.6 million in 5G upgrades to enhance the network experience for East Tennessee residents. In 2021, the company plans to continue a strong investment for local network updates.

This initial 5G network deployment is on the company’s 600 MHz spectrum and will provide customers in East Tennessee communities with faster data speeds, seamless video chatting and a more responsive mobile experience. The company has a growing portfolio of 5G smartphones from Apple, Google and Samsung, connected devices and IoT solutions with a range of price points for everyone to experience 5G.

A 5G coverage map is available at https://www.uscellular.com/coverage-map. This will be updated as more 5G network coverage is added. For more information about UScellular’s 5G network, please go to uscellular.com/5G.

About UScellular

UScellular is the fourth-largest full-service wireless carrier in the United States, providing national network coverage and industry-leading innovations designed to elevate the customer experience. The Chicago-based carrier is building a stronger network with the latest 5G technology and offers a wide range of communication services that enhance consumers’ lives, increase the competitiveness of local businesses and improve the efficiency of government operations. To learn more about UScellular, visit one of its retail stores or www.uscellular.com. To get the latest news, promos and videos, connect with UScellular on Facebook.com/uscellular, Twitter.com/uscellular and YouTube.com/uscellularcorp.

KCHD to hold vaccination event for families with rising seventh grade students  

Knoxville, Tenn. — The Knox County Health Department (KCHD) will hold a vaccination clinic for rising seventh grade students on Saturday, June 12 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at its Broadway vaccination clinic, 4216 N. Broadway. No appointments required. Parents will have the opportunity to choose from several vaccinations at the clinic. 

Although immunizations are required for students entering preschool, kindergarten and seventh grade, officials say many rising seventh grade students fall behind. 

“This happens for several reasons, not the least of which is that kids tend to receive fewer annual checkups as they grow older,” said KCHD Nursing Director Dena Mashburn. “We wanted to offer this special clinic to help students get caught up on required and recommended vaccines and to offer the COVID-19 vaccine.” 

Several vaccines recommended for this age group will be available at the clinic, including tetanus - diphtheria -acellular pertussis (Tdap), meningococcal and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccine will also be available for students 12 years of age and older. As always, parents can discuss the options with KCHD team members and choose which vaccines their child receives at the clinic.  

If families can’t attend the June 12 clinic, immunizations are available at area pediatrician offices and many local pharmacies. KCHD also provides vaccines at its main location, 140 Dameron Ave., and West Clinic, 1028 Old Cedar Bluff, by appointment. To make an appointment, call 865-215-5070.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, and numerous other national medical organizations say immunizations are vital in protecting children from potentially serious diseases. The CDC estimates vaccination of children born between 1994 and 2018 will prevent more than 26 million hospitalizations, 936,000 deaths and save nearly $1.9 trillion in total societal costs. More information and recommendations for parents can be found at Healthychildren.org.  

More information about childhood immunizations, including contact information for KCHD and a list of the recommended vaccinations by grade level, is available at knoxcounty.org/health.  

About Knox County Health Department 

The first health department in Tennessee to achieve national voluntary accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board, the Knox County Health Department (KCHD) is dedicated to ensuring the conditions in which every resident can be healthy. As a chief health strategist for the community and with more than 240 team members, KCHD’s broad scope of work includes convening partners to improve community health, identifying community health threats, investigating disease outbreaks, conducting extensive outreach and education, preparing for public health emergencies, providing and connecting the public with medical care, enforcing food safety and air quality laws, and more. For more information, visit www.knoxcounty.org/health.   

Updated Legal Resource Guide available for free download

KNOXVILLE – June 3, 2021 - The Knoxville Bar Association (KBA) is pleased to announce the release of an update to the “Legal Resource Guide – Finding Legal Assistance in Knoxville,” a directory of legal service and information providers in our community.  This 21-page resource includes information about government agencies, nonprofits, pro bono organizations, and others who help to ensure that all citizens have equal access to justice.

The Legal Resource Guide is compiled from information gathered by the Knoxville Bar Association staff from the agencies and offices listed therein.  The KBA is grateful for the assistance of the many offices who responded to our requests for updated information, and their generosity in sharing information about their respective organizations with the public.

The Legal Resource Guide is available for online viewing or download from the KBA website at www.knoxbar.org/LRG.  The full array of information and services provided to the public by the KBA is available at www.knoxbar.org/legalhelp.

We know that members of the public rely on quality access to appropriate legal services. The Knoxville Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) can connect you with a qualified attorney who can meet your legal needs with skill and care.  The Knoxville Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service may be reached online at www.knoxbar.org/LRIS or by telephone at (865) 522-7501. 

‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’ by Flying Anvil Theatre to benefit Choice Health Network

The Flying Anvil Theatre’s performances in June of “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” will raise funds for Positively Living & Choice Health Network and the theatre to help make up revenue lost over the past year because of the pandemic.

The highly acclaimed play, written by Nora and Delia Ephron, is based on the book by Ilene Beckerman and features monologues and ensemble pieces about women, clothes and memories. It will be the Flying Anvil Theatre’s first in-person event of 2021, and tickets for the June 23-27 performances will be limited to allow for social distancing. The play will feature Carol Mayo Jenkins, Laura Beth Wells, Nancy Duckles, Eileen Conway and Jayne Morgan.

“We appreciate the Flying Anvil Theatre including us in this event and supporting our mission,” said Steve Jenkins, chief executive officer of Positively Living & Choice Health Network. “We serve East Tennessee’s most vulnerable individuals and families affected by HIV, homelessness, mental illness, substance use and disabilities. The pandemic has taken a considerable toll, and we invite the community to take part in this event and show support to our nonprofit and the theatre.”

The Flying Anvil Theatre, located at 1300 Rocky Hill Road in West Knoxville, will present the play with 7:30 p.m. shows on Wednesday-Saturday, June 23-26, and a 2 p.m. performance on Sunday, June 27.

Tickets are available now at https://www.flyinganviltheatre.com/tickets. General admission tickets are $50, and “Bridge the Gap” philanthropy tickets that include an additional donation are available for $75. Additionally, tickets for a VIP cocktail hour before the Saturday evening show are $100. All proceeds benefit Choice Health Network and the Flying Anvil Theatre.

The theatre will use enhanced cleaning procedures, and masks are required when not eating or drinking.

About Positively Living & Choice Health Network

Positively Living & Choice Health Network is a 501(c)(3) public health nonprofit serving East Tennessee’s most vulnerable populations: more than 5,000 individuals and families struggling to survive the challenges created by HIV, homelessness, mental illness, substance use, LGBTQ+ discrimination and disabilities. The organization has offices in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Memphis and Upper Cumberland. For more information, visit https://choicehealthnetwork.org.

South College Atlanta earns initial accreditation for Associate of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography program

South College has been awarded initial accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) for the Associate of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (DMS) program at its Atlanta campus.

“Diagnostic Medical Sonography is a field with high demand and is a great enhancement to our portfolio of quality allied healthcare programs,” said Josh Huffaker, president of the Atlanta campus. “Programmatic accreditation is important to show our commitment to continuous improvement by meeting or exceeding national standards. Combined with our great leaders and faculty and excellent student support and clinical partners, this initial accreditation is an important milestone that will benefit the success of the program and our DMS students.”

a sign in front of a building: South College has been awarded initial accreditation from The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) for the Associate of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (DMS) program at its Atlanta campus. June 2021. © Courtesy of Moxley Carmichael South College has been awarded initial accreditation from The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) for the Associate of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (DMS) program at its Atlanta campus. June 2021.

Those interested in learning more about the program may attend a virtual information session about South College Atlanta imaging sciences programs on Tuesday, July 27, from 7-8 p.m. To register, email Carolyn Kiser Whitt at cwhitt1@south.edu.

The recent peer review conducted by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRC-DMS) and CAAHEP’s board “recognized the program’s substantial compliance with the nationally established accreditation standards,” according to a letter sent by CAAHEP to South College.

Diagnostic medical sonographers use special imaging equipment that directs sound waves into a patient’s body in procedures commonly known as sonograms or ultrasound to assess and diagnose various medical conditions.

“DMS practitioners are the eyes and the ears of the doctor,” said Lisa Newberry, director of the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program at South College Atlanta. “The DMS program includes intense anatomy studies that progress as students build on core skills that help with obtaining competencies in the clinical setting.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for diagnostic medical sonographers will grow 12 percent through 2029, which is much faster than the average for all occupations.

For more information South College, including information about the DMS program, visit https://www.south.edu.

About South College

South College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award degrees at the doctorate, educational specialist, master’s, baccalaureate, and associate levels, as well as certificates. Questions about the accreditation of South College may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (https://www.sacscoc.org).  

About CAAHEP Accreditation

The Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (www.caahep.org) upon the recommendation of the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography.

Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs www.caahep.org

Optimas Solutions opens regional distribution center in Knoxville to improve supply chain in the Tennessee Valley area

Wood Dale, IL. – June 1, 2021 -- Optimas Solutions, a global industrial manufacturer/distributor and service provider, announced the opening of a regional distribution center in Knoxville, TN to better serve current customers, deliver more supply chain security in the surrounding area and to tap underserved markets. The opening of the facility is part of a larger Optimas strategy to create a U.S. distribution footprint that more efficiently brings supply closer to customer demand to ensure timely delivery of parts, plus better inventory management.

The facility, located at 132 Sherlake Lane in Knoxville, offers over 25,000 square feet of warehousing and distribution space in a strategic area along the I-40 and I-75 corridors in Tennessee and near the McGhee Tyson Airport.  The location is ideal for growing business in Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina as well as servicing existing customers in the area.

“We chose this location for our new distribution center in Knoxville for a number of important reasons,” said Daniel Harms, chief operating officer for Optimas. “Overall, Knoxville provides good distribution infrastructure and is a strategic location to reach the markets in which we want to expand, including Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina and even Northern Georgia.  The area offers a solid available workforce, a variety of transportation options, including rail, trucking, and air, and has a very appealing location to serve our strategic target markets.”

According to Harms, the expansion to Knoxville is part of a larger U.S. distribution expansion strategy that rolls up to Optimas’ overall strategic business plan called Manufacturing Solutions—introduced last August. It is designed to better serve customers, grow the overall business, and better manage the supply chain.

“Our distribution expansion plan for the U.S. is very important to our overall business strategy,” said Harms. “We’ve improved our supply chain and inventory management solutions as a result of key learnings over the past year. And we will continue to improve our capabilities in this area as we learn even more each and every day in what is still a very unique environment.”

About Optimas Solutions

Optimas is the leading global industrial manufacturer/distributor and service provider specializing in fastening and supply chain solutions for manufacturers seeking to improve efficiency and profitability. We take care of the details so customers can focus on manufacturing cutting-edge products—giving them an unparalleled competitive edge. Visit optimas.com and follow us on LinkedIn  www.linkedin.com/company/optimas-solutions/ and Twitter @Optimas_Sc

City of Knoxville kicks off summer season

The Memorial Day holiday traditionally marks the beginning of the summer season. With daily temperatures already above seasonal averages, the opening of the City’s Public Outdoor Pools couldn’t come at a better time.

Ed Cothren (1737 Reynolds St.) and Inskip (4204 Bruhin Road) pools are now open. Operating hours are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 1-6 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, visit KnoxvilleTN.gov/aquatics.

Play fountains are currently open at Volunteer Landing, World’s Fair Park and Krutch Park Extension; the fountains in Market Square will open later this summer.

If you’re looking for a different kind of water recreation, Augusta Quarry has new hours: gates open at 9:30 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. River Sports Outfitters will rent recreation equipment between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

For additional information about City services, visit KnoxvilleTN.gov.

United Community Banks, Inc. and Aquesta Financial Holdings, Inc., the parent of Aquesta Bank, announce merger agreement

GREENVILLE, S.C. – May 27, 2021 -- United Community Banks, Inc. (NASDAQ: UCBI) (United) and Aquesta Financial Holdings, Inc. (OTC Pink: AQFH) (Aquesta) announced today a definitive agreement for United to acquire Aquesta, including its wholly-owned subsidiary, Aquesta Bank.

Aquesta is headquartered in Cornelius, North Carolina, a northern and fast-growing suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina situated on Lake Norman. It has a premier franchise with an experienced management team led by President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Engel, who founded Aquesta Bank in 2006. The bank’s high-touch customer service is delivered to retail and business customers through a network of nine branches located in Charlotte’s most attractive markets and also in the coastal city of Wilmington, North Carolina. Aquesta also has successful loan production offices in Raleigh, North Carolina, as well as Greenville and Charleston, South Carolina. As of March 31, 2021, Aquesta reported total assets of $752 million, with total loans of $576 million. Additionally, $586 million, or 92%, of its deposit base consists of non-CD core deposits.

“This transaction is consistent with our desire to expand into attractive and fast-growing markets that we know well,” said Lynn Harton, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of United. “We have been investing in Charlotte over the past several years and have commercial banking and mortgage teams already in place. Aquesta is an exciting opportunity for us to increase our presence and accelerate our growth with a high-quality company that shares our values of customer service, employee engagement and community development.”

Jim Engel, President and Chief Executive Officer of Aquesta, stated, “From the beginning, we have focused on developing a business model with a focus on relationship banking in Charlotte and other key markets in the Carolinas, which are some of the most attractive and fastest growing markets in the Southeast and the country. We believe that we have been successful at that. However, to continue growing and becoming more profitable, we needed a partner who can provide us the opportunity to better serve our customers with a larger balance sheet and expanded products and services to offer. Our partnership with the United team provides just that, and I believe the synergies that exist between our companies will result in tremendous success for both sides.”

The transaction value is estimated at approximately $131 million, including approximately $12 million in value for outstanding options and warrants to acquire Aquesta common stock. The transaction structure includes an election for Aquesta stockholders to receive their consideration in cash, subject to a limitation that no more than 30% of the total consideration paid by United will be in cash. The stock portion of the merger consideration is based upon 0.6386 shares of United common stock being issued in exchange for each share of Aquesta common stock. The acquisition is expected to be accretive to United’s earnings per share by approximately $0.06 to $0.09 in 2022, depending upon the mix of United shares and cash elected by Aquesta stockholders and is consistent with United’s stated acquisition criteria pertaining to tangible book value and targeted internal rates of return. The transaction is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2021 and is subject to customary conditions, including regulatory approval as well as the approval of Aquesta’s stockholders.

Hovde Group, LLC acted as financial advisor to United, and Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP served as United’s legal advisor. Piper Sandler & Co. served as Aquesta’s financial advisor, and Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton LLP served as Aquesta’s legal advisor.

About United Community Banks, Inc.

United Community Banks, Inc. (NASDAQ: UCBI) (United) provides a full range of banking, wealth management and mortgage services for relationship-oriented consumers and business owners. The company, known as “The Bank That SERVICE Built,” has been recognized nationally for delivering award-winning service. United has $18.6 billion in assets and 161 offices in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee along with a national SBA lending franchise and a national equipment lending subsidiary. In 2021, J.D. Power ranked United highest in customer satisfaction with retail banking in the Southeast, marking seven out of the last eight years United earned the coveted award. United was also named "Best Banks to Work For" by American Banker in 2020 for the fourth year in a row based on employee satisfaction. Forbes included United in its inaugural list of the World’s Best Banks in 2019 and again in 2020. Forbes also recognized United on its 2021 list of the 100 Best Banks in America for the eighth consecutive year. United also received five Greenwich Excellence Awards in 2020 for excellence in Small Business Banking, including a national award for Overall Satisfaction. Additional information about United can be found at www.ucbi.com.

About Aquesta Financial Holdings, Inc.

Aquesta Financial Holdings, Inc. (OTC Pink: AQFH) is the holding company for Aquesta Bank, a full-service bank with branches in Cornelius, Davidson, Huntersville, Mooresville, Charlotte, and Wilmington, North Carolina, and loan production offices in Raleigh, North Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina and Greenville, South Carolina. Aquesta Bank’s track record of superior growth and profitability has been built on its focus on its core values of passion, vision, caring, empowerment and togetherness. The Aquesta team applies these values in helping its clients, communities, and each other achieve success. Aquesta has been recognized as a leader in the communities it serves including, Best Work Place (2020) and Normy Award for Best Community Bank. Recently, Aquesta helped local businesses by being one of the top PPP loan producers in the country proportionate to its size, resulting in about 17,000 jobs being saved for small businesses across the Charlotte area.

Caution About Forward-Looking Statements

This press release contains “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended. In general, forward-looking statements usually may be identified through use of words such as “may,” “believe,” “expect,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “will,” “should,” “plan,” “estimate,” “predict,” “continue” and “potential” or the negative of these terms or other comparable terminology, and include statements related to the expected timing of the closing of the proposed transaction described in this press release (the “Merger”), the expected returns and other benefits of the Merger to shareholders, expected improvement in operating efficiency resulting from the Merger, estimated expense reductions resulting from the Merger and the timing of achievement of such reductions, the impact on and timing of the recovery of the impact on tangible book value, and the effect of the Merger on United’s capital ratios. Forward-looking statements are not historical facts and represent management’s beliefs, based upon information available at the time the statements are made, with regard to the matters addressed; they are not guarantees of future performance. Actual results may prove to be materially different from the results expressed or implied by the forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements are subject to numerous assumptions, risks and uncertainties that change over time and could cause actual results or financial condition to differ materially from those expressed in or implied by such statements.

Factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include, but are not limited to (1) the risk that the cost savings and any revenue synergies from the Merger may not be realized or take longer than anticipated to be realized, (2) disruption from the Merger of customer, supplier, employee or other business partner relationships, (3) the occurrence of any event, change or other circumstances that could give rise to the termination of the Merger agreement, (4) the failure to obtain the necessary approval by the stockholders of Aquesta, (5) the possibility that the costs, fees, expenses and charges related to the Merger may be greater than anticipated, (6) the ability of United to obtain required governmental approvals of the Merger, (7) reputational risk and the reaction of each of the companies’ customers, suppliers, employees or other business partners to the Merger, (8) the failure of the closing conditions in the Merger agreement to be satisfied, or any unexpected delay in closing the Merger, (9) the risks relating to the integration of Aquesta’s operations into the operations of United, including the risk that such integration will be materially delayed or will be more costly or difficult than expected, (10) the risk of potential litigation or regulatory action related to the Merger, (11) the risks associated with United’s pursuit of future acquisitions, (12) the risk of expansion into new geographic or product markets, (13) the dilution caused by United’s issuance of additional shares of its common stock in the Merger, and (14) general competitive, economic, political and market conditions. Further information regarding additional factors which could affect the forward-looking statements can be found in the cautionary language included under the headings “Cautionary Note Regarding Forward-Looking Statements” and “Risk Factors” in United’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2020, and other documents subsequently filed by United with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”).

Many of these factors are beyond United’s and Aquesta’s ability to control or predict. If one or more events related to these or other risks or uncertainties materialize, or if the underlying assumptions prove to be incorrect, actual results may differ materially from the forward-looking statements. Accordingly, shareholders and investors should not place undue reliance on any such forward-looking statements. Any forward-looking statement speaks only as of the date of this communication, and neither United nor Aquesta undertakes any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law. New risks and uncertainties may emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for United or Aquesta to predict their occurrence or how they will affect United or Aquesta.

United and Aquesta qualify all forward-looking statements by these cautionary statements.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR SHAREHOLDERS AND INVESTORS

In connection with the Merger, United will file with the SEC a registration statement on Form S-4 that will include a Proxy Statement of Aquesta to be sent to Aquesta’s stockholders seeking their approval in connection with the Merger. The registration statement also will contain the prospectus of United to register the shares of United common stock to be issued in connection with the Merger.

INVESTORS AND STOCKHOLDERS OF AQUESTA ARE ENCOURAGED TO READ THE REGISTRATION STATEMENT, INCLUDING THE PROXY STATEMENT/PROSPECTUS THAT WILL BE A PART OF THE REGISTRATION STATEMENT WHEN IT BECOMES AVAILABLE AND ANY OTHER RELEVANT DOCUMENTS FILED BY UNITED WITH THE SEC, INCLUDING ANY AMENDMENTS OR SUPPLEMENTS TO THE REGISTRATION STATEMENT AND THOSE OTHER DOCUMENTS, BECAUSE THEY WILL CONTAIN IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT UNITED, AQUESTA AND THE MERGER.

The registration statement and other documents filed with the SEC may be obtained for free at the SEC’s website (www.sec.gov). You will also be able to obtain these documents, free of charge, from United at the “Investor Relations” section of United’s website at www.ucbi.com or from Aquesta at the “Investor Relations” section of Aquesta’s website at www.aquesta.com. Copies of the definitive proxy statement/prospectus will also be made available, free of charge, by contacting United Community Banks, Inc., P.O. Box 398, Blairsville, GA 30514, Attn: Jefferson Harralson, Telephone: (864) 240-6208, or Aquesta Financial Holdings, Inc., 19510 Jetton Road, Cornelius, North Carolina 28031, Attn: Kristin Couch, Telephone: (704) 439-4325.

This communication does not constitute an offer to sell, the solicitation of an offer to sell or the solicitation of an offer to buy securities, nor shall there be any sale of securities in any jurisdiction in which such offer, solicitation or sale would be unlawful prior to registration or qualification under the securities laws of such jurisdiction. This communication is also not a solicitation of any vote or approval with respect to the Merger or otherwise.

PARTICIPANTS IN THE TRANSACTION

United, Aquesta, Aquesta Bank and certain of their respective directors and executive officers, under the rules of the SEC may be deemed to be participants in the solicitation of proxies from Aquesta’s stockholders in favor of the approval of the Merger. Information about the directors and officers of United and their ownership of United common stock can also be found in United’s definitive proxy statement in connection with its 2021 annual meeting of shareholders, as filed with the SEC on March 30, 2021, and other documents subsequently filed by United with the SEC. Information about the directors and executive officers of Aquesta and their ownership of Aquesta’s capital stock, as well as information regarding the interests of other persons who may be deemed participants in the transaction, may be obtained by reading the Proxy Statement/Prospectus regarding the Merger when it becomes available. Free copies of this document may be obtained as described above.

Fireflies light up the nights in Market Square

Downtown Knoxville celebrates spring with Firefly Nights, an enchanting new light installation that adds a bit of sparkle to the trees of Market Square.

Inspired by the synchronous fireflies that attract thousands of visitors to Elkmont and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park every spring, Firefly Nights includes more than 12,000 lights that “flash” from sunset to sunrise through the end of June.

“With warm weather and longer days, Downtown Knoxville is the perfect place to find spontaneous fun for the entire family,” said Michele Hummel, executive director of the Downtown Knoxville Alliance. “People are excited to be getting safely out and about again, and we hope the creation of Firefly Nights can make being downtown even more special for them.”

Firefly Nights, which is sponsored by the Downtown Knoxville Alliance, Christmas Décor of Knoxville, Dogwood Arts and the City of Knoxville, uses the hashtag #fireflynights so photos can be shared and found on social media.

The Downtown Knoxville Alliance also invites the community to “love local, support small” and explore downtown this spring with the following activities:

  • Check out Downtown Knoxville’s local shops and spring gift guide to find the perfect gifts for graduations and Father’s Day.
  • Enjoy a delicious meal or cocktail at one of Downtown Knoxville’s more than 60 outdoor dining experiences, including patios and rooftops with stunning views of downtown. Market Square’s extended patio seating continues to offer safe and spacious outdoor seating for patrons. Restaurants continue to offer takeout as well, so go for a nice stroll and pick up dinner for the family.
  • Enjoy the warmth and sunshine by sipping your way through spring coffees and spring cocktails across downtown.

“With 86% of businesses locally owned, Downtown Knoxville is the perfect place to support local and enjoy new experiences all spring long,” Hummel said. “From the Old City to World’s Fair Park, we’re excited to see downtown buzz with energy and hope downtown residents and visitors will enjoy the warm weather while supporting downtown shops and restaurants.”

Visit downtownknoxville.org to explore restaurants and shops by category, such as “Outdoor Seating” or “Pet-Friendly Patio.”

The Downtown Knoxville Alliances reminds everyone to make health and safety a top priority. Wear a mask, practice physical-distancing and stay home when sick.

About the Downtown Knoxville Alliance

Ensuring a vibrant, flourishing downtown is the primary mission of the Downtown Knoxville Alliance (DKA). Formed in 1993 as a Central Business Improvement District (CBID), the district encompasses a 0.67-square-mile area and is supported by a special assessment to property owners that is used to make improvements, enhance services and promote downtown. The DKA continually focuses on attracting and retaining a thriving community of residents, businesses and visitors in Downtown Knoxville. For more information, visit https://www.downtownknoxville.org.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: Knoxville Biz Ticker: Dollywood announces childcare subsidy benefit for hosts

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