“I’ve got the best job I never knew I wanted,” Farragut West Knox Chamber of Commerce president/CEO Julie Blaylock told Rotary Club of Farragut members during a recent virtual meeting.
Blaylock, who also is an RCF member, has been with the Chamber since 2011, starting as an executive assistant to then president Bettye Sisco.
FWKCC’s history dates back to 1987, when it was called Farragut Chamber of Commerce.
With the incorporation of the Town, she said then Mayor Bob Leonard felt the Town should have its own Chamber.
“There’s a little bit of speculation over who started the Chamber, but I believe it was a conglomeration of the late Mayor Bob Leonard … and also multiple business owners in the Farragut area,” she said.
One pivotal part of the Chamber’s history that was “kept in the closet for a long time,” started in 1998, when the board decided to change its name to Farragut West Knox CC. “Unfortunately, it happened during a board of director’s meeting where the Town of Farragut was not present … they found out about it in a newspaper article,” Blaylock said.
”They were more than a little upset, so the financial support they have been providing to the Chamber at that time, which was significant, was withdrawn completely, and that created a fracture in the relationship between the Chamber and the Town,” she added.
Chamber membership was somewhere between 400 to 500 members in 1998 — but when Sisco was hired, coming from Idaho Falls in 2002, “We were down 110 members and we were about $30,000 in debt.”
Sisco turned all that around and restored the relationship with Town government.
Blaylock was chosen as new president/CEO when Sisco retired in 2017.“When you see that woman, you really need to thank her for all that she did,” Blaylock said.
The Chamber grew back its membership and benefits. “We started offering grants for continuing education back in the late 1990s,” she said. “That was something no other Chamber was doing. We’ve increased the scholarship for some of the students we partner with at Farragut High School. For the last 15 to 20 years, we’ve probably given upward of $85,000 to $100,000.”