The Southeast Region: A Place to Live Well, Work Well
From small business development centers to startup capital assistance to networking, resources for new companies abound throughout the Southeast Industrial Development Association’s 22-county service area. But it’s the region’s quality of life that continues to spur more startups and entrepreneurs to put down permanent roots.
What’s even more telling about the area’s quality of life is that it is not just one industry sector but several that are growing, thanks to an influx of people who want to live and work in the same spot.
Take Sheila Boyington, who along with her husband, Dane, owns Thinking Media, which provides training programs for WorkKeys skills and other skills-gap remediation programs. The two began the company in 1997, and have found nothing but success from their Chattanooga base, Sheila Boyington says.
“I had gotten to know people in the community through volunteering, so when we began the business, we had this strong network that allowed us to have the connections to get what we needed,” she says. “We’ve had continuous support and encouragement of city leaders, which has helped us to grow the business in the way we have. They are focused on building up small business and giving us lots of exposure.”
The area’s positives also were a strong lure for Harshad Shah, founder, president and CEO of Hamilton Plastics, who moved the Michigan-based testing lab to Chattanooga and launched Hamilton in 1986. The company now has about 100 employees.
Just east in Cleveland, Tenn., T&L Baking Co. has been turning out thousands of angel food and other cakes daily since 1988. Begun by Thomas Pavlou, a native of Cyprus who came to the United States to study, and his wife, Laurie, the bakery has been frequently showcased in local and regional media as an example of how a small business can become a major player.
“I have a degree in industrial management, so I built the machines and everything,” Thomas Pavlou says. “We bake between 1,500 and 2,000 cakes a day, and we deliver to Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Kentucky. We supply distributing companies that then deliver to grocery stores in that area.”
It’s a long way from Cyprus to Cleveland, but Pavlou says that while studying in the area during college, he fell for its charms, and after marrying, he convinced his wife that the region would be the place to set up shop. Now, with a son studying business in college, it would appear a dynasty might be in the making.
“It’s a nice city to live in, and now we’re just looking to make more profits so we can buy more ovens and more equipment, then supply more distributors,” Pavlou says. “We want to expand to Arkansas and Missouri, so we’re working to do that.”