GEM Community Development Group partners with Knoxville Area Urban League

Phyllis Y. Nichols, president and CEO of Knoxville Area Urban League

Pledging that minority firms and individuals will be integral to all aspects of the private development that will surround the publicly owned multi-use facility being proposed on the eastern edge of downtown Knoxville, GEM Community Development Group has announced that it plans to enter into a partnership with the Knoxville Area Urban League.

“The Urban League has a long history of advocating for and assisting disadvantaged businesses and individuals and helping them access employment opportunities,” said Randy Boyd of GEM Community Development Group. “And the Urban League also has a track record of helping employers recruit qualified minorities to fill positions. This partnership just makes sense for everyone involved.”

Phyllis Y. Nichols, president and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League, said the civil rights and economic development organization will serve as a community engagement partner to help GEM Community Development Group recruit organizations characterized by the City of Knoxville as “disadvantaged business enterprises” or DBEs.

Knoxville Area Urban League headquarters

The organization also will identify minority contractors and subcontractors; identify minority entrepreneurs who want to open businesses in the development; train people who want to become entrepreneurs; help existing businesses grow to the level necessary to succeed; and assist with training and placement of individuals for available jobs.

The City of Knoxville and Knox County have formed a sports authority to build and own a new baseball and multi-use stadium on land being provided for the project by Boyd, who owns the Tennessee Smokies baseball team, which would lease the stadium and play there. The Smokies are the AA affiliate of the Chicago Cubs. In addition to baseball, the facility will be designed to accommodate concerts, community gatherings and other sports.

The stadium is projected to be surrounded by more than $100 million worth of privately funded development including restaurants, retail establishments and residences. That is the part of the project for which GEM Community Development Group is enlisting the Knoxville Area Urban League’s assistance.

“This project will be transformational for a part of town that is sorely in need of jobs and entertainment options,” said Steve Davis, president of GEM Community Development Group. “We want to be sure that the project is as inclusive in all ways as it can be. And the Urban League is the perfect partner for that.”

Davis said the Knoxville Area Urban League also will be asked to help recruit disadvantaged business enterprises to participate in operating the stadium once it is built and leased to the Smokies.