GEM Community Development Group has announced that it plans to enter into a partnership with the Knoxville Area Urban League to facilitate its pledge 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.
KNOXVILLE, TN (March 14, 2021) – GEM Community Development Group enlists Knoxville Area Urban League to ensure diverse participation in developing the private businesses, hotels, restaurants that will surround the stadium project.
“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.
KAUL 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 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 Smokies baseball stadium that is planned to be built in the heart of downtown Knoxville, is projected to be surrounded by more than $100 million of private business investors to include more restaurants, condos/residence, and retail.
As stated, the GEM partnership with KAUL is to offer skilled labor to the $100,000,000 of private sector developments that will surround the stadium and does not include involvement in the stadium construction or its operation moving forward.
KAUL can only encourage/refer DBEs to private businesses for construction and only offer skilled labor for the menial tasks to cook, clean, maid service, management, and maintenance for restaurant help, retail sales clerks, and residence housekeeping.
“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.
Financing for the complex will come from the recently created GEM Community Development Group, a partnership whose name derives from East Knoxville’s historic Gem Theatre.
The Gem Theatre opened in 1913 and was the movie house and a community gathering spot for Knoxville’s black community. It and was shuttered in the demolition, 50 years later, along with dozens of black-owned businesses, homes, and communities under the Urban Removal that included this site.
“It was the foundation of the black community before Urban Removal. this was the centerpiece, the gathering place … We’re hopeful this new gem will be the foundation of the future of East Knoxville,” Boyd said.