Editor’s Note: Two weeks ago, we began honoring our local members of the 28th annual 40 Under Forty class, who were selected by our sister publication, The Business Journal of the Tri-Cities. A full list of the honorees can be found in the December edition of the Business Journal.
Every year since 1993, the Business Journal has held an event to honor the rising stars of the region’s business community. More than 200 celebrants have come together every year to be inspired by the incoming class of honorees and to meet the leaders who in coming years will be showing the region how to accomplish things we’d never dreamed of before.
Because of COVID-19, holding the gala this year was impossible. Holding the gala in a virtual environment was untenable. But, writing off the entire 40 Under Forty program for the year would have been unforgivable. At a time when innovation is mandatory, when vision is necessary and when hope and inspiration are precious, this program became more important than ever.
Jo Pearce, executive recruiter/Tennessee Employment Center supervisor for Ballad Health has an impressive track record both at work and in the community. Jo has worked for Ballad Health since 2013, serving as corporate employment coordinator, general recruiter and advertiser before assuming her current role. In the community, Jo is a lead organizer of CareerQuest TN, an annual event that helps guide students who are interested in future jobs in healthcare. She was also a leader for Ballad Health’s Project Employment Hope, which earned a Freedom Award from the group Disability Rights Tennessee. Pearce is an active member of the Junior League. She received her master’s in Healthcare Management from ETSU and holds numerous professional certifications for public health, HR, recruiting, green principles, FEMA disaster response and more.
Still an undergraduate student at ETSU, Adam Rosenbalm’s work with Good Batch Mama has transformed this local family catering and meal delivery business, leading to significant growth and success in 2020 despite an extremely challenging economic environment. Adam’s bio describes him as “the resident ‘numbers’ guy, work(ing) behind the scenes to build the business.” And build it he has, leading to organic revenue growth of 105 percent over the past year, the opening of a new location (with Adam serving as project manager), and rapid adaptation of their meal delivery and catering models to meet new COVID-related demands. Adam, a Roan Scholar at ETSU, has done all this while maintaining a 4.0 GPA, serving in key student government leadership roles, and interning with Eastman’s corporate strategy team.
Victoria (Tori) Ryans is a multi-systemic therapist at Youth Villages, an organization providing residential and in-home treatment, foster care, adoption and specialized crisis support to strengthen children’s families. She works with families where a child is still living in a home in which child abuse or neglect charges have already been filed. “You get to see the parents as well,” Ryans said. “They get caught in a cycle and until someone comes along to help them through it there is no break in the cycle.” COVID has made that process difficult, Ryans said, and while telehealth technology has made a huge difference, Ryans has often had to work with Youth Villages to provide rural families with computers and wifi or hotspot access. The work is so important, she said, that those obstacles can’t be allowed to stop it.
Jessica Thomas is a force in health, wellness, and physical education in the region. A Gate City, Va., native, she was chair and council director for Girls on the Run of Northeast Tennessee from 2010 to 2019. She led volunteer teams, raised money, wrote grants, and managed programs that influenced more than 10,000 girls and hundreds of volunteers. As her passion for fitness education grew, so did her entrepreneurial spirit. In 2016, Thomas opened Underground Fitness, an exercise and fitness studio in Johnson City. In the last four years, that studio grew to a staff of ten fitness instructors, 12 childcare providers, and a dietitian. While COVID has forced changes in the way the studio operates in 2020, it also created opportunities for clients from far outside the region to find Underground Fitness online, growing the overall reach of the business.
Between the time he was nominated for 40 Under Forty and the time he was interviewed, Wilson had a significant upward change in his professional role. Wilson, who was CFO for Ballad Health’s Southeast Market is now chief operating officer and chief financial officer for Ballad Health Medical Associates. The change indicates a significant level of trust in Wilson’s judgment, as operations and finance are often handled by two individuals. Wilson said he’s eager to make sure everything works in sync. “There are times when something might sound really good to one side or the other, but might not be operationally efficient or financially efficient,” Wilson said. Ballad Health Medical Associates is all the employed providers and practices of the Ballad Health System.
Caroline Wright, marketing and communications coordinator at Ballad Health, works with Ballad Health Medical Associates to introduce the newest physicians and nurse practitioners into the community. Ballad believes that Wright’s work is the first step in building a necessary level of trust between the new provider and the community where they’ll work. Wright, one nominator said, quickly establishes the rapport necessary to get the job done efficiently and effectively. Her professional involvement in the community includes a term as marketing and communications chair for the PEAK young professionals organization in Kingsport and a previous term as vice president of the Public Relations Society of America chapter for the Tri-Cities, where she is president-elect for 2021. She has volunteered with the Santa Train, the DKA Wine and Whiskey Festival and the Kingsport Spring Wing Fling.
Correction: In last week’s 40 Under Forty article, Dr. Rachel Hymes was identified as dental director at the Johnson City Community Health Center. The article also stated that the dental clinic was temporarily closed. The dental clinic has re-opened with Dr. Nicole Mancini as dental director.