George Pettway, Anthony Vest and the late Joe Engel have been named the 2008 inductees to the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame. In 1999, the College of Business Administration at UTC created the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame to recall the heritage of Chattanooga by honoring both contemporary and pioneering local entrepreneurs. The Hall serves as a lasting tribute to the inductees and as an inspiration to current students who may have aspirations toward owning their own business.
After a brief career in management consulting in New York City, George H. Pettway took a job at Standard Coosa Thatcher in his native city, Chattanooga. The well-known textile company had 13 plants nationally and more than 5,000 employees. Beginning in the marketing department, Pettway worked into the financial area, eventually becoming chief financial officer. He was later elected President and CEO of the company in 1980 at the age of 37. Pettway led a highly successful management buyout of the company. In 1985 Pettway sold his position in the company and retired.
Before Pettway founded River Associates LLC, he founded a successful catalog company which he later sold to a foreign buyer for a 20-fold gain in the equity invested. River Associates LLC has bought and sold 30-plus companies and has earned investors a 28 percent internal rate of return on their investments since 1989. Pettway retired from River Associates in 2002, but remains an advisory partner.
Anthony (Tony) Vest was born and grew up in Kingsport, Tennessee. He worked for General Electric as a field engineer in the early 1970s, supervising the installation of power equipment, such as large turbines, generators and nuclear reactors. His entrepreneurial spirit struggled as he ascended into management however, and in 1985, Vest left GE and formed Onsite Engineering and Management Company. Onsite provided training, engineering, refueling, and management services to nuclear power facilities. Although the nuclear industry was in severe contraction throughout the period, by 1990 Inc. Magazine named Onsite the 30th fastest growing privately held firm in the United States. In 1991 Onsite was named a Blue Chip Enterprise Award winner by the US Chamber of Commerce. In 1992 Vest was named Georgia Entrepreneur of the Year. Vest left Onsite in 1996 after completing its sale. At that time Onsite had grown to more that 200 employees and more than $50 million in annual revenues.
After the sale of Onsite, Vest continued his management consulting through Management Programs Corporation, a company he founded in 1987. In 2001 he was asked to take over as Managing Partner of Teton Springs Golf and Casting, LLC, a large second home resort development in Teton Valley Idaho. He and his wife, Sandy, worked as a team to right a real estate development that was in serious difficultly.
Vest founded Headwaters Construction Company and All Seasons Resort Realty, LLC. Headwaters Construction had revenues of $56 million in 2007 and was named number 145 in the Inc 500 that year. ASR Realty was the third largest realty, by sales and volume in the greater Jackson Hole area, consistently selling more than $150 million worth of real estate annually. Additionally, Vest is the managing partner of Teton Springs Lodge, LLC, which developed Teton Springs Lodge and Spa, a small luxury hotel, the first of its kind in Teton Valley.
Joseph William Engel came to Chattanooga in the late 1920s, to manage the Chattanooga Lookouts. Engel remained with the Lookouts for 34 years. He raffled off houses and automobiles, and had canaries singing in the grandstands. When the New York Yankees came to Chattanooga to play a pre-season exhibition game with his Lookouts, Engel located a female 17-year-old left-handed pitcher, Virnett “Jackie” Mitchell, who struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.
Engel’s promotions were a hit in Chattanooga, and fans poured into the ballpark that would later be named Engel Stadium. In 1932 the Lookouts won the Southern Association pennant for the first time in 40 years and beat the Texas League champions in the Dixie Series. In 1936, Engel decided to buy the Lookouts, but he didn’t have enough cash. He persuaded 1,700 fans to chip in and buy the club for $125,000. That year, attendance tripled. The fan-owned Lookouts made a profit of $50,000. The following year Chattanooga won another pennant.
Wall photos and bios of those inducted into the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame are located on the third floor of Fletcher Hall, outside the office of the Dean of the College of Business Administration (Room 300).