Chris Soro, principal of C2RL Engineering, Inc., says current and future development and construction projects in Blount County have propelled the region into an exciting, perhaps unprecedented, “season of growth.”

And he says he’s grateful that his civil engineering firm, founded in 2001, also has seen solid growth now for 18 years, involved in a multitude of projects including the county’s industrial parks, airport improvements, and more.

 “I came to East Tennessee from Memphis, and found a sense of family, comradery and fellowship here. Right off the bat, the business community reached out and made me feel they wanted us to succeed… and a big part of that was the Blount Chamber.”

“The big picture is that the Chamber is the economic driver of the entire community. And yet on a smaller, individual level, the Chamber’s leaders also helped me meet the right people, forming connections that became friendships. You just can’t put a dollar value on that,“ Chris said.

Blount County is thriving, Chris said, due in large part to our government leaders’ vision and unity. “Our region is blessed by the ability of our city and county governments to work together,” he said. “That’s not the norm in a lot of places.”

His firm currently is involved with the $7.5 million, 16,500- square-foot Airport Hilton Conference Center expansion. When the project is complete, the hotel will boast a new prefunction area and larger, more flexible meeting spaces. He said the project became reality through a partnership formed between Cooper Hotels, the Metropolitan Knoxville Airport Authority and the Tourism Development Authority housed within the Chamber.

“This addition will make an economic impact to the area, because now the Hilton can bring in large meeting groups of 500-600 people at a time. The Hilton has 241 (sleeping) rooms, so the rest of those attendees will be staying in nearby hotels, eating in local restaurants and spending their money in area establishments, such as the future Springbrook Farm retail multi-use development being planned across Alcoa Highway,” Chris said.

The Airport Hilton had its construction groundbreaking in January, followed by the wettest February since 1910 (13+ inches of rain, Chris said). The fast-tracked project is slated for completion by Oct. 31.

“It’s an ambitious schedule,” Chris said. “But we’ll make it. We’re looking forward to trick or treating in the new space.”