Three Roots Capital Recognized as Small Business Excellence Recipient at Pinnacle Business Awards

The Knoxville Chamber is pleased to announce Three Roots Capital (3Roots) as the recipient of the Pinnacle Business Award in the Small Business Excellence category. 3Roots supports small businesses, entrepreneurs, real estate projects, and communities in economically challenged areas by deploying financial products and services. The Small Business Excellence Award, sponsored by Allcor Staffing, is presented to an East Tennessee small business, employing 50 or less, that has consistently grown its workforce and revenue.

“Three Roots Capital is focused on providing capital and related support and services to small businesses and impactful projects in our community and the broader southern and central Appalachian region,” said Grady Vanderhoofven, president and CEO. “We appreciate the Knoxville Chamber for recognizing us in this way, and we hope receiving this award will increase our visibility to companies, projects, banks, communities, and other collaborators that might be positively impacted by working with 3Roots.”

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Three Roots raised $33.7 million from six bank partners in 2022

In 2022, Three Roots Capital raised $33.7 million from six bank partners, making it one of the organization’s most successful fundraising years to date. With these funds, Three Roots is better positioned to support companies and projects in low-and-moderate income and rural communities throughout the greater East Tennessee region.

“Sometimes you get so busy working that you forget to look up and reflect on the progress you have made. 2022 was a really big year for us,” said Grady Vanderhoofven, president, founder and CEO. “This additional $33.7 million is especially significant in light of broad economic uncertainty and the rising interest rates we all experienced last year.”

Three Roots forged new relationships with Regions, Truist Bank, Coffee County Bank, and First Bank & Trust and raised additional funds from existing bank partners, Pinnacle Bank and CBBC Bank. One of the first new community partnerships formalized in 2022 was with Regions.

“Regions is proud to work with Three Roots Capital in strategically deploying resources to communities that need them the most,” said Rob Stivers, market executive, Regions. “This directly complements our long-term focus on creating more inclusive prosperity in East Tennessee. Grady and the rest of the staff have done a fantastic job educating banks and the broader financial community about the importance of having a viable CDFI in today’s market.”

For Truist, partnering with CDFIs helps their community development managers and regional leadership meet the unique needs of the communities in which they operate. More than just connecting capital with people and projects, Three Roots also offers essential business coaching and wraparound services that help businesses grow and thrive.

“Truist’s partnership with Three Roots Capital is an example of our purpose to inspire and build better lives and communities,” said Lauren Butler, Community Development Financing Initiative Relationship Manager at Truist.  “Our investment with Three Roots provides much needed resources to support the needs of businesses and projects in the greater East Tennessee region. It’s a great partnership focused on growth in the community.”

Looking ahead, Three Roots will focus the additional funds on projects and companies in low-and-moderate income areas. With the funds from Truist, Three Roots seeks to emphasize the deployment of capital to minority-owned and controlled businesses and affordable/workforce housing projects.  With the funds from CBBC, Three Roots will support specific projects and opportunities at the University of Tennessee Research Park.

Three Roots Staff Spotlight: Jeff Ault

“I’m constantly amazed at the creative way that Three Roots Capital works with its clients,” said Three Roots Capital’s Controller Jeff Ault. “It’s not a cookie-cutter approach.”

Three Roots welcomed Ault to the team in 2021. With a 32-year-long accounting career at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, he brought an unparalleled level of expertise to Three Roots’ financial operations.

“You either really like accounting or you don’t. Thankfully, I enjoy it. It’s like putting a big puzzle together,” said Ault. “I’ve been able to do so many things with my accounting degree. I did work in public accounting for several years, but what it allowed me to do was learn a lot about how businesses work.”

During his career, Ault held many positions, including internal auditor, Director of the Logistical Services Division and Chief Financial Officer of UT-Battelle Development Corporation. He is most proud of his work implementing two major business systems for accounting and human resources at ORNL.

“I felt like I got to leave my fingerprints on a lot of things that are still in use today,” said Ault. “There is a certain amount of professional satisfaction that comes from knowing the Lab is still using at least two of those big systems that I was heavily involved in implementing.”

In his last 10 years at ORNL, he got involved with the lab’s mentorship program, where he paired up with employees who were early in their careers. He found the work meaningful and that it aligned with his mission to help others recognize, improve and use their talents to help themselves and the organizations they work for.

“I enjoy helping people be the best they can be at whatever they’re doing at the time,” said Ault.

It was this drive to help others that brought him to work at Three Roots. He reached a point in his career where he was considering retirement, but as his wife would say, he “failed retirement miserably” by leaving ORNL one day and starting work at Three Roots the following week.

“If I was going to go back to work after retiring, I wanted to do something with a small company and an organization that was contributing to the community,” said Ault. “I was intrigued by how Three Roots helps businesses solve problems and grow. Businesses need money to operate and good advice. Our team does a good job at listening to what our clients need.”

Three Roots was extremely deliberate in bolstering its in-house accounting services. Instead of posting the open position online or using a job service or recruiting firm, the team connected with Ault through their professional network.

“Three Roots was – and is still – growing our capacity and capabilities,” said Grady Vanderhoofven, founder, president and CEO. “Jeff was the perfect fit for this position. He has extensive, relevant experience that allows Three Roots to expand its resources and expertise for our clients and partners. In addition, he is a pleasure to work with and a great fit with our team.”

Partner Spotlight: Bob Cantler

Three Roots Valued Partner Spotlight:
Bob Cantler, President and CEO of Johnson City Chamber of Commerce

Bob Cantler is the new president and CEO of the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce, and a valued partner of Three Roots Capital. With his extensive background working in the hospitality and tourism industry and business development sector, he was a natural fit to assume his role at the Johnson City Chamber and to promote innovation and entrepreneurship throughout the region.

As the Chamber’s new leader, Cantler is focused on business development. The Chamber is focused on enhancing the community’s ecosystem to help startups, small businesses, and entrepreneurs thrive. He said Three Roots has been a great partner for the Chamber with this goal.

“There has been a lot of growth in East Tennessee recently,” Cantler said. “The community has great momentum in terms of economic development opportunities. It is a great time to be a part of that.”

Cantler is a Johnson City native who returned to the area with his family in 2001 to work for Meadowview Marriott Resort. In 2005, he became vice president and general manager of the General Morgan Inn, where he began working in business development for the Niswonger Group.

It was during his tenure at the Niswonger Group that he got to know Grady Vanderhoofven, who eventually would launch Three Roots Capital and today is Three Roots’ president and chief executive officer. In 2016, Cantler founded his freelance consulting business, Internity Development, and began exploring opportunities to work with Vanderhoofven and Three Roots.

Currently, Three Roots and Cantler are working on a high-impact, business-development, community-improvement project in Johnson City

“Their knowledge and experience has been phenomenal,” Cantler explained. “They have been a unique resource for how do you look at venture capital, in terms of the value community development financial institutions (CDFI) bring to our lenders and projects. They bring different resources, ideas, and concepts to the table, which is important if you want to be progressive in today’s world.”

In addition to the current project, Cantler has connected Three Roots with several organizations that are looking to move to the region and may require funding or support. Three Roots has also supported established organizations in the area.

“Three Roots has helped some of our larger employers in the area who are looking to branch into innovation, such as what questions do you need to ask and how do you vet a project,” Cantler said. “They’ve been an instrumental partner and a resource not only for myself but for several of my stakeholders.”

Cherokee Crossing

Revitalizing a community and creating jobs with the help of valued partners: Cherokee Crossing

Three Roots Capital is proud of its partnerships with high-quality developers and financial institutions that also support its mission to have lasting, valuable economic impact in the East Tennessee region.

Chief Financial Officer Chris Miller explained that everyone on the Three Roots team has a mix of relationship and business management responsibilities. It is this collaborative work environment that led Miller to bring the Cherokee Crossing project to everyone’s attention.

“I knew people involved in this deal,” Miller said. “We began talking about how Three Roots is focused on helping projects in low-income communities. Their project lined up very nicely with what we were trying to do, while we offered capital in a way that was supportive of their goals and objectives.”

In June 2017, Three Roots Capital provided an initial round of financing to Cherokee Crossing, LLC to fund the development of the 15-acre property in Morristown, Tennessee. The initial site plan involved a grocery store, a financial institution, and additional space for mixed-use retail development. The following January, Three Roots provided additional financing to build out a 17,000-square foot, mixed-use retail space. To date, the restaurants and retail tenants in the space have created 140 jobs for the community.

Hamblen County – where the Cherokee Crossing development is located – is predominantly low income and rural. According to the Appalachian Regional Commission, Hamblen is categorized as an economically “at-risk” county in the greater Appalachian region.  Tennessee categorizes Hamblen County as a “Tier 3 enhancement county,” which means the state has prioritized job creation within the county as a result of lagging economic performance within the county.

“Being able to fund a project that puts a grocery store, a provider of financial services, and restaurant and retail locations in a low-income area is not only creating jobs, it’s also providing goods and services to that community,” Miller explained.  He went on to emphasize the importance of working with quality partners like Southeast Bank, as well as David Fiser and the other principals in Cherokee Crossing, LLC.

Three Roots worked closely with Josiah Glafenhein and other members of the development team to understand the capital needs of the project. Three Roots then collaborated with Southeast Bank to provide capital for the project.

“Three Roots has been very helpful on this project, at the beginning and on an ongoing basis.” Glafenhein remarked. “Three Roots understood what we were doing, and they put together an attractive financing package.  We appreciate the value Three Roots brings to our projects and to our community.”

“We want to work with the best developers and banks in our market for many years to come, and this project is a great example of that,” Miller said. “Being able to work with exceptional partners on impactful projects is one of the things I enjoy most about working at Three Roots.”

Historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary

Adding economic value to Morgan County: Historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary

Three Roots Capital is supporting a unique project in one of the most economically challenged regions of East Tennessee. Central to Three Roots‘ mission is creating real economic impact by supporting companies and projects that help people who need a hand up.

Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary in Morgan County, Tennessee, opened in 1896 and operated until 2009, housing notable criminals like James Earl Ray and Byron “Low Tax” Looper. For more than a century, it provided a stable base of jobs and positive economic impact in several rural counties. With the help of Three Roots and other partners, today, the prison is a popular tourist attraction, featuring a museum, restaurant, music venue, moonshine distillery and gift shop for curious visitors travelling to the Morgan County facility.

Operating Partner Pete Waddington first became interested in the prison during a visit to the location six years ago on a charity motorcycle ride from Chattanooga.

“My wheels just started spinning,” Waddington explained. “It seemed kind of strange that this place, with this much history, was just sitting here falling apart.”

Over the next few years, he worked with state and local agencies to repurpose the space but faced challenging financing hurdles. Despite spending years as a business developer, Waddington said Brushy Mountain was his hardest project to finance.

This struggle led Waddington to get in touch with Three Roots Capital’s Business Development and Community Relationships Manager, Dennis Corley, through a mutual friend in Chattanooga. Immediately, Corley admired Waddington’s work ethic and vision for the prison.

Looking forward, Waddington remarked he is most excited about the potential Brushy Mountain has to offer the surrounding community. From adding more than 50 jobs to Morgan County to expanding the site’s distillery production, Waddington wants to keep growing his operations and providing economic value to the region.

And who would he reach out to first to get started on these projects? Three Roots.

“I don’t think we would be open without the help of Three Roots,” Waddington said. “I can’t say enough great things about those guys. I will absolutely work with them again.”

You can read more about Historic Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary here.