Stimulus funds give Thinking Media growing client list

Stimulus funds give Thinking Media growing client list

September 3rd, 2009 by Amy Williams in Business Around the Region

Staff Photo by Dan Henry Dr. Dane Boyington, left, and Sheila Boyington, owners of Thinking Media, chat Tuesday in their North Shore office.

After the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed earlier this year, the staff at Thinking Media jumped on the phones.

Within a few weeks, Sheila Boyington, the company's president, had secured a meeting with Louisiana's secretary of labor, Tim Barfield, and soon after a contract to provide training for the state's work force development efforts.

It was that tenacity and hard work, coupled with the funds made available through the federal stimulus, that positioned the company 20 to 25 percent ahead of last year in sales.

"For Thinking Media, a Chattanooga-based company, we are able to expand now, and really start to see a growth in our business," Mrs. Boyington said. "Not only is our revenue increasing, but we are able to hire new employees to stimulate our own local economy to do some development work and other things that we've been holding on until this funding became available to our company."

Other organizations also have begun to see the positive effects of the federal stimulus bill passed more than six months ago.

Beth Jones, executive director of the Southeast Tennessee Development District, said some of the first dollars to work down to the local level have come through the state and federal departments of labor.

"It had to do with the summer youth employment program," Ms. Jones said. "In our region (Region 5), we actually had nine southeast Tennessee counties, and there were 730 young people that got work experience and were employed this summer."

Also, as more workers were laid off, stimulus money provided an infusion of capital to be able to allow the career centers to have additional programs and services available.

"The first part of the year we were scaling back because of a lack of funding and in February, we actually got dollars refueled and replenished, in that regard it came at a good time, because dislocations were increasing," Ms. Jones said.

As state work force agencies increased their services and programs, Thinking Media's owners were ready to step in and do business.

In the past year, Thinking Media, which makes training curricula via the Internet for work force development programs along with other products, has added six statewide contracts in Washington, South Dakota, Alaska, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Louisiana. The company has clients in 42 states. Of those, 28 are statewide agreements.

Many states had their work force development programs on hold prior to the passage of the stimulus in February, and once funds were released, the states were ready, Mrs. Boyington said. A lot of the new state contracts the company got were funded by stimulus dollars.

Dr. Jim Catanzaro, president of Chattanooga State Technical Community College, has worked with the Boyingtons since they started Thinking Media more than 10 years ago.

"Because of this national initiative in training and the need to retrain the work force, this product (KeyTrain) that has been developed here in Chattanooga and refined over the last decade, is ready to go and flying off the shelves, especially given there is stimulus money to underwrite the cost of a lot of the training across the country," Dr. Catanzaro said. "It is kind of like the perfect storm for them -- everything came together."

Thinking Media added one full-time and two part-time employees to an office staff on Frazier Avenue that now totals 11 people. The company also has the opportunity to work on new programs, like Career Ready 101, which would provide training in financial literacy, job searching and resume writing.

The Tennessee State Department of Labor has allocated stimulus funds for that new product for placement in career centers and the Tennessee Technology Centers throughout the state.