Pioneers, entrepreneurs receive recognition

"Would Dalton be the carpet capital of the world without Chattanooga being the carpet machinery capital of the world?"

Lewis Card Jr., son of UTC College of Business Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame honoree Lewis Card Sr., doesn't think so.

His father and his uncle, Roy T. Card, hold about 70 patents between them, including credit for developing several modifications to the now ubiquitous broadloom tufting machines, he said.

"All of your major (carpet) inventions over the past 50 years basically came from those guys," Mr. Card said. "Roy Card in 1969 won an engineer of the year award for inventing a cut-loop mechanism" although he then had only a high school degree.

The two tufting pioneers will be joined by industrial cleaning entrepreneur Bob Bullard in being saluted this week by the UTC College of Business as it names them to its Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame.

Mr. Bullard has grown his Vincit Group from a small detergent supplier to an internationally recognized and vertically integrated cleaning solutions conglomerate.

"When we first started, there were four employees, and we have about 2,800 now," Mr. Bullard said.

The key to the Vincit Group's expansion has been to say "yes" a lot, he added.

"(Customers) would come to us and say, 'Would you consider looking at the boiler operation,' the refrigeration operation, or the wastewater operation, 'because you're already servicing our facility,'" he said.

Dr. Rich Becherer, chair of excellence in business and entrepreneurship at UTC, said the beauty of the Vincit group is its simple formula for success.

"Many times entrepreneurs are trying to invent the next iPhone, and what Bob Bullard has done is to really throughtly clean facilities in a way that is not harmful to the people who work in the facility," Dr. Becherer said. "Part of the way people become successful is to take a basic concept and perform it extremely well."

He was equally complimentary of the Card brothers.

"There are only three companies in existence today that manufacure carpet tufting machines, and they started all three of them," Dr. Becherer said.

The UTC College of Business Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame awards celebrate the pioneer spirit that put Chattanooga on the business map, he added.

"Entrapreneurship seems to be part of our DNA in Chattanooga, it's part of the fabric of Chattanooga," he said. "Every year when we meet, it amazes me that when we look at the list of names we've been working on, there are always more people, there are always new people, and each of them has a miraculous entrepreneurial story."