Before the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia handed out awards Thursday for ethics and integrity at The Chattanoogan hotel, keynote speaker Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam shared a story about a phone call from an unethical business that woke up Haslam's 85-year-old father, Jim Haslam, recently at 1 a.m.
A scammer pretending to be a bail bondsman told the elder Haslam that his son was in jail — and wasn't fazed when Jim Haslam said his son was Tennessee's governor.
"Well, maybe he's the governor, but he's in jail," the scammer told Jim Haslam before the governor's father hung up the phone, put his head back on the pillow and wondered, "What if he is in jail?"
All joking aside, Haslam stressed the importance of ethics. The governor said at his staff meetings, after issues are hashed out, "The conversation always ends with, 'Well, what's the right thing to do?'"
The Chattanooga Better Business Bureau, which includes more than 2,000 business members across the region, recognized a half dozen businesses during Thursday's annual meeting. One of the oldest of which was Fischer Evans Jewelry at Eighth and Broad streets in downtown Chattanooga. It's been in business since 1869 and is three years away from its 150th anniversary.
"We have enjoyed being here," said Becky Glover, who runs Fischer Evans with her husband, Howard Glover, and their son Clarke Glover.
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chattanooga won in the nonprofit organization category.
"With all the violence and gangs, we all know we need more mentors," said Ansley Kellermann, the organization's marketing and fund development coordinator. She told the audience that there are "160 children waiting to be mentored."
The BBB also gave "Student of Integrity" scholarships over $1,000 each, to 10 students who competed by writing an essay on "the importance of ethics in business and our community." The competition was available to all high school seniors, and 138 students entered from the BBB service area of 21 counties in Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia.
The scholarship program is now in its 12th year and has granted more than $100,000 in scholarships.
Businesses recognized for the 2016 BBB Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics
Category I, one-10 employees
› Winner: Cleveland Boat Center, Cleveland, Tenn.
› Honorable Mention: Chattanooga Closet Co.
Category II, 11-19 employees
› Winner: Fischer Evans Jewelers
› Honorable Mention: LearningRx
Category III, 50-250 employees
› Winner: Don Ledford Automotive Center, Cleveland, Tenn.
› Honorable Mention: Cleveland Daily Banner, Cleveland, Tenn.
› Winner: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Chattanooga
› Honorable Mention: United Way of Bradley County, Cleveland, Tenn.
No entry in Category IV, more than 250 employees
Winners of the BBB 2016 “Student of Integrity” scholarships
• Maci Caroline Bicknell; Trion High School, Trion, Ga.
• Bethany Haven Burns; Signal Mountain High School, Signal Mountain, Tenn.
• Noah Austin Cherry; Calhoun High School, Calhoun, Ga.
• Brelyn Chase Grant; Sequatchie County High School, Dunlap, Tenn.
• Abby Jane Heinichen; Signal Mountain High School, Signal Mountain, Tenn.
• Meagan C. Holmes, Meigs County High School, Decatur, Tenn.
• Florian Alexander Kirschenbauer; Baylor School, Chattanooga, Tenn.
• Austin Neal Sawyer; Signal Mountain High School, Signal Mountain, Tenn.
• William Alexander Shirer; Cleveland High School, Cleveland, Tenn.