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Dick Phillips owns the Welcomemat franchise for the entire Chattanooga area, from Cleveland, Tenn. to Dalton, Ga. (Submitted Photo)

Hixson is 21st on a list of the U.S.'s top 25 neighborhoods for small businesses, according to Welcomemat Services, an Atlanta-based company that has franchisees around the nation that get local businesses to offer gift certificates to new residents in envelopes sent out by Welcomemat.

Hixson's high rating doesn't surprise Dick Phillips, who owns the Welcomemat franchise for the entire Chattanooga area, from Cleveland, Tenn., to Dalton, Ga.

"On average, every month, there's about 200 new families moving into that zip code," said Phillips, a 51-year-old Soddy-Daisy resident who's lived in the Chattanooga area for three decades. "Hixson is so great because there's so many great neighborhoods with families. It's really thriving."

Phillips "cold calls" small businesses such as restaurants, car washes and hair salons around Chattanooga to see if they want to be part of the packages that Welcomemat sends to new residents that the company finds through such sources as banks and moving companies.

"All I do is hit the streets, get accounts, sign 'em," Phillips said. "I let corporate do the rest."

The advantage of a gift certificate over a coupon, he said, is it builds loyalty.

"When someone gets a gift like that, they're five times more likely to become a loyal customers."

Biba's Italian Restaurant uses Welcomemat and offers a free entree of up to $15, which generally covers the entire menu, said John Cunningham, co-owner of the popular Italian eatery at 5918 Hixson Pike.

"Try a meal on the house, and hopefully with the quality of our food and service, they come back." Cunningham said. "We have quite a bit of [the gift certificates] redeemed all the time."

Welcomemat limits advertisers by category, Phillips said.

For example, the envelope of gift certificates that goes to new families will only have an offer from one car wash, one hair salon and one Italian restaurant — though it may have multiple types of restaurants.

"We give them exclusivity, so Sports Clip is my only haircut place in Hixson and Soddy- Daisy," Phillips said. "Exclusivity is really big."

Phillips learned of Welcomemat Services franchise from Bruce Krebs who runs the Entrepreneur's Source, a Chattanooga business that helps budding entrepreneurs find franchise opportunities that are a good fit.

The Welcomemat franchise cost about $45,000 initially, Phillips said, plus annual costs for printing, royalties and other fees.

Welcomemat says it evaluated 375 neighborhoods in 2017 to produce the list of the top 25 neighborhoods for small businesses.

The ranking uses an algorithmic formula, Welcomemat says, that factors in such information as demographics, "local vibe," family friendliness, business density, walkability and survey data from franchisees.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or www.facebook.com/MeetsForBusiness or on Twitter @meetforbusiness or 423-757-6651.

Top 25

America’s Top 25 Best Neighborhoods for Small Businesses in 2017:

1. Roswell, Ga.

2.Grapevine, Texas

3. Carlsbad Village, Calif.

4. Evans, Ga.

5. Matthews, N.C.

6. Mt. Pleasant, S.C.

7. Lakeview, La.

8. S. Austin, Texas

9. Clintonville, Ohio

10. Northville, Mich.

11. Rochester Hills, Mich.

12. Excelsior, Minn.

13. Decatur, Ga.

14. Naples, Fla.

15. Bloomington, Ind.

16. Hyde Park, Ohio.

17. Oceanside, Calif.

18. Plaza Midwood, N.C.

19. Murfreesboro, Tenn.

20. Greer, S.C.

21. Hixson, Tenn.

22. Brookhaven, Ga.

23. Mountain Brook, Ala.

24. NW Bradenton, Fla.

25. Delray Beach, Fla.

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