published Monday, June 16th, 2014

Pam's Points: Ironman learns how sweet a sponsor is; plus war, patronage and entrepreneurism

Ironman finds a sugar-daddy, or Debbie

Say it ain't so, Ironmen and Ironwomen!

Proving once again that money talks -- and swims, bikes and runs, apparently -- McKee Foods Corp., maker of Little Debbie snack cakes, has announced that it is the unlikely-seeming, but very real, sponsor and investor for the upcoming Chattanooga Ironman competition.

Competitors will seek a portion of a $25,000 prize purse by swimming 2.4 miles, bicycling 112 miles and running a 26.2-mile marathon. The top 50 contestants will advance to the Ironman World Championships in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

Yes, one doesn't normally equate Swiss Cake Rolls and sponge-cake snacks with Iron-anything. It seems a bit like pairing a sponsorship by Playboy with the Southern Baptist Convention. But remember: Money does talk. And if it was enough money, the Baptists might take it.

Now the Ironman organizers just need to plug Moon Pie and Coca-Cola into the mix.

The contestants will easily work off the calories, but here's a caution for the rest of us: A moment on the lips, forever on the hips!

No more war

The pundits all are pointing in every direction to blame someone, anyone, everyone as peace once again falls apart in Iraq. One thing seems clear: The only way we could have kept Iraq stable would have been to occupy it indefinitely -- but that is not an acceptable sacrifice of our children.

That we never should have gone into Iraq is obvious. Pulling out when we did was bad, but not getting out would have been worse. As with Vietnam, we could not impose order on a country so cultured to war and factions. When will we learn that war doesn't teach peace?

Patronage firings

A $500,000 settlement in a Monroe County case involving the firing of 17 workers who backed the losing road superintendent candidate in 2010 should send a "powerful message" to rural Tennessee governments about political patronage, attorneys say. But because politicians are politicians, we're not holding our breath.

The settlement was reached Thursday after three days of testimony in the federal civil suit filed by the former workers against Monroe County government and Road Superintendent Steve Teague. Workers said Teague fired them on Sept. 1, 2010, the day he took office after defeating two-term incumbent Phillip Axley in an August election. The federal lawsuit charged that the dismissals violated the workers' constitutional rights of free speech and association.

The Knoxville News Sentinel reported that Teague said he laid off the workers because of budget shortfalls. But Axley testified in the trial that the road department's budget had nearly $4 million and plenty of work to be done when he left office. The 17 fired workers represented nearly half of the road department's 37 workers. None had civil service protection.

Teague said he told workers everyone would have to reapply for their old jobs, but the ex-workers testified they were told not to bother.

"We hope that this case will ensure that government officials in Tennessee don't let their politics trump their oath to abide by our Constitution when it comes to employing those who serve the public," said David Garrison, an attorney representing the workers.

Chattanooga's entrepreneurial link

Wow. Just look where a little Chattanooga-style entrepreneurism can go.

Priceline says it is buying online restaurant reservation company OpenTable for $2.6 billion to help Priceline, an online travel company, branch out.

OpenTable, based in San Francisco, seats more than 15 million diners per month at more than 31,000 restaurants with reservations made with a click on a smart phone, tablet or computer.

In December, OpenTable had acquired Chattanooga startup Quickcue for $11.5 million in cash from investors Blank Slate Ventures and Chattanooga Renaissance Fund.

Quickcue was founded in 2011 by entrepreneur Aaron Welch during Chattanooga's "48-hour Launch" event, which challenged entrepreneurs to work together to take their idea from concept to company in just two days. Quickcue found traction among a number of Chattanooga-area restaurants like The Terminal, which was one of its first customers. Quickcue was boosted by local investors such as Lex Tarumianz and dozens of others, and it became the first company from Chattanooga's entrepreneurial "class of 2011" to build a successful business model and sell itself for a sizable profit.

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