The event was held in part to celebrate the fact that EcoQuest International and its predecessor company, Alpine Industries, have been in Greeneville for five years.
"Everybody invited had some impact on our company," said Michael Jackson, EcoQuest president. "You're important people in our lives."
Jackson said that moving the company from Minnesota turned out to be "more difficult than we thought," but he said the acceptance, support and encouragement that the company has received locally has made the move worth it.
He predicted that EcoQuest as a company "is going to get bigger," and its role in the community will also increase.
"We take our responsibility in Greeneville very seriously," Jackson said.
He said EcoQuest wants to lead the area in creating good jobs, in continuing to help those who need help, and in building community spirit.
Jackson said he gets to travel a great deal in his work, and commented, "There's no place like Greeneville!"
He said, "We may be a little weird, but when I get up in the morning, I practically kiss the ground."
"I love Greeneville," Jackson said, calling the downtown area "a hidden gem."
Jackson said EcoQuest plans to bring 5,000 people "from all walks of life" to Greeneville over the next year for EcoQuest distributor meetings and training.
He noted that National Football League Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary has been back twice since coming to Greeneville for a meeting, wants to return, and told Jackson, "I didn't know places like this existed."
Jackson thanked the audience "for sticking by us through the turnaround, and through our rough times."
"It's no secret," he said, "we had a great rumble with the Federal Trade Commission" that has lasted 10 years.
But he predicted, "By the end of this year, I'm confident that 10-year period of our life will be over, and will come to a successful conclusion in a very positive way. I thank you for believing us - for believing in us."
He also thanked the community for its support when the company had to reduce employment from a one-time high of 1,000.
"When our troubles came, we had to cut back," he said, but instead of spreading rumors, he said, many in the community "put your hand around our shoulders and said, 'We're with you, we'll work with you,' and just stood behind us."
He especially thanked local vendors who continued to support the company.
"We're a target" for negative television coverage, Jackson said, "because we do things that people say shouldn't be done. We tell people that you can clean the air using technology that doesn't use filters."
Jackson said any new idea is typically ridiculed, then violently attacked, and finally accepted by the same people who then say "we knew that all along."
He noted that the "FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) has now approved the use of our oxidation technology for cleaning fruits and vegetables, meats and poultry for commercial food processing uses," and said it "has been given the GRAS (Generally Accepted As Safe) stamp of approval by the federal government."
Asked to elaborate on this point Friday, the company provided an address for a Food and Drug Administration Web site, referencing documentation that the FDA "is amending the food additive regulations to provide for the safe use of ozone in gaseous and aqueous phases as an antimicrobial agent on food, including meat and poultry."
The site notes that this action is in response to a petition filed by the Electric Power Research Institute, Agriculture and Food Technology Alliance.
Jackson said EcoQuest - and Alpine - have been using this same technology to clean the air for 15 years, but he said EcoQuest still has "a lot of work to do" to educate the public about its products.
EcoQuest will continue to be a target, he said, also because it is a network marketing company that provides its independent distributors with the option of working for themselves, rather than for a large company.
"That flies in the face of what we've all been taught," he noted.
Growth In Last Year
On Sept. 11 of last year, Jackson said, EcoQuest "had made a plan to start the most aggressive recruiting and sponsoring campaign our company had ever had," and then the Twin Towers (of the World Trade Center in New York City) were attacked by terrorists.
Because the campaign had been planned for months, he said, "our people worked right through" the dark days that followed, and in the next nine days, 18,000 new sales people had been "sponsored into our company," Jackson said.
"We believe that God put in our minds that day - Sept. 11 - for a purpose," he said, and since then, "sales have skyrocketed" and are now up 40 to 50 percent above where they were before the campaign.
International growth also has taken place, he said, and EcoQuest has offices in Germany, Norway, Mexico and Korea, and is working on "joint ventures with China."
"Our best days are ahead of us," he said, and the EcoQuest Web site now receives "over one million hits per week" from people looking for products and opportunities.
He said the company will continue to grow in employment, in monthly visitors who come to Greeneville for training, and in construction.
"We are going to build our world headquarters right here in Greeneville," he said, and attract more good people.
"We just want to be your neighbor, and to be part of this great thing called Greeneville," Jackson said.
Family Of Companies
The event also was an opportunity for EcoQuest to "introduce other faces," especially those who head up EcoQuest's subsidiary companies, said Marshall Cook, director of creative services, who served as master of ceremonies for the event.
Two videos were shown, one of them highlighting ways that EcoQuest is already active in the community, and the other a tour of the manufacturing facilities.
Cook said creative services produces video and audio training materials, and the texts for conventions.
In the past seven years, he said, it has won seven awards of excellence for its videos and audiotapes, and he personally was named one of the top 100 multimedia producers in the country.
John Frank, technical director, said he is one of EcoQuest's oldest employees, having been with the company for 13 years.
Frank said his group handles troubleshooting and repairs, as well as research and product development and certification.
Tom Massey, special projects director, handles government and military relations.
Larry Landers, president of Environmental Health Services (EHS), is head of manufacturing.
EcoQuest manufactures its own cabinets and the metal subassemblies used in its products, and Landers also directs assembly and shipping.
Currently, all manufacturing is done in Greeneville, he said.
Allen Johnston is president of EcoQuest Travel, responsible for arranging corporate travel and travel to Greeneville by EcoQuest distributors.
Johnston, based in Bristol, also heads the company's incentives program, as well as its meetings and conventions.
He noted that, in September alone, EcoQuest distributors qualified for incentives that included 20 new "bonus cars," with a total value of about $1 million.
He said that bringing 400 people to Greeneville for training is turning into a monthly event, providing business for the General Morgan Inn and seven local hotel and motels.
Feedback from those visiting Greeneville has been "tremendous," he said.
Ellen Johnston, Allen Johnston's wife, is president of Uniglobe First Class Travel in Bristol. The bulk of the company's business is EcoQuest, she said, but First Class Travel and Quest Events also serves 100 other businesses and 1,000 individuals with their travel needs, and has become "the largest travel company in the Tri-Cities area."
Matt Widuta is general manager of Best Investments, which handles financing for EcoQuest distributors.
Best Investments also has its own collection agency, Investment Recovery Services, which will do collections for companies other than EcoQuest.
Don Bennett is the company's new chief financial officer, having just joined the company Jan. 1.
Anil Agrawal is the company's operations manager, handling customer service, orders and dealer support.
Agrawal was featured this month on the cover of Preferred Report, a customer publication of United Parcel Service (UPS).
The article talks about how EcoQuest uses UPS World Ease to consolidate shipments and clear customs on packages to as many as 15,000 dealers in Canada, the largest concentration the company now has outside the U.S.
Mike Letts, general manager of EcoQuest Printing & Graphics (formerly Pinnacle Printing, under the previous ownership), said his division does all printing for EcoQuest, and this amounts to between 30 and 40 percent of what his division does.
Nancy Ely, office manager of MAC Services, produces business cards and stationery for the company's distributors, as well as logoed merchandise and a variety of selling aids.