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Magnolia Stakeholders: Job Creation is Urban League's Focus 
One of the many focuses of the Knoxville Area Urban League is creating jobs. And the local Urban League is hopeful that the Magnolia Avenue Streetscapes Project underway a block away from their offices will help stimulate new investment and jobs.

The Knoxville Area Urban League is a non-profit organization affiliated with the National Urban League, founded on advancing civil rights and promoting employment opportunities for African-Americans. 

Today, the organization’s mission is to enable “African-Americans and disadvantaged others to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights.”

Phyllis Nichols is the longtime President and CEO of the Knoxville Area Urban League. She’s been with the organization for 25 years, so she’s seen many changes in Knoxville and how the Urban League serves the community.

“When the Urban League was chartered in Knoxville in 1968, our central concern was equal opportunity for African-Americans to jobs. That has morphed into a training, workforce development program where we do all kinds of services,” Nichols says.

Jobs are still a core concern for the Urban League, and Terrance Carter can attest to that. 

“The best way to grow your economy is through local and small businesses,” says Carter, the Knoxville Area Urban League’s Vice President of Workforce and Economic Development.

Nichols is quick to note that the Urban League is focused on today’s issues facing the community. One of these is affordable housing.

Felix Harris is the Knoxville Area Urban League’s Vice President of Housing and Community Development. He says that Knoxville’s shortage of affordable housing is a primary concern for the Urban League.

“We’re just trying to work so people won’t be homeless,” Harris says.

Harris works to connect low- and middle-income people with housing they can afford by offering counseling through the home-buying process.

Nichols says she’s hopeful the Magnolia Streetscapes Project will bring economic development to the area. Carter points out that new businesses will mean new jobs for low-income communities.

The Knoxville Area Urban League’s headquarters sits just off of the construction on Magnolia Avenue at 1514 E. Fifth Avenue. Mayor Rogero attended the opening of the Urban League’s new headquarters last year.

“The City is making an investment in public infrastructure,” Carter says of the Magnolia Streetscapes Project. "We’ve obviously made an investment in our own facilities to make it more efficient, more functional, and so we can provide more services to our clients.”

Urban League ribbon-cutting, Oct. 17, 2018
Urban League ribbon-cutting, Oct. 17, 2018

The Urban League’s headquarters features new offices and conference rooms for staff, as well as community space for events, classes, and more. It’s a truly beautiful building with a modern layout and amenities.

Nichols says that what excites her about the Magnolia Streetscapes project is that “we’ve started.” She echoes the concerns of some East Knoxville residents that the project ought to extend further. 

Carter also hopes the new curb appeal of Magnolia Avenue will bring in businesses and jobs.

In the current City budget, $1 million is allocated for Phase 3 design work for the Magnolia Streetscapes Project, a stretch of the corridor east toward Cherry Street. Construction funds would need to be budgeted in future years.

This blog post is part of a series of profiles of Magnolia Avenue stakeholders compiled by City Communications Intern and George Washington University student Jack King.
Posted by evreeland On 05 July, 2019 at 11:40 AM