“In my 31 years of professional life, I have never worked with a finer, more committed, more effective community volunteer leader than Ross Tarver,” said Gary Farlow, president of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
Ross Tarver, vice president and general manager of Tarver Distributing Co. Inc., a distributor of Anheuser-Busch products, received the M.C. Headrick Free Enterprise Award during special ceremonies at the 85thAnnual Meeting of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce. The meeting convened Tuesday, Jan. 25, in the Professional Development Center of Life Care Centers of America.
Tarver, who began doing odd jobs at his parents’ wholesalership at age 12, learned to be a successful businessman from the ground up. He graduated from odd jobs to operating forklifts and pallet jacks in the warehouse, unloading railcars from the brewery, and then reloading the cars with empty pallets and kegs.
At 16 he began working in the trade as a “driver salesman’s helper,” rotating, stocking and merchandising products, setting up displays, and competing in sales incentives. By age 19 he was a full-time draught driver-salesman. That same year he increased the draught market share by 50 percent, with a total sales increase of 405 percent.
“At night, when most employees went home, Ross attended business classes at Cleveland State Community College,” nominator Terry Akins said.
In 1983, the supervisors and staff of Tarver Distributing voted then 21-year-old Tarver Driver-Salesman of the Year. That same year he received an award from Anheuser-Busch for outstanding sales in this area. He also continued his education through classes and seminars with Anheuser-Busch.
Despite increased sales and market share, Tarver’s life path took a significant turn with the death of his father, Bill “Rabbit” Tarver, who along with his wife, Gloria, had established the business in 1962.
Three months after his father’s death, Tarver became sales and operations manager, implementing fresh approaches for day-to-day operations, conducting all sales meetings, instituting new promotions and incentives to increase sales, establishing relationships with area convenience store executives, handling bids and purchasing new equipment, and hiring new employees.
When promoted to assistant general manager position in 1986, Tarver launched in-house training programs on product knowledge, rotation, stocking and merchandising. He also made routing decisions, developed pricing strategies, determined salary and wage increases, and supervised advertising and promotional spending.
At the young age of 25, Tarver became vice president and general manager of sales and operations, the youngest ever approved by the brewery to hold such a position. His first job in his new role was to design a bigger, more efficient warehouse in a centralized location.
“Sales, employees and customers were growing by leaps and bounds,” said Akins, who worked with Tarver for 20 years.
In 1989 and again in 2004, Tarver Distributing received the Wholesaler of the Year award for Tennessee. Ed Jacobs & Associates awarded Tarver the Collins J. Bennie Award in 2003, which recognizes a small business person who exemplifies a passion for hard work and a true entrepreneurial spirit.
“His work ethic is unmatched” Akins emphasized.
Since Tarver assumed the managerial role, the company has grown from 16 employees to 44. Its market share has increased from 49 to 68 percent, and yearly sales have increased from 558,000 cases to 1,200,000 cases. The distribution territory includes Bradley, Polk, McMinn, Monroe and Meigs counties.
In addition to his professional efforts, this astute businessman is committed to the local community. He is a long-time member of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce, serving on the board of directors, Economic Development Council and executive committee. He currently chairs the Bradley/Cleveland Industrial Development Board, a position he has held since 2004.
In 2005 Tarver received the Chamber’s Mel Bedwell Small Business Person of the Year Award, which recognizes staying power, growth in number of employees, increase in sales or unit volume, response to adversity, and evidence of contribution by the nominee to aid community-oriented projects.
Most recently, the Tennessee Economic Development Council (TEDC) recognized Tarver as the 2009 Jim Spradley Volunteer of the Year. The Spradley Award in Economic Development recognizes those individuals who make a substantial impact in assisting economic development organizations in their economic progress and capabilities growth.
Tarver’s tireless efforts to help locate Wacker Chemie in Bradley County and keep a division of Whirlpool Corporation in Cleveland were specific achievements noted at the awards ceremony.
TEDC Immediate President Walt Wood expressed admiration for Tarver during the award presentation. “Ross Tarver exemplifies what we look for in a Jim Spradley Volunteer of the Year recipient. He is dedicated, passionate and tireless in his role as an economic development leader.”
Farlow noted that “Ross has been a tireless volunteer since he began his involvement with the Industrial Development Board. He was a key player in a project in our initial effort to convince Whirlpool’s corporate decision makers to relocate their Oxford, Miss., operation to Cleveland.”
That decision resulted in 500 jobs and a capital investment of $14 million and solidified Whirlpool’s long-term presence in our community.
Tarver’s most significant contribution to economic development projects was his role in the successful location of Wacker Chemie’s newest $1 billion project in Bradley County. Wacker, the second-largest polysilicon producer in the world, will break ground in the spring on a facility to produce hyperpure polycrystalline silicon in north Bradley County. In addition to the initial $1 billion capital investment, the company recently announced an additional $500 million investment and plans to bring 650 new high-paying jobs to the Ocoee Region.
“Ross’s involvement with Wacker goes back to the initial contact with the company now six years ago when they first looked at Bradley County,” Farlow explained, adding that he participated in almost every meeting with the prospective company, spanning nearly a year. He worked directly with the Chamber’s economic development staff in numerous meetings with property owners to secure land options on the proposed site.
He also took time away from his business to travel with a local team to Germany to meet with company officials at their headquarters in Munich and their manufacturing facilities in Burghausen.
“Ross spent many hours with the Chamber’s economic development staff in one-on-one meetings with our County Commissioners and other local leaders to develop the community’s incentive package, as well as numerous meetings and conference calls with state and TVA officials related to the project,” Farlow said. “His leadership in the community and his personal relationships with key company officials were a major factor in our success.”
In addition to his volunteer efforts with the Industrial Development Board and the Chamber’s Economic Development Council, Tarver contributes time and finances to a variety of community organizations, including the Bradley County Sheriff’s Department, Charleston Police Department, United Way of Cleveland, Junior Achievement of Bradley and McMinn Counties, Cleveland Family YMCA, Cleveland Creative Arts Guild, Friends of the Library, Bradley County Rescue, Charleston Fire Department, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Cleveland Sports for Youth Program, and the American Heart Association.
“Ross has a genuine interest in his consumers, his customers, his employees and his community,” Akins said. “He is a loyal, honest and dedicated business owner who believes in giving back to the community.”
Tarver is a standing member of the Tennessee Malt Beverage Association, where he has served on the board of directors and convention committees and chaired the Legislative Committee.