Knoxville’s Business Liaison Brings People and Business Together

In 2011, when Mayor Madeline Rogero took office, she soon heard from local business owners about how hard it was to know who to contact with questions, concerns and problems. Thus were the origins of City of Knoxville’s Business Liaison position, and Patricia Robledo landed the spot.

“This is a one-stop shop for businesses,” she says. “It’s just me, myself and I, but I’m lucky to call everybody my working group because I work with every department. When someone comes in and has trouble with zoning or permits, I can reach out to different people in the city and ask them to help me help them. I’m the conduit, the bridge.”

It’s a role Patricia is familiar with—connecting people, that is. Prior to her position as business liaison, she started her own language translation company, Robledo Translations LLC, which afforded her the opportunity to work with local major employers who needed help bridging the language barrier.

“It was primarily translating materials for human resources, policy and procedure manuals in hospitality and restaurant businesses, construction companies and some in the public sector,” Patricia says. “It was interesting when Mayor Rogero reached out to me with this position. I told her I wasn’t necessarily knowledgeable about zoning or construction, but her answer was that we had experts for that. We needed a liaison to go between the experts and the people.”

Patricia emigrated from Colombia in 1981, a move that brought her directly from the Andes to the Smokies. She worked at the World’s Fair in 1982 and attended UTK, then left Tennessee only to return a decade later. Patricia wanted to raise her kids here, and nothing beats a long run in Knoxville.

“I love being active, so I run a lot of 5Ks. I wouldn’t consider myself a runner, but I love running 5Ks—combining physical activity and discovering new things and supporting nonprofits. I feed off the energy of others, to be by myself but not alone,” she says.

When Patricia isn’t serving Knoxville business or running races, she’s serving on local boards and volunteering.

“I did not realize how emotional this job would be. I don’t take it lightly,” she says. “Someone comes into my office and shares with me their dreams and passions. They’re putting things on the line. It’s a family decision. It’s important that people feel I am listening and understanding. It’s a gift.”

Patricia’s Five Pieces of Advice:

1. Volunteer! Knoxville has a rich nonprofit community. No doubt there are organizations right here in our community that address issues you are passionate about. You can make a difference with your talents, and you may be surprised by how much networking helps connect you to unexpected opportunities. 

2. Be brave! Opportunities will present themselves that you might find intimidating, but they have come to you for a reason. Embrace them! Most everyone has experienced “impostor syndrome,” the feeling that you might not belong in your current situation, despite the hard work that has resulted in your success. Imposter syndrome is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a reflection of your personal growth as you step outside of your comfort zone.

3. Stretch! Be OK with a little discomfort. Make an effort to attend cultural events, and meet people with whom you would not regularly interact. Knowing people of a different race, religion, socioeconomic status, physical ability or other differences not only enriches you but also makes the world a safer and better place as it breaks down fears and stereotypes. 

4. Seek mentors! There will be people in your life who will see a potential in you before you see it yourself. Believe them. Allow them to mentor you. 

5. Pay attention! Be relevant by keeping up with the pulse of the community. Be observant and informed. Pay attention to local politics because they have a real effect on our daily lives. It is more common to pay more attention to national politics; however, our local representatives shape decisions on issues that have the greatest everyday impact.