Barbourville Mayor talks business with Union students

February 20, 2024

Barbourville Mayor David Thompson visited Union College Monday to share his experiences with entrepreneurship and project management. His talk was part of a series in Lynn Smith’s Business Essentials class featuring local leaders, business owners, and other community members.

Thompson shared many examples of business deals he has negotiated over the years, beginning with the convenience store he bought when he was still attending Knox Central High School. He also emphasized that the most important aspect of any business is building your reputation by being reliable and earning trust.

“Show people that your word is your word,” he said. “Do what you tell people you are going to do.”

After detailing his many business ventures – from video arcades, to auto sales, to construction – Thompson went on to provide a real-world example of how the students are connected to the local economy.

“The city has a 2% restaurant tax,” he said. “We call it a hamburger tax.”

He explained that when students eat at local restaurants, they are not only supporting local businesses, but also the City of Barbourville. He said that the restaurant tax comes to several hundred thousand dollars a year, funds tourism, and that the students are part of this economy.

“If you all weren’t here in college, if Union was vacant, most of these little restaurants would not be here,” Thompson said. “They wouldn’t survive because Union is a huge support for them.”

Smith’s class as a whole covers a broad scope of business topics including methods of business operation, types of business ownership, and the role of business organizations in contemporary society. She says the purpose of the local speakers series is “to educate students using real world business information presented by professionals from a variety of disciplines.”

Smith’s primary role at Union is as Vice President of Human Resources.

Other speakers in the series include Corey Chesnut, Executive Vice President/Chief Banking Officer at Hometown Bank; Tiffany Fuson, Owner of The Beautique; Dr. Marcia Hawkins, President of Union College; Dr. Tammy Smith, Veterinarian at Knox County Veterinarian Services; Leary Morris, CPA with SIKICH; Charles Lovell, CEO of Barbourville ARH Hospital; and Don Jones, Attorney of Law Office of Donald L. Jones and member of Union College Board of Trustees.

“I hope some of you will decide to stay in Barbourville,” Thompson told the students at the end of his talk. He then invited them to come see him at City Hall if they ever need help with anything or have questions.

To learn more about Union’s Business Management program or the School of Professional Studies, contact Dr. Carolyn Payne at (606) 546-1401 or