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Meet Our Founder,
Merri Mai Williamson

"In June of 1989, I began working as the Assistant to the President and the Human Resources Director of a light industrial firm in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Within one year, I had assumed all human resource functions, excluding compensation and benefits administration.  My time was consumed with recruiting and training, leaving other important functions of my position incomplete.

Realizing the need for a stringent process by which applicants were recruited and screened, I developed an in-house screening process to remedy the situation.  Within the first year of implementation, the company’s attrition rate dropped by over 50%, which allowed time for many improved personnel services.

In 1993, my success became noticed by other human resource professionals; and I began receiving external requests for assistance.  In December of 1993, with a completed business plan and marketing strategy, my  trial venture began part-time. On June 15, 1994, as a sole proprietorship, Application Researchers® began full-time operations."


Merri Mai received the Athena Award and the Jane Cozby Henderson Award for the success she has achieved in her industry, as well as being honored with two awards for excellence in ethics and a designation of Woman of Distinction.  She holds the certification of Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), which is designated by the Human Resource Certification Institute, as well as SHRM’s Senior Certified Professional, for completing credentialing programs that validate mastery in the field of human resource management and the promotion of organizational effectiveness.  

Where It All Started

In 1994, Application Researchers® was started in a 300-square-foot studio apartment in downtown Chattanooga.  Much time was dedicated in the early years to educating Chattanooga companies on the need for pre-employment background investigations and the economics of outsourcing. Two years after its inception, Application Researchers®, as a licensed private investigative agency, had two full-time employees and rented space in downtown Chattanooga.  However, the growth doubled during the next year and tripled the following year, requiring further expansion.

In June 1998, Application Researchers® became a limited liability company and purchased its own building in the Southside district of downtown Chattanooga.

Today, Application Researchers® is the premier provider of backgrounding services in the Chattanooga region with a 95% retention rate of clients in four countries, serviced by full-time employees and contractual researchers. With nearly three decades of service to employers seeking backgrounding solutions, Application Researchers' success can only be measured in proportion to its humble beginning. 

Early Awards & Recognitions

Small Business of the Year Award 2001

Better Business Bureau Torch Award 2004

Greater Chattanooga Business Ethics Award 2004

Business TN’s Hot 100 (most promising businesses) 2007

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Application Researchers® previously we received the distinction of “Woman-owned Business Enterprise” by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.

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