As we close out undoubtedly the most surreal and bizarre economic development week, we thought this would be an appropriate time to make public, a service we began working on earlier this week to help our businesses out with expectations of at least one more round of federal assistance forthcoming. The ultimate hope for this program is to maximize the opportunity by the Federal Assistance Programs (probably more significantly) increase our participation and success rate whenever the next program is rolled out.
There are a couple of ways in which we will do this, the first being a support website, tricitiessupport.com, which we hope to have go live by Monday afternoon. It will be populated with the latest news on loans and grants, other support services available, and news items related to assisting companies of all sectors and sizes. The crown jewel item is our offer of assistance as companies go through the application process as well as helping them find the best resource(s) available to meet their individual needs.
We are starting out by offering this to businesses in the immediate Tri-Cities so that our service area is meaningful, yet manageable. Even on that scale, though, we at NETWORKS certainly can't do this without our partners. So, as we more often than not do, we are teaming with NeTREP, Bristol Chamber of Commerce, Johnson City Chamber of Commerce, and Kingsport Chamber of Commerce. The chambers are going to handle retail, restaurants, and maybe some other small business sectors, NeTREP will focus on outdoors/tourism-related companies (working with local CVBs when appropriate), and NETWORKS on primary job sector companies such as manufacturing, distribution, call centers, and headquarters. Without having this team in place that consistently works well together, this effort could not be possible. I am so appreciative to have these partners or this program - and most everything else we do that has been discussed throughout this week - would not be possible.
If you haven't gleaned from our posts, we rely on partnerships to the point that they are not second nature, but just something we automatically seek out. Our mental muscle memory dictates it.
Our COVID-19 experience has been one Zoom meeting after another (not unique there, I know), with most of them being with other economic developers and chambers of commerce. In fact, the Tri-Cities Support program came about by such a conversation with Williamson County Chamber of Commerce CEO Matt Largen, who had assigned one of his team members, Kel McDowell, to the task of surveying and assisting companies throughout the grant process. Kel spent some time with our Abby Mease and she and Michael Parker had a website and a survey designed. Meanwhile, I had rallied the aforementioned partners to jump on board, notified key partners who will be invaluable resources in helping our companies, and tentatively set up a media Zoom meeting for this morning (which went off without a hitch. We have a word for days like that - Thursday.
So as surreal and bizarre as this week and the previous couple of months have been, maybe its fitting that Economic Development Week fall during this time. We've suffered, but we've learned a great deal, improved our services in many ways, and been inspired to see the great works of others. There have been so many gifts and life lessons that have blessed us among all of the heartbreak. I'm thankful for them. I'm also hopeful we don't get the chance to see anything like this again. If we do, we will get through it as we're getting through this one... together.
We invite you to participate in the survey (click on the image below) and share it with any employer you feel may want to add their voice, experience, etc.