Community Stakeholders Report 
 1st Quarter - 2015

From the Desk of the CEO...

Connecting the Dots


Words and clich?s can be very cyclical things, at least with me that seems to be the case. Lately, the word that we are hearing and using ourselves seems to be connectivity.


That's probably not the most surprising thing anyone will hear today; after all, we are in a connectivity business. We connect companies to our communities, sites, and resources in our recruitment efforts. We connected companies to other companies (and, again, to resources) in our existing industry services. And we try to connect our counties and region to the world in our marketing efforts, which included the launch of our new website a couple of weeks ago. (If you haven't already, please check it out at networkstn.com.) Still, I've observed that connectivity has been even more prevalent than usual during the first quarter of 2015.


When we engaged The Next Move Group to redesign our website (see related story), we wanted to go beyond the typical. We sought to accomplish some basic things, all relating back to connectivity:

  • Navigability - the site had to be easy to find the information the user was seeking, "connecting" the user to everything he or she wanted to know, if you will.
  • Data-driven - we were determined that this site would be the best tool we could utilize to make our business case for our targeted industry sectors. I think perhaps in this area more than any other, we nailed our goal. Each targeted industry sector page address the unique and particular issues for that industry and quantifies in a meaningful way objective reasons to consider a location here.
  • Regional profile - "Regionalism" is a word that is often tossed about in economic development to the point where it can lose its impact, but it has real value on many fronts, among them being the simple, basic fact that although a company must land in a particular community, it benefits from the amenities of the entire region, including education and training facilities and programs, the size and quality of the workforce, and, of course, quality of life factors. Our website takes a broad look at what it means to locate not just to Sullivan or Hawkins counties, but what it means to locate to Northeast Tennessee. We wanted it to connect the user to our entire region.

Websites and marketing efforts aren't really what most of our citizens would consider accomplishments; they are things we do to reach our ultimate goal which is to generate investment and job creation. We had a great day last week with the announcement of Pure Foods Company (see related story). Pure Foods is currently based in Vancouver, but the company which will manufacture healthful snacks in the NETWORKS spec building under construction in Gateway Commerce Park in Kingsport, will also locate its corporate offices to its new home in Northeast Tennessee. The $22 million investment will lead to the creation of 273 jobs that will average more than $30,000 a year (without even factoring in the higher-paying HQ positions). I'd like to thank company leaders John Frostad, Bob Armstrong, Gary Southwood, and Mike Wells for such a wonderful experience in making this happen.


There were so many partners that I can't mention them all, but special recognition to Mayor Dennis Phillips and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen, City Manager Jeff Fleming and his staff, Miles Burdine and everyone at the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, Chairman Bill Dudney and the KEDB, Isaac Webb and Bob Gilbert of AEP, Matt Garland of TNECD, Jim Street and his team at JA Street & Associates, and of course the NETWORKS staff and Board of Directors for a job well done.


Of course, most job growth comes from existing industries and I want to publicly thank Bell Helicopter for helping us connect to our existing major employers at the standing-room-only FIRST meeting held several weeks ago.  FIRST is the umbrella program under which all of our combined existing industry services reside (see related story). The name is an acronym for the values on which the program is built - Focus, Innovative, Results, Synergy, and Together - and emphasizes the priority we put on our existing industries. NETWORKS teamed with Mark Canty of the Tri-Cities Airport on a Foreign Trade Zone presentation. We even brought in an FTZ expert and connected our companies to the state's export specialists. And, as with all of these meetings, we provided a vehicle for these outstanding corporate citizens to meet and form relationships and a support system with each other.


As we do every chance we get, we spent time earlier this year connecting with our partners in Nashville, at the Tennessee Economic Development Council (TEDC) Day on the Hill. We met and thanked our elected officials and spent a great deal of time with key staff members of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD). We also networked with these partners and many others as we learned a great deal of a variety of issues at the TVA Economic Development Forum. And I got to spend some time discussing our product and strategies with AEP's team a couple of months ago as well.


We will get another opportunity to familiarize key partners in April when we visit the Nashville offices of TVA and give an hour-long presentation to its target market specialists and project managers. We'll also schedule appoints with some of the TNECD staff we didn't get to spend a great deal of time with on our previous trip. And next week, I will be working with Aeronautics/Aviation specialists Alex Bertelli (TNECD) and Adam Murray (TVA) along with Patrick Wilson and Mark Canty from Tri-Cities Airport at the Quad A show in Nashville.


One of the highlights of the first quarter was new TNECD Commissioner Randy Boyd's visits to our region. While here, he visited with executives at Eastman Chemical and Heritage Glass, held a "town hall" meeting with regional leaders at Meadowview, had lunch at Pal's (of course) where he visited with business leader Pal Barger, and toured the Tennessee Select certified site, Tri-Cities Aerospace Park at the airport.


Commissioner Boyd was especially interested in hearing about last year's Red Carpet Tour we held in concert with the Tennessee Economic Partnership and pledged he would attend this year's event if at all possible which, like last year, will culminate with the Erwin Tools Night Race at Bristol. Other top staff members joined the commissioner on that visit and project manager Allison Sielbeck-Coley, who focuses on data and call centers and headquarters projects, visited our county and others in our region in March.


Speaking of TEP, we are upping our connections with that group as I am now proud to be serving on its Board of Directors and its budget committee. We also are in talks with assisting that group and the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce with next year's Site Selection Guild Annual Meeting, to be held in Music City in the spring of 2016.


Of course, we continued to work on our newly formed partnership with Hawkins County, working with staffer Rebecca Baker on many fronts. Priorities for the Phipps Bend Industrial Park, one of the premier sites in our region, include increasing broadband infrastructure, creating marketing pieces, and creating front-of-mind awareness of the property among our lead generating partners, all while working on a handful of prospects for that site.


One item that doesn't need to be lost in this flurry of activity is the announced retirement of Jack Lawson, NETWORKS Director of Economic Development. (We will have information on Jack's replacement in the next newsletter.) Jack has about three decades of economic development excellence and as deep a commitment to his community as anyone I know. Jack is a mainstay in our industry. To say he will be missed is an understatement. Things simply won't be the same without Jack's upbeat personality, subtle practical jokes, and his amazing historical knowledge. We will, however, utilize Jack as a consultant for special projects, if for no other reason, just to give his wife, Judy, an occasional break.


And, we will definitely stay connected with Jack... it's what we do.
Upcoming Meetings
Full Board

April 8, 2015

8:00 a.m. - 9:30 a.m.

Northeast State Community College
Library - Room L106


NETWORKS & the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development will be hosting a job fair in the Piney Flats area in the near future. If you would like additional information regarding the job fair or register for a booth, call or email Michael Parker with NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership:
(423) 279-7681
New Businesses

Pure Foods, Inc to locate U.S. Headquarters & Manufacturing Facility in Kingsport

Nutritio us Snack and Convenience Food Manufacturer to Invest $22 Million, Create 273 Jobs


Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd along with Pure Foods, Inc. officials announced today the company has chosen Kingsport for its U.S. headquarters and manufacturing operations. The 88,000 square foot facility will be built on 35 acres and will serve markets primarily in the United States, Canada and Mexico.


The announcement by the specialty snack food maker represents an investment of $22 million and the creation of 273 new jobs in Sullivan County.

"We want to welcome Pure Foods to Tennessee and thank them for their investment in

Kingsport," Haslam said. "Our geographic location and skilled workforce are incredible advantages when we're out recruiting businesses to Tennessee, and when a company establishes its U.S. headquarters and manufacturing operations in Tennessee, it sends another clear signal that we can compete with anyone."

"The food and beverage sector has added more than 4,000 new jobs and $1.1 billion in new investment during the Haslam administration. Tennessee continues to see momentum build in this sector," Boyd said. "I am pleased with Pure Foods' decision to locate in Tennessee, furthering our world renowned reputation as a state where the artisan spirit continues to thrive, and I applaud the company for investing and creating nearly 300 new jobs in Kingsport."


"Our vision to give consumers across North America healthier snack options has come to life today thanks to the tremendous support of the city and Chamber of Commerce of Kingsport, the Tennessee Economic and Community Development team and NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership. It's been exciting to work with these partners to build a state-of-the-art snack facility like no other," Pure Foods President & CEO John Frostad said. "The new investment will allow Pure Foods to operate an advanced, FSSC22000, BRC and SQF certified, Allergen Controlled Snack Manufacturing Plant. In addition to industry leading material handling and processing techniques, the company is deploying patented dehydration technology that will see the integration of fresh vegetables and fruits into sheeted tortilla style snacks, extruded products, and other snack forms. The central location of Kingsport along with a skilled and enthusiastic workforce is why Pure Foods made the decision to locate its head office and manufacturing facility there."


Pure Foods produces nutrient dense and low fat specialty snack foods. Construction has already begun on the Kingsport location, the company's fourth facility in North America, and is slated for completion in August 2015.


"I'm proud that great companies like Pure Foods consistently decide to base their operations in Tennessee," Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said. "Northeast Tennessee has a high-quality workforce that is the envy of the nation. I'm grateful to Pure Foods for their decision to make their home here in Kingsport."


Pure Foods will begin its hiring process in April 2015. Information on how to apply for available positions will be available at that time.

FIRST Meeting (Existing Industry)
Local Industry Leaders Attend the FIRST Meeting at Bell Helicopter to Discuss the Advantages of a Foreign Trade Zone

More than a dozen of Sullivan County's leading industries gathered for the second FIRST - Focus, Innovation, Results, Synergy, Together - meeting at Bell Helicopter's Piney Flats facilities in February. They were joined by economic development partners from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, University of Tennessee Industrial Services, the Workforce Investment Board, the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing, and the county team made up of NETWORKS staff and representatives from the cities of Bristol and Kingsport and BTES.


The centerpiece of the FIRST program, these gatherings bring together top employers and economic and community development support agencies to address issues faced doing business and provide resources to the existing industrial base. At the latest gathering, Mark Canty of the Tri-Cities Airport who oversees Foreign Trade Zone 204 was joined by MCS Strategies principal and FTZ expert Mike Michalski to provide a better understanding of the federal program to the companies. NETWORKS announced that it will pay for a pro forma to be done by MCS for any industry that is interested in utilizing the program which eliminates, reduces, and defers federal tax obligations for raw materials entering qualifying US facilities and finished goods that are sold outside of the country.


Members of the TNECD export team were also on hand. They presented the group an overview of its services to assist companies in marketing and selling to foreign markets.


The program, which was launched in the fall of last year, is designed to coordinate existing industry services by the local and regional economic and community development team to companies within primary job sectors. Companies interested in learning more about FIRST can review the program at networkstn.com under the Existing Industry section or email first@networkstn.com or give us a call at 


New Website

NETWORKS Launches New Website

ED group's focus is on making business case for companies


NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership has announced a completed make-over of its website. The new site, www.networkstn.com, has extensive content including targeted data for the industry sectors in which the region has major advantages in addition to many interactive features.


The website is designed to assist business owners, corporate realtors, site selectors, and others who are considering a new location to do business. The website has tailored data for each of the identified targeted sectors. As an example, what is important to an automotive supplier is different from a food processor, so each page is tailored to provide data that is relevant to its specific audience.


The site was developed by Next Move Group, LLC, an economic development and site location consulting firm with offices in New Orleans, Louisiana, and St. Louis, Missouri. The firm partners with Troy University to produce specific data for target industries and Aha Creative to assist with the digital interface. The end result is an interactive yet data driven website that is both appealing and functional.


"We have worked with the Next Move Group over the past several months to not only construct a website, but to take an in-depth look at the advantages our area has by way of real quantitative data; to make a business case to prospective companies," said Clay Walker, CEO of NETWORKS. "While the website was our end goal, we wanted a target marketing strategy and labor analysis rolled in with the website to make it more effective in the end. It was important to us not to simply make a good looking website; we wanted one that provided accurate and reliable data to help reinforce our message. Essentially, a website that gives us more tools to recruit new investment to our region. This website does that very effectively."


In addition to the targeted industry data, the website contains an inventory of industrial buildings and sites available in Sullivan and Hawkins counties (NETWORKS also serves as the marketing and recruitment arm of its neighbor to the west), thorough demographic data relevant to the area's workforce, information about colleges, universities, and other educational and training partners, an overview of incentives, a section to serve existing business & industry, and information regarding the quality of life in Northeast Tennessee. While NETWORKS does not actively recruit retail projects, the site includes a retail section with links to the appropriate contacts within each of the county's cities as well as to major retail developments.


"The NETWORKS staff's expertise in economic development combined with our site selection and web design experience has led to a website which should provide tangible return to Sullivan and Hawkins counties in terms of job creation," Chad Chancellor, Founder and CEO of Next Move Group, said. "This service area is well positioned to attract new businesses and this website documents all of the assets it has to offer targeted business sectors.

It's My Bristol Baby!
Economic Impact of Bristol 
Motor Speedway and Dragway Is HUGE!

Representatives from the Bristol TN/VA Chamber of Commerce, along with officials from Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) and Dragway, released figures during a Wednesday news conference that highlight the racing complex's positive economic impact on the region.


According to the combined research, the direct economic impact of Bristol Motor Speedway and Bristol Dragway totaled more than $417 million for 2012 through 2014. This figure was derived from racing and ancillary activities held on-site, charitable events, contributions and tax revenue. The indirect economic impact of the venue totaled more than $1.4 billion moving through the regional economy.


Joy Madison, president and CEO of the Bristol TN/VA Chamber of Commerce, was accompanied by Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager for Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway, to announce the results of a study conducted by both organizations.


"One of the perks of working at BMS is that we come in contact with hundreds of thousands of people every year," Caldwell said. "For each of these individuals, their trip to Bristol isn't limited to their time at the Speedway or Dragway. Instead, it includes their interactions and experiences while staying in hotels, dining at local restaurants, filling up at the gas station, shopping at the grocery store, visiting local points of interest, and much more.


"We are extremely humbled and grateful to the regional community and businesses that set the stage for this kind of impact."


Also in attendance at the announcement were representatives of additional local chambers of commerce, along with tourism officials and individuals from the surrounding 18-county region that makes up BMS' local footprint.


"Our community, along with numerous others in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, reaps the benefits of having a partner such as Bristol Motor Speedway in our backyard," Madison said. "Visitors who come to our area for a race experience are also spending money in our communities, and it's made a significant impact on our region and all neighboring states."


In a year-and-a-half, the region will reap the benefits of yet another major event at BMS as the iconic NASCAR short track transforms into college football's largest venue. On Sept. 10, 2016, BMS will host Virginia Tech and the University of Tennessee in the Battle at Bristol, an event that is expected to provide a direct impact of $125 million to the local economy, along with an indirect impact of more than $439 million.

The End of an Era

Lawson Retires After 30 Years in Economic Development


After nearly 30 years as a fixture in the Northeast Tennessee economic development community, Jack Lawson has announced his retirement. Lawson has worked the past 10 years as Director of Economic Development for NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership.


"An economic developer's job is never finished. There are always existing companies needing assistance or new companies to recruit," Lawson said. "I have enjoyed the past 25 years working for Sullivan County and believe my work here has made a difference. I will continue to work with the NETWORKS team, as needed, to secure future opportunities for Sullivan County."


Prior to joining NETWORKS, Lawson served as Director of the Sullivan County Economic Development Commission from 1990 to 2004. He worked with the Johnson City-Washington County Economic Development Board and the First Tennessee Development District prior to that position.


"Jack has been a mainstay in our county and region for so long it is hard to imagine economic development here without his day-to-day involvement," said Clay Walker, NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership CEO. "He has been instrumental in dozens of recruitment and expansion and retention projects over the years and has been a dedicated professional throughout his career. It has been an honor to work alongside him."


Lawson has a Master's degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Tennessee and is a Charter Member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.


"During the past 25 years, there is no one I'd rather work with and be around than Jack Lawson," said Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable, who also worked with Lawson for more than seven years as CEO of NETWORKS. "Jack's career in Sullivan County, spanning decades, has resulted in hundreds of companies hiring thousands of people. What more could you ask from the person I consider to be the premier economic developer in East Tennessee and quite possibly the state. He has accomplished all of this in a quiet, unassuming way that never sought the spotlight."


During his retirement, Lawson plans to spend more time with his wife of 45 years, Judy, and visit their children and grandchildren more frequently. He will also devote more attention to his favorite pastimes: hiking, golfing, and painting. Lawson will remain involved with NETWORKS as a consultant for special projects.