Had I moved to Northeast Tennessee several years ago, I am sure that I would have never taken to my habit of running on a treadmill. When I was a young man, running was something everyone did outside, but I developed the habit of running on a treadmill that continues today. Some days when it is so beautiful and our mountains are green or better yet, bright yellow and orange in the fall, and there are only a handful of us inside the controlled elements of the fitness center to which I belong, I question cheating myself of this beautiful place I now call home.
Still, I stay within my comfort zone and on the treadmill. There's a lot to be said for the treadmill, like being able to set a pace I must maintain in order to stay upright; to set incremental goals. There is no harsh weather, no worry about whether the approaching dog is friendly, and no traffic issues. There is also the social aspect that comes with most gyms, including mine. Even with all of those considerations, in the end I am still spending a little over an hour simply running in place.
Economic development practitioners - regardless of personal health habits - all know this feeling. Much of what we do is done with nothing close to a guarantee of a payoff. The only certainty is that if we don't work hard on every aspect of our profession, there will
not be a payoff. So, we track each lead, deliver our message to every logical corner it can reach, go take a look at every property someone promises is "perfectly flat" land, and search for every advantage that might help our communities.
We realized some solid benefit to our work with our partners in Kingsport a few weeks ago as we gathered for a
groundbreaking at Anita's Snacks facility
in Gateway Commerce Park. Anita's is adding a warehouse that will free up much of its current facility to add another production line which will lead to another 20-25 hires.
Again, we enjoyed evidence of good economic development work and solid place-making when we celebrated the
opening of The Summit
with Bristol officials earlier in the year. Although announced in December, Summit Consulting Service recently held an open house where they contract office services (payroll, human resources, marketing, and the like) as well as provide 10,000 square feet of co-working space. Kingsport's
opened soon after, providing residents with a place to learn new skills, foster community, or build a business. It adds to the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in our region.
These celebrations are a blessing because much of our time has been spent on the groundwork needed to maximize economic growth. Following up with the plan of work that emerged from last year's strategic planning retreat, we have been spending a great deal of time with our partners locally and at the state level working on product development. We continue to manage the
$1 million site development grant
from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development for a rail site in Partnership Park II in Bristol as well as search for more industrial property throughout the county and opportunities to improve the marketability of existing parks and sites.
Of course, we continue to get our message out through various marketing vehicles, including our site location consultant outreach. Once again, we attended the
Site Selectors Guild's Annual Meeting
in Salt Lake City, Utah. The Guild has grown to 51 members. We also are deep in preparation for our signature inbound marketing event, the Northeast Tennessee Red Carpet Tour, already receiving some "early bird" RSVPs from some of the nation's top consulting firms.
We met with a handful of consultants while in Atlanta recently at the
MRO Americas Show.
We partner each year with Tri-Cities Airport to exhibit at this
industry show. This year, we also joined our partners at the
Tennessee Economic Partnership (TEP) to host an off-site reception
. We market all of our sites at this show, the property that generates the most interest is always
Visitors to the airport have no doubt noticed the massive earthwork progress in recent weeks as that site's completion comes closer and closer to reality.
While it's been fun getting to know Gene and welcoming him to the economic development team, we have also seen a couple of key players move on. Fortunately, they both have moved into positions where we will continue to work with them, just in different capacities.
In January, Governor Bill Lee announced that
Dr. Jeff McCord is now the Commissioner for Labor and Workforce Development.
Jeff, who served on the NETWORKS Board of Directors, resigned his position as vice president of Economic and Workforce Development at Northeast State Community College, where he was a key asset to our existing industries as well as our recruitment efforts. We were fortunate, however, that he was replaced by another familiar face and partner as
Dr. Sam Rowell
moved into Jeff's position from his previous role as president of academic affairs.
, who will be leaving the City of Kingsport where she is Department Services Director. Lynn is joining the TNECD team as Northeast Regional Director, replacing Iliff McMahan who resigned in March to accept a position in the private sector. We are excited to work with Lynn and assist in any way we can as she embarks on this opportunity.
The NETWORKS family got a little larger in February as we welcomed
aboard. Ronnie, who has enjoyed a fantastic career in economic development over the past 30 years, is currently focusing on existing industry services as economic development specialist. When Ronnie told me about plans to retire from Weakley County in West Tennessee and move back home to his native Hawkins County at a conference a little more than a year ago, I knew we had to take advantage of his expertise, so Ioffered him a position on the spot.
Finally, Director of Marketing and Business Development
has begun as one of 25 people selected for the inaugural class of
Leadership Tennessee NEXT,
a program under Leadership Tennessee to prepare the next generation of our state's leadership.
As our friends and colleagues find new challenges and we explore every angle to give us a competitive edge, there are certainly no guarantees which of these initiatives will gain traction. One thing is for certain: we are definitely putting in our miles.