I love - and I mean love - the movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It is often credited as being the first "buddy" movie. I, however, don't think that term does the bank-robbing pair justice. Butch and Sundance were more than buddies; they were partners. Their lives were in one another's hands. In one of the first scenes, Butch's leadership of the Wild Bunch is challenged and he is
forced to fight
Harvey Logan. As he's preparing for the fight, Butch turns to Sundance.
"Listen, I don't want to sound like a sore loser, but when it's over, if I'm dead... kill him," he asks his partner.
And Sundance replies, "Love to."
While nobody is out to kill us (not today anyway), it is comforting to know that we have great partners that might not be able to always saves us from defeat, but will have our backs the best that they can. And, hopefully, they take solace in knowing we have theirs.
Team Tennessee has seen some great economic development successes over the past several years and we're proud to be contributing to that. The past several months, in my role as chairman of the Tennessee Economic Partnership, NETWORKS has been front and center, hosting top site location consultants, commercial real estate brokers, and national construction firms at outbound conferences and trade shows, as well as inbound red carpet events. The most recent such event was a few weeks ago, when TEP hosted several such firms for the CMA Festival in Nashville. I've also been able to play the role of host at a recent IAMC conference, a tile and floor coverings trade show, and a Chicago Cubs game. Although we're pitching the entire state, to have Northeast Tennessee represented is invaluable and even necessary if we are to continue to see the types of projects looking our way that we have in recent months. I am also proud to say that we have been able to recruit the Greene County Partnership (under the direction of new CEO Matt Garland) to join TEP and we expect another EDO in our region to commit within the next month or so.
As part of that relationship with TEP, it is hard to believe that our fourth Northeast Tennessee Red Carpet Tour is only about a month away.
Several TEP members
- including the Greene County Partnership, the Blount County Partnership, and the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce - are on board to join us. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is once again sending a representative to demonstrate how it is an asset to companies here. Of course, we'll be counting on all of our partners within Sullivan and Hawkins counties to be a part of showcasing our product to our guests and reminding other partners, most notably of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, of the many business advantages we have here.
Of course, our best salespeople are our existing companies and they have provided the best kind of testimonial in recent months: reinvesting and growing. Several expansions highlighted the past quarter and our staff and community partners are working on even more that we hope can be announced in the near future. Although company officials opted to withhold a formal announcement,
invested an additional $9.8 million in its Sullivan County distribution center and will hire an additional 165 people to full-time positions. When
Forward Air announced the expansion of its corporate campus in Greene County
late last year, officials there also opted not to formally announce some of the ripple effects of that project, one of which is the addition of 210 driver positions at its Kingsport facility - a great example of our regional economy at work.
- the first company recruited into the Phipps Bend Industrial Park as part of the NETWORKS-Hawkins County IDB partnership about two years ago - wasted little time in expanding its Tennessee operations, adding onto its facility and adding 50 jobs. Two other previously announced projects, KPS Global in Piney Flats and Bristol Metals in Bristol, celebrated their recent announcements with ceremonies involving their staffs and local officials in May.
announced its decision to build its first US manufacturing facility in Phipps Bend. Miyake, an automotive bearing parts maker, will employ 60 people in its 45,000-square-foot building. Phipps Bend also celebrated the completion of Birdseye Renewable Energy's
Just as economic and community development involves far more than corporate announcements, so do our partnerships. Our partnerships continue to pay dividends in terms of product improvement and development as well.
As reported previously, BTES-owned Bristol Business Park was recently awarded a
$500,000 grant from the state of Tennessee
to prepare a large site that will accommodate up to a 480,000-square-foot building. This site will put Sullivan County in the hunt for projects for which we were not competitive in the past. While she makes it a point of insisting that earning the grant was a team effort, April Eads of BTES was our team leader and deserves a great deal of credit for this win. Also, special thanks to City of Bristol standouts Tom Anderson and Terrie Talbert and her staff for putting together a great presentation.
More recently, both Bristol Business Park and Aerospace Park are finalists for a TVA InvestPrep grant that would significantly further those properties' site development along. Speaking of
and partnerships, it remains gratifying to see the region work together in terms of funding and lobbying for assistance in the development of this unique asset. NETWORKS continues its partnership with Tri Cities Airport in marketing the site; project managers Michael Parker and Brian Ritz joined the airport's Patrick Wilson and Mark Canty and Northeast State Community College's Richard Blevins as we jointly
exhibited at the MRO America's Show
in Orlando where we gained some nice leads.
Our partners at the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing
joined Kingsport-based Silgan Closures in announcing an apprenticeship program that once again demonstrates the center's ability to meet our major employers' workforce training needs.
This past quarter has also seen our partners do some pretty incredible things:
New TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe has been to our region twice in his first several months on the job. He was in
Kingsport for a regional town hall
, followed by a tour of the RCAM and a presentation by NETWORKS and our community partners. He returned about a month later to speak at the Miyake announcement in Hawkins County.
I was fortunate to have a meeting in Nashville with Commissioner Rolfe in my role as chairman of TEP. There is an overwhelming consensus among economic developers across the state that he represents another home run appointment by Governor Haslam and I left our meeting in complete agreement. He has a passion for our state and a welcoming nature along with a tremendous record of business success that make him uniquely qualified to lead our state's economic development efforts.
And, finally, we celebrated Economic Development Week in May. (Those of you who follow us on Facebook and Twitter are already well aware of this fact.) So, I think it's fitting that we reflect on how fortunate we are to have such outstanding partners. We might not merit the fame (or infamy) of Butch and Sundance, but it is a reassuring to know that whenever we ask anything of them, we will receive the same affirmative reply... "Love to."