Community Stakeholders Report 
Quarter Two - 2018
From the Desk of the CEO

Plan Your Work,
Work Your Plan

I am not sure who first spoke or penned, "Plan your work, work your plan," but the person who taught me the value of that saying was Steve Newton. Steve was a successful basketball coach at my alma mater, Murray State University, before moving on to South Carolina and then to serve as athletic director at the Southern Indiana University where he revived the coaching career of one Bruce Pearl. He was also a mentor and friend, who helped steer me into economic development.
I often think of that simple refrain when facing large problems or projects that can seem overwhelming. Just form a plan and go to work on it.
When something becomes routine, though, it is human nature to not give it much thought. You just go through the steps. When that happens, details can get overlooked and mistakes are made. These mistakes might not be overt, but minimally, when we are going through the motions, we don't produce our best work.
That is one of the reasons why organizations take the time to revisit strategic plans, although sometimes that process can also become routine. So, this year, the NETWORKS Board of Directors decided to take a more in-depth approach and held a planning retreat of sorts, spending an afternoon at the newly opened RCAM Academy and the following morning at Bristol Motor Speedway's Bruton Smith Building.

"I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable" 
Dwight D. Eisenhower

If you are going to take the time for such an endeavor, you need to do all you can to ensure that it is worthwhile and meaningful. So, we did just that by enlisting the services of strategic planning facilitator Jody Lentz. I first met Jody nearly 15 years ago when he facilitated a retreat amongst the partner economic developers in Middle Tennessee as part of the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce's P2010 program. I was impressed by how he was able to keep about a dozen very strong-willed economic developers under control... relatively speaking. I have had the chance to be a part of groups utilizing Jody's talents several times since, including TVA, the Tennessee Economic Development Council, and TNECD.

A common thread in every group has been the value of the process in and of itself. Regardless of the issues, discussions and directions, and even the outcomes and actions to be taken, the organizations come out of the process closer and with a better shared vision simply by going through the exercise.
The process was more involved than just a few hours of planning, though, as I met with Jody a few times in the months leading up to our retreat. He also met with our staff, surveyed our Board and partners - including some who weren't involved in the retreat itself - and had telephone interviews with some of our leadership. The preliminary work set the table for the main event.

We are currently working on a final document that will be made public soon. But I can tell you now that the focus was in three main areas:
  • Workforce development and attraction - the hot button issue on each and every project and among nearly every existing industry with whom we meet, we came up with some interesting ideas for initiatives we can lead and ways to work in support of groups that are already leading their own strategies in our region.
  • Product - land, buildings, and infrastructure... our scenic mountains can be challenging as we develop sites for large pads, but we have parlayed our relationships and successes into assistance to (literally) level the playing field, particularly in the last couple of years, and we must sharpen that focus if we are to be competitive in primary job attraction.
  • Regionalism - no surprise here, given how much attention the subject has received in Northeast Tennessee lately. What we rediscovered during our discussions was our role as a leader in regionalism and collaboration through things like our Northeast Tennessee Red Carpet Tour, involvement with the Tennessee Economic Partnership (TEP), marketing partnerships with other economic development organizations across the state, creating the brand of Where Tennessee Begins Its Business Day, and many other efforts. We concluded that it is not only appropriate, but a responsibility that we have to be a leader in even bigger and better regional endeavors.
Now that we have planned (re-planned really) our work, it is time to work our plan; to learn from our setbacks and build on our successes. The retreat left everyone who participated re-energized and excited about where we as an organization, communities - both individually and collectively - a region, and a state are heading and just how successful we can be.

"Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes... but no plans"
Peter Drucker

In looking back over the past three months, we have been able to celebrate a great deal of successes, from job and investment announcements to large grant awards to the warmth of a large spotlight shining on our region. None of them would have been achievable without well thought-out, well executed plans. And, of course, they all needed the commitment - financial and otherwise - to see them through.

Microporous announced a $20 million investment in equipment and the construction of a new building on its Piney Flats campus. This investment will lead to the creation of an additional 36 jobs and will as much as triple the production of polyethylene battery separators and add other products to its line. A large crowd from across the region attended the announcement and ground-breaking ceremony on June 13. The project team included NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership, BTES and TVA, and TNECD.

TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe, TVA, Hawkins County, and NETWORKS officials joined RMC Advanced Technologies leadership in May to announce the Quebec-based company's purchase of a spec building in Phipps Bend Industrial Park that will become their US Headquarters and a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility. RMC will invest about $7 million and provide 54 high-paying jobs.

TNECD also announced Ware Manufacturing will expand its Northeast Tennessee facility. The pet product company will expand the plant to make room for new equipment where it will make room for 30 new positions.

Commissioner Rolfe wasted little time returning to Northeast Tennessee from the RCM announcement, presenting the region with $2 million in Rural Development Site Grants at Tri-Cities Airport just two days later. Partnership Park II - one of NETWORKS's properties and one of four Select Tennessee Certified Sites it markets - received the first-ever High Impact Grant of $1 million to assist in prepping a 30-acre, rail site. Aerospace Park received $500,000 toward its 167-acre development. Nearby Erwin was awarded $500,000 for a brownfield project. NETWORKS thanked TNECD, other state and economic development agencies, and elected officials for its recent contributions in site development in the region with an ad in the Tri-Cities Business Journal.

Those are real commitments that support big plans.

"A goal without a plan is just a wish"
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

One of the challenges most every community faces in simply getting people to take a look. In some cases, frankly, there might not be much to see once they do. That is certainly not the case here. Once we get people to take a look at our region, they are impressed, so our task is to be more creative and resourceful than the thousands of other organizations trying to get the attention of companies, site location experts, and potential residents.

When we launched our Community Video two years ago, its intended audience was site location firms and c-suite level executives. We didn't anticipate such an overwhelming response from our citizens and former citizens who longed to return. So, we were a little more prepared for that response when we launched the first in a series of follow-up videos on May 31, once again partnering with the creative team at Cumberland Marketing. Our Quality of Life video showcased the region's exciting lifestyle in such a way, we decided to make it our gift to the region, allowing any organization to use it - and even customize its opening and closing. Several private companies, tourist destination centers, and tourism and economic development organizations have already done so.

Speaking of videos, NETWORKS successfully lobbied Success Files with Rob Lowe, a production company that sells content to national television networks, to feature Northeast Tennessee as a destination for aerospace companies. The feature, which shot footage and interviewed us and some of our partners in May is in post-production and should air in August or September on several networks. Once it airs, we will have the video up on our website and make it available to any of our partners. We will also send it to targeted companies and site location consultants and likely air it as part of the loop at our booth we co-sponsor with Tri-Cities Airport at aerospace trade shows.

Michael Parker and Brian Ritz represented NETWORKS at such a show in May, joining Aerospace Park's marketing director Mark Canty and Northeast State Community College's Aviation Program director Richard Blevins at the MRO Americas show, marking the third consecutive year we have exhibited there. This show and NBAA shows have been the genesis of several relationships that have begun to materialize into promising leads.

We were busy this past quarter with TEP activities, attending the IAMC conference in Savannah, Georgia, where we hosted a Songwriter's Night featuring Grammy Award winner Tim Nichols. We also were part of the delegation that met with consultants in Chicago and hosted several for a Cubs game. We continue to work with our local partners and regional partners from the Knoxville Chamber, Blount Partnership, Greene County Partnership, and NETREP as we approach our fifth Northeast Tennessee Red Carpet Tour. This event has introduced dozens of the nation's top site selectors to our region over the years and we have added some excitement for this edition.

"Do not try to make circumstances fit your plans. Make plans that fit your circumstances"
George C. Patton

Of course, we are always happy to celebrate the many accomplishments of our partners, who have been so instrumental in making us Where Tennessee Begins Its Business Day. I don't think I could name anyone who has been more of a contributor than BTES, so it was with great pride that we honored them in the Tri-Cities Business Journal to celebrate their acceptance of the Malcolm Baldrige Award in April. BTES is the first utility to ever claim the award and joined Eastman and Pal's Sudden Service as Sullivan County's three recipients; that's not bad considering only two other Tennessee companies can claim that honor. I can't think of a better example to support our brand.

Once again Eastman earned an impressive recognition, making the Forbes 2018 America's Best Employers list. Bristol's Rhythm & Roots Reunion earned a well-deserved nod by, the value of our Foreign Trade Zone was explained by the Kingsport Times-News, and Bristol held another successful Hiring Expo - all bringing positive recognition to our region and state.

Finally, thanks to the City of Bristol for making me a part of its Economic Development Week celebration. The City's communications department worked the aforementioned Jody Lentz, customizing one of this signature videos that cleverly explains our profession on a very understandable level. I think the video finally gives me the tool I need to help my parents understand just what it is that I do. I should definitely make plans to show it to them.
Upcoming Meetings
Full Board Meeting

 July 11, 2018
8:00 AM

Northeast State Community College
Library - Room L106

Notable Social Media Posts

Microporous Expands in Piney Flats

On June 13, Microporous announced plans to expand its Piney Flats operations and celebrated with a groundbreaking event.  The company plans to add 36 employees to its current employment of 134.  

The expected capital investment is $20M.  This will further enhance the capabilities of the company to provide additional products which will supply industry across our region and beyond.  The investment will include new equipment purchases and a 40,000 square foot addition to the building.

Microporous is the third largest lead-acid battery separator producer in the world.  The company has been in business since 1934 and is headquartered in Piney Flats, TN. [read more]
RMC Advanced Technologies to Locate US HQ and Manufacturing Facility in Phipps Bend 

Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and RMC Advanced Technologies officials announced on May 16 that the company will locate its U.S. headquarters and establish a manufacturing facility in Surgoinsville. The composite components manufacturer will invest $7 million and create 54 new jobs in Hawkins County. 

"I want to welcome RMC to Hawkins County and thank the company for choosing to locate its U.S. headquarters and manufacturing facility in Surgoinsville," Rolfe said. "It means a great deal that another international-based company has chosen our state for its new operations. Tennessee is home to more than 70 Canadian-owned companies that employ approximately 8,000 Tennesseans and we appreciate RMC for creating 54 new jobs in our state and Surgoinsville."

RMC Advanced Technologies, a subsidiary of Sigma Industries Inc., produces and sells composite components. The company offers products for the heavy-duty truck, coach, transit and bus, machinery, agriculture and wind energy markets. Sigma Industries Inc. was founded in 2005 and is based in Saint-Ephrem-de-Beauce, Quebec, Canada.   [read more]
Ware Manufacturing Expands in Phipps Bend

Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe and Ware Manufacturing, Inc. announced on May 29 that the company will expand in Hawkins County. The pet products manufacturer and distributor will create 32 new jobs and invest $1.1 million in Surgoinsville. 

"I thank Ware Manufacturing on its decision to expand in Surgoinsville," Rolfe said. "Since 2011, Hawkins County has had 15 projects resulting in the creation of more than 900 jobs. I appreciate Ware Manufacturing for creating over 30 new jobs in Hawkins County and for its 25-year commitment to Tennessee and Surgoinsville."

Ware Manufacturing, Inc. is an industry leader in the manufacturing and distribution of new and innovative products for pets. With this expansion, Ware Manufacturing will expand its current operations in Surgoinsville's Phipps Bend Industrial Park to make room for new equipment and growing demand.    [read more]
Sullivan County Properties Receive $1.5M in TNECD Site Development Grants

Photo courtesy of  Hank Hayes, Times News

Commissioner Rolfe and other TNECD officials visited Sullivan County on May 18 to present Site Development Grant checks to NETWORKS and Tri-Cities Airport.  NETWORKS received a S1 million grant to develop a rail site at Partnership Park II in Bristol.  Tri-Cities Airport received $500,000 for the grading of Aerospace Park.  [read more]
Northeast Tennessee Quality of Life Video Launched

NETWORKS launched its newest marketing piece, the Northeast Tennessee Quality of Life video, on May 31.  The video is intended to highlight the quality of life that Northeast Tennessee offers and is our "gift to the region."  Organizations in Northeast Tennessee are invited to use the video as a marketing tool and can replace the NETWORKS logos on the bookends with their own logo.

The video was created in collaboration with Cumberland Marketing and currently has over 40,000 views and almost 800 shares.  [read more]