Community Stakeholders Report 
Quarter Two - 2019
From the Desk of the CEO

Whether Recruiting a Company, Assisting an Existing Industry, or Executing a Work Plan, Often a Common Thread Separates Mediocrity from Greatness...

It's All About the Follow-Up

I don't remember what year it was, but I remember the conference when I first heard a familiar question answered with a somewhat surprising - to me, anyway - response. It was at a Roundtable in the Rockies in Colorado, an event I attended more than a dozen times over the years, that featured presentations by site location consultants to economic developers with lots of Q&A time along with networking opportunities with the speakers as well as peers. After one such presentation, the following exchange occurred:
Economic Developer: What is the single biggest difference in communities that win a lot of projects and those that always seem to struggle in recruitment?
Consultant: I'd have to say the follow-up. Definitely the follow-up. Get us what we ask for, in the time frame in which we ask for it.
I later made it a point to speak with that consultant privately. I was curious in that I assumed all economic development organizations handled this simple task in a professional and timely manner. Not so. Time and time again, I have heard this response over the years, which has been the topic of many conversations between my closest peers and me, with the same two thoughts usually rising to the top of our discussions:
  1. It's befuddling that so many in our profession don't execute on simple requests for follow-up information; I can't imagine what's more important, especially when you figure that a request for additional information, whether it be after a Request for Information (RFI) or even an actual site visit, means that you are still in play for the project!
  2. As disappointing as this is to learn about some members of our profession, it also presents a very easy opportunity to stand out as an EDO. Whether you win a project or not, if you handle each step in the process, consultants will give you more chances as the communities presented to their clients and their performances are a reflection on them; they are repeat customers, which is, in part, why we spend so much effort on marketing to them.
It is not only working with prospective new business clients that follow-up makes the difference. Most every aspect of economic development is time sensitive. And few of them are easy tasks. Lots of people know what needs to be done. Fewer know how to execute. None always know the proper way to execute. But the best economic development results are realized by timely action.

It's been about a year ago that we began the follow-up to our Strategic Planning Retreat. And there's been lots of action since then. Just so you don't have to go through past newsletters, here's a quick summary of that exercise:
  • Our strategic and work plans, along with our mission statement, were modified and approved.
  • Three areas for a particularly sharp focus and Board involvement were identified: Product (Property) Development, Regionalism, and Workforce Development.
First of all, I must commend and thank our community partners and investors for their support to fund property development - which will include site preparation on some existing properties and the purchase of others - in the amount of about $8 million. Not only is this investment needed if we are to compete in industrial recruitment, the commitment demonstrates our prioritization of economic development. I feel especially fortunate to work for communities with such strong leaders who are willing to seek and perform the duties of public office.
The second topic, regionalism, has received so much attention over the past year or two that many of you might be tired of hearing about it. Please don't be. It's worth the effort. It's worth it because it works; in fact, it might just be the only pathway for us to optimize our growth potential in terms of population, career opportunities, educational options, and quality of life amenities. Not only are we - staff and our Board of Directors - deeply engaged in efforts around this subject such as Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable's and Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy's Blue Ribbon Task Force on Economic Development, the Tri-Cities chambers of commerce growing regionalism committee, a regional naming process, and a handful of other groups' activities, we are working alongside the Northeast Tennessee Regional  Economic Partnership (NeTREP) to develop a formal collaborative strategy (and potential new organization) to serve all of Northeast Tennessee and identify and execute projects with Southwest Virginia where appropriate. We hope to have something out for public consumption in the upcoming months.
Workforce development efforts received both a boost and delay when Dr. Jeff McCord departed Northeast State Community College (and the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing) to accept Governor Lee's offer to become Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development. We've already leaned on Commissioner McCord so that's been a really good thing for our region, but it temporarily left us without a chairman of this committee. Still, we have been studying some of the best practices across our state and working with partners and other stakeholders in creating our own initiatives as well as continuing to advance key initiatives (usually in a support role) such as the Education2Employment Summit and the Work Ready Community Certification program.
We've also been hard at it as we prepare for our sixth annual Northeast Tennessee Red Carpet Tour (speaking of regionalism), working with Tri-Cities Airport in marketing Aerospace Park (still more regionalism), and representing our little part of the state with the Tennessee Economic Partnership (that's right, even more regionalism).
Before closing and leaving you to read more details about the economic development goings-on of the last three months in the stories that follow, I should make one note. Our newsletters are not meant to discuss and report each and every activity of our staff and partners. Much of what we do is confidential and even if we tried to include all we are doing that isn't proprietary, you probably wouldn't have the time or desire to read about it. So, we try to hit the most pressing issues of the day and circle back when there's more to say about the others. You know, follow up on them, if you will. It's something we prioritize around here.
Upcoming Meetings
Executive Committee Meeting

 September 11, 2019

Northeast State Community College
Library - Room L106

Other Highlights

Economic Development Week interview with Carolyn Ferrell

Commissioner McCord & staff visit RCAM

Composites Coalition meeting at RCAM in partnership with Knoxville Chamber

Clay discussing aerospace with Expansion Solutions

Presenting to Kingsport Kiwanis

Another successful Bristol Hiring Expo, proudly sponsored by NETWORKS

Volunteers needed for NeTREP's upcoming Meet the Mountains festival 

BMS announcement of Thunder Valley Amphitheatre

Award presentation at STREAMWORKS 20 Under 20, proudly sponsored by NETWORKS

Thank you, Carolyn, for your service to the NETWORKS board!
Northeast Tennessee Red Carpet Tour Update

We're five weeks out from the Northeast Tennessee Red Carpet Tour!  There are currently seven consultants confirmed, including three firms attending for the first time.  All regional partners from previous years are on board for 2019, and we look forward to an increased event presence by our partners at TVA.  Be sure to follow along with the hashtag #NETNTour from August 15-17.
Partner & Staff Accolades

April Eads, Business Development Manager at BTES, was honored at YWCA's Tribute to Women.  Eads received an Empower award for the work she does to expose students to as many career opportunities as possible and help young women understand that it is acceptable to pursue a degree in a male-dominated field.

NETWORKS Director of Marketing and Business Development Dana Glenn graduated from the inaugural class of Leadership Tennessee NEXT this April.  Glenn was also recently named to TVA's Young Talent Council, a group of six economic developers under the age of 40 working with TVA to provide support and programming for the next generation of practitioners.
Aerospace Updates

NETWORKS's aerospace focus and Aerospace Park were touted on Success Files hosted by Rob Lowe this May.  The segment originally aired on Fox Business and will air around 400 times on different stations, across targeted major markets.  [read more]

Other good news helping our local aerospace industry thrive:
International MATE ROV Competition
In June, the 2019 MATE ROV Competition brought over 900 students from 18 countries to compete Where Tennessee Begins Its Business Day.  NETWORKS was proud to sponsor the kickoff luncheon, and CEO Clay Walker participated in multiple events over the long weekend.

MATE created the ROV competition as a way to engage students in STEM, expose them to science and technology careers, and encourage students to develop and apply technical, teamwork, and problem solving skills.  Past years event locations include Seattle, MIT, Long Beach, NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, and Canada.

Many thanks to the Eastman Foundation, STREAMWORKS, and Visit Kingsport for bringing this event to our region.  [read more]
Existing Industry Accolades

Congratulations to our friends at Eastman for another quarter full of outstanding achievements.  We are so proud that you call Where Tennessee Begins Its Business Day home!
Congratulations are also in store for our friends at Cooper Standard.  The organization was honored by Ford Motor Company with a Smart Pillar World Excellence Award!  Recipients of this award exceed expectations and achieve the highest levels of excellence in quality, cost, performance, and delivery.  [read more]