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

Lots to Celebrate as We Close Books on 2018

As we delve into 2019, I wish everyone a Happy New Year. I hope you are still clinging tightly to those resolutions and have moved well past any regrets from your New Year's Eve celebrations. We certainly had plenty to celebrate the last three months of 2018.

The region came together as work began in earnest on the development of Aerospace Park, with a $4.1 million TDOT grant nearly completing the funding of the 167-acre park at Tri-Cities Airport. The region has stepped up over the years in support of the airport, but especially in the development of this incredible industrial site, notably with the cities of Bristol, Johnson City, and Kingsport, along with Sullivan and Washington counties contributing $8.5 million toward the $20.5 million project. The airport staff pulled the region together in October for a celebration, made all the better by incredible weather and heavy equipment moving large amounts of dirt!

The work that has begun is a milestone when marketing the park as we continued to do in lockstep with Mark Canty of TRI. NETWORKS Director of Business Development Michael Parker joined Mark at the NBAA Show in Orlando once again, something we have done together for the past five years.

Aerospace Park is just one example of the region pulling together the past year, with plenty of news to report on the regional economic and community development front in the final quarter, highlighted by the first of its kind joint meeting of the Sullivan and Washington county commissions, held at Tri-Cities Airport in October. The commissions approved a resolution signaling more collaboration lying ahead and mayors Richard Venable and Joe Grandy gave it teeth in December, announcing their Blue Ribbon Task Force on Regionalism, on which I am honored to serve.

Just last month, Sullivan and Hawkins counties became our region's first counties to be certified under the ACT Work Ready Community program. The other six counties in the Northeast Tennessee region are working toward certification through the First Tennessee Development District.

Our NETWORKS family was once again represented on the Tri-Cities Business Journal's 40 Under Forty with Michael being among the honorees, joined by the City of Bristol's Jon Luttrell.  (Dana Glenn was an honoree in 2017.)  The Bristol IDB honored the retiring Mike Sparks, a mainstay in the city's economic development efforts and partner to NETWORKS.

There was plenty to report on from our neighbors and partners just up the road at Northeast State Community College. They followed up the opening of the RCAM Academy earlier this year with a groundbreaking ceremony for the Technical Educational Complex at its Blountville campus in October. They were in the news again in November, introducing Dr. Bethany Flora as the college's next president. Dr. Flora was most recently at East Tennessee State University where she served as the director of the Center for Community College Leadership and associate professor of postsecondary leadership at ETSU's Clemmer College of Education.

The big news in November across the state was the election of our 50th Governor, Bill Lee. Governor Lee is certainly familiar with our region, as Eastman was the site for a pivotal debate in October. That was just one of many trips he has made to Sullivan County; then-candidate Lee visited our suite at Bristol Motor Speedway in August during our Northeast Tennessee Red Carpet Tour, and I was fortunate to spend some time with him. I'm confident he is going to be great for our state and for all of us here Where Tennessee Begins Its Business Day.

The folks at Speedway Motorsports, Inc., made news in December with the announcement that SMI, the owner of Bristol Motor Speedway and several other notable tracks, had reached an agreement with Tony Formosa, operator of Nashville-owned Fairgrounds Speedway. While Formosa will still organize and host several races each year, the alignment with SMI and BMS could open the door for NASCAR to return to the historic track.

When that happens, I know I will be among the many folks making the trip down to Music City to celebrate more short-track racing in our state... which hopefully will be just one of many things to celebrate in 2019.
Upcoming Meetings
Annual Meeting

 January 23, 2019

Northeast State Community College
Library - Room L106

Social Media Highlights

Mayors' Blue Ribbon Task Force on Regionalism Announced


Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable and Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy have appointed the "Blue Ribbon Committee on Regional Cooperation" to consider potential regional economic development strategies.  The task force includes Tri-Cities mayors, city managers, Chamber presidents, and economic development organization leadership, including NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership CEO Clay Walker.   [read more]
Sullivan, Hawkins Counties are Region's First Work Ready Communities 

Sullivan and Hawkins counties received ACT's Work Ready Community (WRC) designation in December, becoming the first two counties in East Tennessee to receive the designation.  This initiative is aimed at making communities more competitive by closing the skills gap that threatens economic growth, and the effort provides a community-based framework that:  links workforce development to education, aligns the economic development needs of the region, and matches individuals to jobs based on skill levels.   [read more]
Dr. Bethany Flora Named Northeast State Community College President

Dr. Bethany Flora was named President of Northeast State Community College in November, replacing interim President James King.  Dr. Flora was previously the associate director of the Center for Community College Leadership at East Tennessee State University, where she also served as associate professor of postsecondary leadership in ETSU's Clemmer College of Education.  

She earned her Ph.D. in higher education administration at Virginia Tech, her Master of Arts in organizational management at Tusculum University and her Bachelor of Arts in business and public administration at the University of Virginia's College at Wise.  [read more]
Northeast State Breaks Ground for Technical Education Complex

On October 30, local, regional and state officials broke ground on a $30 million technical education complex at Northeast State Community College.  The complex will replace two technical buildings built in 1966.  The two-story Emerging Technologies Complex will house classroom, offices, and labs for Advanced Technology programs such as CNC machining, welding, and HVAC, on the first floor.  The top floor will focus on Business Technologies programs, including lab space for programs that include computer programming, cyber security, and accounting.   [read more]
Region Comes Together to Celebrate Aerospace Park Development

State, regional, and local officials gathered on October 4 for an event to celebrate the remarkable funding efforts at Aerospace Park.   Click here to watch a video commemorating this very exciting day.
Bristol Motor Speedway Aligns with Nashville's Fairgrounds Speedway

Formosa Productions Inc. and Bristol Motor Speedway reached an agreement in December to explore bringing major NASCAR racing events back to Nashville.  The joint effort intends to combine local racing and other major motorsports events that once made Fairgrounds Speedway one of the premier raceways in motorsports.  The organizations have signed a contract to work with Metro Nashville and the Board of Fair Commissioners, owner of the historic raceway, on a long-range plan of significant track improvements and high-profile race events that could include NASCAR events upon the facility meeting standards.   [read more]