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business -tennessee ÂŽ

northeast tennessee valley region

Gaining Traction Innovation fuels auto industry growth

Manufacturing Mecca Valley ideal for making products

Smart Moves Region’s colleges, universities step up workforce programs

Sponsored by the Northeast Tennessee Valley Regional Industrial Development Association | 2013

A GIGABIT Community





• More than 1,000 acres of developable property available with exceptional utility service

• Low cost, high reliability, Smart Grid enabled • RP3 (Reliable Public Power Provider) Certified

• Logistical advantage with access to I-40, I-81, I-75, I-26, and US 25E

• Experienced commercial/industrial supplier

• Home to 12 Fortune 500 companies


• Home to Tennessee Technology Center, one of the largest of 27 technology centers in the State of Tennessee. Programs include: Aviation, Machining, Welding, Industrial Maintenance, Business, Nursing and Industrial Electricity.

• Low cost, abundant supply with Class 3 ISO rating • Advanced Secondary Carbon Filtration System • TDEC “Approved” regional water supplier • High-speed, low-cost Internet, voice and video

• Home to Walters State Community College, serving a 10-county area including 350,000 people, and the college is ranked as a top community college in the State of Tennessee

• 100% FTTH fiber-optic infrastructure

• No state income tax on wages and salaries

• Full array of business solutions

• Regional labor shed of more than 250,000 workers

(423) 586-4121 •

(423) 586-6382 •


Northeast Tennessee

... where bright futures begin.

Johnson City Power Board 2600 Boones Creek Rd. Johnson City, TN 37615



Workstyle Gaining Traction


Innovation fuels auto industry growth

Manufacturing Mecca


Valley ideal for making products

Wired for Growth


Gigabit communities, data center sites distinguish Valley

Smart Moves


Region’s colleges, universities step up workforce programs

Insight Overview 7 Almanac 8 Business Climate



Transportation 24 Health 26 Livability 32 Economic Profile




On the Cover East Tennessee State University in Johnson City is one of several regional institutions focused on building workforce talent. Photo by Michael Conti


All or part of this magazine is printed with soy ink on recycled paper containing 10% post-consumer waste.

Please recycle this magazine

B u s i n e ss c l i m a t e . c o m / NE - T e n n e ss e e


l if e s t y l e | w o r k s t y l e | d iggi n g d e e p e r | vi d eo | l i n k t o u s | a d v e r t i s e | c o n ta c t u s | s i t e m a p


B us i n e ss Im a g e s N o r t he a st T e n n e sse e Va l l e y R e g i o n

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norTheaST TenneSSee valley reGion

Gaining Traction

Gaining Traction

Innovation fuels auto industry growth

Manufacturing Mecca

Innovation fuels growth in Northeast Tennessee Valley’s auto industry

Valley ideal for making products

Story by Gary Wollenhaupt Photography by Michael Conti


rom vehicles to racetracks, the Northeast Tennessee Valley has a rich automotive legacy based on an expanding cluster of suppliers that support auto manufacturers throughout the Southeast. Northeast Tennessee Valley’s influence in this industry is one of the reasons Business Facilities magazine named Tennessee the No. 1 state in the nation for automotive manufacturing strength for the third year in a row.

Smart Moves


PAVED WITH ASSETS The number of automotive companies that have invested in expanding operations across the 15-county region ref lect the strength of the Valley’s automotive market and supplier network. A highly skilled workforce and a location within easy reach of a large swath of the U.S. population top the list of assets that draw automotive companies to the region. Equidistant between Boston and Miami, the Valley has transportation connections, including freight rail service and access to four major interstates, that companies can count on to ship parts and products. Automotive suppliers in the region are well situated to serve manufacturers like Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Nissan in Smyrna, Tenn.; and BMW in

Region’s colleges, universities step up workforce programs

Find out what it’s like to live here and what makes the community such a special place to be.

SponSored by The norTheaST TenneSSee valley reGional induSTrial developMenT aSSociaTion | 2013

Left to right: Borla Performance Industries makes stainless steel performance exhaust systems in Johnson City. The firm is working on technology to reclaim potable water from engine exhaust.

Read the magazine on your computer, zoom in on articles and link to advertiser websites. site guide >> Find available commercial and industrial properties with our searchable database. success breeds success >>

Workstyle A spotlight on the region’s innovative companies

Meet the people who set the pace for business innovation. Dig Deeper >> Plug into the community with links to local websites and





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Easily share an interesting article, stunning photo or advertisement of your business on Facebook, Twitter or via email.


Embed the digital magazine into your site to add compelling information about the successful businesses located here, what it’s like to work here and why it’s a great place to live.

resources to give you a big picture of the region. Demographics >> A wealth of demographic and statistical information puts the community at your fingertips. guide to services >>

See the Video Our award-winning photographers give you a virtual tour of unique spaces, places and faces.

DO MORE THAN JUST READ ABOUT IT Hear from decision-makers at leading companies, see video of the region’s success stories and find links to useful demographic information and information sources.

Links to a cross section of goods and services special to the community

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N o r t h e a st T e n n e ss e e V a l l e y R e g i o n ne-tennessee



B u s i n e ss Im a g e s N o r thea st Te n n e sse e Va l l e y R e g ion 201 3 Edition , volume 5 editorial project manager Emily McMackin Content Director Bill McMeekin Proofreading Manager Raven Petty Content Coordinator Jessica Walker Boehm Staff Writer Kevin Litwin Contributing writers Pamela Coyle, Lee Polevoi, Kelly Kagamas Tomkies, Gary Wollenhaupt Senior Graphic Designers Stacey Allis, Laura Gallagher, Kris Sexton, Jake Shores, Vikki Williams Graphic Designers Kara Leiby, Kacey Passmore Senior Photographers Jeff Adkins, Brian McCord Staff Photographers Michael Conti, Wendy Jo O’Barr, frank Ordonez color imaging technician alison hunter executive Integrated Media Manager Deshaun Goodrich Ad Production Manager Katie Middendorf Ad Traffic Assistants Krystin Lemmon, Patricia Moisan Chairman Greg Thurman President/Publisher Bob Schwartzman Executive Vice President Ray Langen Senior V.P./Sales Todd Potter Senior V.P./Operations Casey Hester Senior V.P./Client Development Jeff Heefner Senior V.P./Agribusiness Publishing kim holmberg V.P./business Development Clay Perry V.P./external communications Teree Caruthers V.P./Visual Content Mark Forester V.P./Content Operations Natasha Lorens V.P./travel publishing susan chappell V.P./Sales Rhonda Graham, Herb Harper, Jarek Swekosky Controller Chris Dudley Senior Accountant Lisa Owens Accounts Payable Coordinator Maria McFarland Accounts Receivable Coordinator Diana Guzman Sales Support Coordinator Christina Morgan Sales Support project manager sara quint it director Daniel cantrell Web Creative Director Allison Davis Web Project Manager David Day Digital Project Manager Jill Ridenour digital products designer Erica Lampley Web Content Manager John Hood Web Designer II richard stevens Web Development Lead Yamel Hall Web Developer I Nels noseworthy Photography Director Jeffrey S. Otto Creative Services Director Christina Carden Creative Technology Analyst Becca ary Audience Development Director Deanna Nelson New Media Assistant Alyssa DiCicco Distribution Director Gary Smith Executive Secretary Kristy Duncan Human Resources Manager Peggy Blake Receptionist Linda Bishop

Business Images Northeast Tennessee Valley Region is published annually by Journal Communications Inc. and is distributed through the Northeast Tennessee Valley Regional Industrial Development Association. For advertising information or to direct questions or comments about the magazine, contact Journal Communications Inc. at (615) 771-0080 or by email at

For more information, contact:

Northeast Tennessee Valley Regional Industrial Development Association 3211 N. Roan St. • Johnson City, TN 37601 Phone: (423) 928-1203 • Fax: (423) 323-4016

The Sleep Inn & Suites® hotel in Kingsport is conveniently located off Interstate 81, just one mile from the Tri-Cities Regional Airport. This Kingsport, Tennessee hotel is minutes from area points of interest like the Fort Henry Mall, East Tennessee State University and Bays Mountain Park. The Bristol Motor Speedway is also nearby. The Allandale Mansion, Bristol Caverns, Historic Jonesborough and Johnson City are all only minutes away. Several shops are nearby. A variety of restaurants are located in the area. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store and restaurant is within walking distance. Full-service amenities and features include: • Free airport shuttle service • Free continental breakfast • Free wireless high-speed Internet access • Free USA Today • Free local calls

Visit Business Images Northeast Tennessee Valley Region online at ©Copyright 2013 Journal Communications Inc., 725 Cool Springs Blvd., Suite 400, Franklin, TN 37067, (615) 771-0080. All rights reserved. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced in whole or in part without written consent. Member Member

The Association of Magazine Media Custom Content Council

Member Northeast Tennessee Valley Regional Industrial Development Association

200 Hospitality Place • Kingsport, TN 37663 • (423) 279-1811

Carter County Tomorrow An Economic Development Taskforce A Great Place to LIVE, WORK & PLAY

• Gateway to the strategic I-26 • Located within a day’s drive to more than half of the U.S. population • Carter County is located in Tri-Cities TN/VA metro in Northeast Tennessee • Education and workforce training opportunities available

EnErgizing the growth of our CoMMUnitY Since 1945

400 hatcher Ln. Elizabethton, tn 37643 (423) 542-1101


Ten Reasons to Do Business in the Northeast Tennessee Valley Region 1. Workforce. The region has

charter and air freight service at Tri-Cities Regional Airport.

2. Training. Site selection consultants

5. Quality of Life. The region offers opportunities for a wide variety of outdoor activities in beautiful surroundings, quality education, affordable housing, low cost of living and friendly people.

more than 300,000 employees with manufacturing backgrounds and a strong work ethic in right-to-work states. rank Tennessee’s FastTrack Job Training among the 10 best nationally in training and effectiveness.

and job creation; no sales tax on industrial machinery and equipment, raw materials or pollution-control equipment; and a pro-business attitude.

9. Technology Resources. Universities, colleges, technical colleges and location in the Tennessee Technology Corridor give companies a competitive advantage.

Authority utility companies offer reliable power and rates that are among the nation’s lowest.

6. Infrastructure. Abundant natural gas and water, advanced digital and fiber-optic networks, and other amenities are available.

4. Location and Transportation.

7. Developed Sites and Buildings.

3. Utility Costs. Tennessee Valley

Our strategic location offers one-day truck access to 76 percent of the nation’s population via Interstates 81, 40 and 26, as well as I-75 and I-77, with service from 55 interstate trucking companies; rail freight service via Norfolk Southern and CSX; and commercial air,

Updated computerized site and community data – including location, utilities, transportation, zoning and demographics – are available. are among the nation’s lowest, thanks to tax credits based on investment


Coeburn 58A

The economy includes medical companies, educational institutions, manufacturers, corporate headquarters and distribution centers. For more information, contact:

8. Cost of Doing Business. Costs

Norton Virginia

10. Diversified Economy.

Northeast Tennessee Valley Regional Industrial Development Association 3211 N. Roan St. Johnson City, TN 37601 (423) 928-1203



Big Stone Gap Dizney Pennington23Gap 23 SC O T T

North Carolina


DuffieldDuffield Mendota Jonesville Jonesville Gate City LEE Gate City


WASHING Glade Spring T O N Emory Abingdon Abingdon




Cumberland Gap VIRGINIA Bristol Mount Carmel Harrogate Kingsport Blountville Sneedville Blountville Sneedville Arthur H A N CO CK Church Hill C L A I BO RN E Mountain CityJ O HNSO N . TazewellTazewell R Mountain City SU LLIVAN h Rogersville Rogersville nc 25E 25E Cli 11W Elizabethton 421 421 H AWK I NS WASHING T O N 11W . L Jonesborough Johnson City Rutledge 81Jonesborough ee Beech Maynardville Morristown81 ok 11E r 26BeechCMountain e AR T E R Mountain h C H A MB LEN Greeneville Erwin Erwin Jefferson Jefferson City City AVE R Y U NIC O I Newland G R E E NE 11E 11W Newland 11E JEFFERSO N NORTH 19W Dandridge 19W 19E 19E CAROLINA Dandridge 40 40 23 23 Spruce Pine To Knoxville

To Asheville

B u s i n e ss c l i m a t e . c o m / NE - T e n n e ss e e



High on Culture Not only is East Tennessee State University preserving musical traditions of the region’s Appalachian culture, it’s also helping them thrive. Since 1982, ETSU has offered a four-year bachelor of arts degree program in Bluegrass, Old Time, and Country Music Studies. The courses teach the distinct style of Appalachian music, with students learning complicated instrumentals as well as how to arrange original songs and develop unique sounds in the recording studio. For serious students of culture, ETSU also offers a graduate certificate program in Appalachian Studies, with an 18-hour curriculum that examines the region from several historical, cultural and global perspectives.

Caring for Kids Along with its reputation for highly ranked hospitals, the Northeast Tennessee Valley is home to one of the top medical facilities for children. Niswonger Children’s Hospital in Johnson City cares for more than 200,000 children in a four-state, 29-county region and is one of only six St. Jude Affiliate Clinics in the U.S. Staffed by pediatric experts who offer a variety of advanced medical services, the 69-bed children's hospital seeks to provide safe, child-friendly care focused on patients and their families. Visit for more details on the facility.

First Country Record Bristol has the distinction of being the first place where country/bluegrass music was recorded, and now those early recordings are available to anyone who wants to listen. Bear Family Records recently released The Bristol Sessions 1927-1928: The Big Bang of Country Music as a five-CD, 112-page book package. One woman who participated in those sessions is still alive – 97-year-old Georgia Warren. When Georgia was 12 years old, she, her father and 18 other a capella singers journeyed from nearby Bluff City, Tenn., to Bristol to record hymns on the upper floors of 408 State St. Today, their brand of mountain music can be heard in a box set sold at the Birthplace of Country Music, which is located on the same street where the first sessions were taped. For more on the history behind the recordings, visit


N o r t h e a st T e n n e ss e e V a l l e y R e g i o n

Plenty of Zip Open for more than 40 years, Bays Mountain Park in Kingsport recently reached a milestone, attracting 200,000 visitors in both 2011 and 2012. The strong attendance was due in part to improvements at the park that include renovation of its planetarium, a new outdoor adventure area and a new 300foot zip line. Along with outdoor adventures, Bays Mountain offers programs to 40,000 students each year that include additional attractions such as hiking trails, wildlife habitats, a 44-acre fishing lake and mountain biking trails. For more on the park's offerings, visit

Suited for Service Regional colleges and universities have long been known for their traditions of service. Recently Carson-Newman College earned the nation's highest honor for this, landing the 2012 President's Higher Education Community Service Award. Carson-Newman students were recognized for amassing 275,000 hours of community service within the year – even more impressive considering the college has less than 2,000 students. Many of these students invested their energies in opportunities afforded to them through a campus ministries program that was established several decades ago. Two other regional schools, Emory & Henry College and King College, also made the national honor roll for the 2012 Community Service Award.

A New Dew Johnson City has a new soft drink named after it. In August 2012, Mountain Dew and its parent company PepsiCo introduced a new soda named for the Northeast Tennessee Valley city where the popular drink got its start. Available in Tennessee and several other states, Mountain Dew Johnson City Gold has a gold tint, a malt flavor and is available in 16-ounce cans, 1-liter bottles and 24-ounce multipacks at convenience markets and small stores throughout East Tennessee. Credited as the birthplace of Mountain Dew, Johnson City was one of the first towns where the drink was distributed and sold in the 1960s before expanding into the national market.

B u s i n e ss c l i m a t e . c o m / NE - T e n n e ss e e


Business Climate

Good to Grow Region’s business, quality of life advantages attract companies looking to expand Story by Kelly Kagamas Tomkies Photography by Michael Conti


The Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing in Kingsport works with area manufacturers to provide customized training.


N o r t h e a st T e n n e ss e e V a l l e y R e g i o n

rom location to workforce, the 15-county Northeast Tennessee Valley Region offers an array of advantages to new and existing companies – and businesses ranging from auto manufacturers and suppliers to data and call centers are taking notice. Examples of recent expansions in the Valley include U.S. Solutions Group, which located its new $4.1 million call center in Sullivan County, creating 548 jobs, and teleservices provider Dial America, which added 100 employees to its Johnson City call center. In May 2012, electronics waste recycler 5R Processors, LTD. announced plans to open an 80,000-square-foot facility in Morristown, which is expected to bring 200 jobs to the region over the next two years. And automotive supplier JTEKT Automotive TennesseeMorristown is investing $50 million to increase production at its Morristown facility. Contributing to this success is a unique combination of factors that makes the Northeast Tennessee Valley an ideal location for businesses to launch and expand. “It’s almost exactly the midpoint between two important metropolitan areas, Miami and Boston,” says Alan Bridwell, executive director of the Northeast Tennessee Valley Regional Industrial Development Association. “And its proximity to four interstate highways also makes it attractive.” Access to major highways, such as Interstates 40, 81, 26 and 75, provide companies with easy shipping access up and down the East Coast. Another factor that attracts employers is the region’s base of more than 300,000 skilled workers in a rightto-work state. “Our workers have grown up in manufacturing,” says Marshall Ramsey, president and CEO of the

Morristown Chamber of Commerce. “When they work for a company, it’s like a second family to them and they value what they do. Employees tend to get there early and stay late. They want to get the job done.” The Workforce Edge Along with an experienced, dedicated workforce, area community colleges and other educational institutions partner with local businesses to develop customized training programs for workers. Kingsport’s Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing, for example, gives companies a place to set up their equipment and provide specialized training for current and future employees. RCAM partners with other training centers located in the city’s Academic Village including the Regional Center for Health Professions, the Kingsport Higher Education Center, the Regional Center for Applied Technology and the Pal Barger School of Automotive Technology. The area also exhibits its commitment to an educated workforce through scholarships to Northeast State Community College for Sullivan County High School graduates scoring 19 or above on the ACT. “It was the first program of its kind in the nation, and it has been a real selling point,” says Richard Venable, CEO of Sullivan County NETWORKS.

Geographic, Quality of Life Assets Another advantage of the Northeast Tennessee Valley is its geographic climate. Extreme weather conditions and natural disasters rarely affect or impact the area. “Our lack of vulnerability to storms is something that a lot of consultants are asking for,” Bridwell says. “That means companies have an easier time getting insurance, and rates are typically lower.” Cost of living, which tends to be lower regionally than in most Eastern U.S. locations, also adds to the Valley’s appeal. In addition, the region’s many entertainment, shopping and cultural offerings are comparable with amenities found in larger metropolitan areas. “We are 20 minutes from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and have our own state park, golfing and any outdoor activity you could want,” Ramsey says. These business and quality of life advantages are key reasons economic development leaders have seen an increase in companies interested in locating or expanding in the region. “We [NETVRIDA] have worked with 56 clients looking to locate industrial sites here,” Venable says. “That’s a good increase in activity that helped to create 700 new jobs in Sullivan County. We had a great year.”

Jefferson County: We Mean Business! Nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, yet ideally located along Interstates 40 and 81. Bordered on two sides by scenic TVA lakes, but only minutes from downtown Knoxville. Jefferson County offers corporations and individuals alike the perfect blend of accessibility to big-city amenities in a beautiful, natural setting.

We’re there, behind every golden shovel. When ground is broken on a new manufacturing plant in Jefferson County, you can be sure that Appalachian Electric Cooperative was involved from the start. For more than 70 years, we’ve been a major driver of economic development in the communities we serve. We provide reliable and affordable power that is instrumental in recruiting new industry. Contact our Member Services department at 865.475.2032, extension 1170 to learn more about the assistance we can provide to commercial and industrial members.

A Jefferson

County, TN

34 minutes Knoxville,


865.397.9642 •


N o r t h e a st T e n n e ss e e V a l l e y R e g i o n

Gaining Traction Innovation fuels growth in Northeast Tennessee Valley’s auto industry Story by Gary Wollenhaupt Photography by Michael Conti


rom vehicles to racetracks, the Northeast Tennessee Valley has a rich automotive legacy based on an expanding cluster of suppliers that support auto manufacturers throughout the Southeast. Northeast Tennessee Valley’s influence in this industry is one of the reasons Business Facilities magazine named Tennessee the No. 1 state in the nation for automotive manufacturing strength for the third year in a row.

Paved with Assets The number of automotive companies that have invested in expanding operations across the 15-county region ref lect the strength of the Valley’s automotive market and supplier network. A highly skilled workforce and a location within easy reach of a large swath of the U.S. population top the list of assets that draw automotive companies to the region. Equidistant between Boston and Miami, the Valley has transportation connections, including freight rail service and access to four major interstates, that companies can count on to ship parts and products. Automotive suppliers in the region are well situated to serve manufacturers like Volkswagen in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Nissan in Smyrna, Tenn.; and BMW in Left to right: Borla Performance Industries makes stainless steel performance exhaust systems in Johnson City. The firm is working on technology to reclaim potable water from engine exhaust.

B u s i n e ss c l i m a t e . c o m / NE - T e n n e ss e e


In Morristown, JTEKT Automotive is investing $50 million to expand its die-casting operation and launching new pump-product technology that will create 125 new jobs. Another Morristown automotive components manufacturer, OTICS USA Inc., is investing $24.8 million to expand and create 67 new jobs – the third expansion for the factory since it opened in 2001. “They’re very supportive of new and expanding businesses here, and I see a more diligent effort to bring businesses into the community to get people working,” says Charlotte Jennelle, general manager of OTICS USA. Other expansions by suppliers like Sam Dong Inc. in Rogersville, Nakatetsu Machining Technologies in Washington County, Tenn., and J&J Warehousing

P h o t o C o u r t e s y o f A n d r e w C o p p l e y/C I A

Spartanburg, S.C., as well as auto plants across the Midwest. In Greene County, nine automotive suppliers ship components across the country. “That’s why they’re here – they can access a lot of different customers from a central location,” says Tom Ferguson, president and CEO of the Greene County Partnership. Huf North America recently announced plans to invest $20 million to add a plastic injection molding and paint facility to its Greeneville plant. The 52,000-square-foot expansion will increase production and create 100 new jobs at the company, which makes mechanical and electronic key systems, lock sets, steering locks, and remote control systems for German and U.S. auto companies.

Bristol Motor Speedway hosts NASCAR races such as Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series events. To make races more exciting for fans, the speedway recently made major renovations to its famed oval track.


N o r t h e a st T e n n e ss e e V a l l e y R e g i o n

and Storage Inc. in Greeneville tap into key advantages fueling growth in this sector such as logistics, low costs and a reliable, skilled labor pool. Innovation also powers the Valley’s auto sector. In Johnson City, Borla Performance Industries has teamed up with Oak Ridge National Laboratories as part of a public-private technology transfer to develop technology that could reclaim potable water from engine exhaust. Legacy of Performance They don’t just make cars in the Northeast Tennessee Valley. They like to drive them fast, too. The region’s performance automotive market is also on the fast track to success. A few years ago, metal fabrication manufacturer JD Squared moved from Florida to Johnson City to be closer to its NASCAR customers who race at the Bristol Motor Speedway. Bristol Motor Speedway recently made major renovations to its famed NASCAR oval track to please race fans. General manager Jerry Caldwell says the speedway shaved two degrees off the top banking of the oval to tighten racing lines, grouping the race cars closer together and making the race more exciting for fans. Hosting NASCAR races and National Hotrod Association drag races, as well as a full calendar of other events, the speedway has an economic impact of several hundred million dollars and connections throughout the regional automotive economy. “We have relationships with most of the automotive suppliers and vendors in this area,” Caldwell says. “Their customers are our customers, and we work well together.”

In addition to exhaust systems, Borla Performance Industries produces mufflers, clamps, diffusers and other accessories.

Road Show NETVRIDA Visits Automechanika Boosting the global visibility of the Northeast Tennessee Valley Region’s automotive industry was the mission of representatives from the Northeast Tennessee Valley Regional Industrial Development Association who traveled to Germany and Belgium in September 2012 to attend the Automechanika trade show in Frankfurt, Germany. The group also visited with companies and EU economic development agencies representing the German states of Hessen, Saxony-Anhalt, Frankfurt-Rhein-Main region and SPI+ in Liège, Belgium to develop partnerships that could

potentially attract more foreign investment to the Valley’s auto sector. NETVRIDA representatives have visited Automechanika since 2004, and there’s already a strong base of foreign automotive manufacturers in the region, including Mahle North America in Morristown and a cluster of Japan-affiliated suppliers for Toyota, says NETVRIDA Executive Director Alan Bridwell. But with the success of the Volkswagen manufacturing facility in Chattanooga, industry players in Europe are now much more aware of what East Tennessee has to offer. “The key thing is that the auto companies that are here have been

very successful,” Bridwell says. “When they look at the alternatives, eastern Tennessee compares very well in the cost of living, trainable workforce, and the transportation and logistics aspects.” Bridwell and his team are using social media to develop and maintain contacts with decision makers in Europe. East Tennessee State University in Johnson City is also developing relationships with the University of Bremen and the University of Rostock. “There’s a strong alumni base that’s working throughout Germany in key companies,” Bridwell says. – Gary Wollenhaupt B u s i n e ss c l i m a t e . c o m / NE - T e n n e ss e e


Manufacturing Northeast Tennessee Valley ideal for making innovative products

Story by Lee Polevoi • Photography by Michael Conti


rom brand-name hand tools to synthetic fibers used in everything from athletic clothing to spacesuit designs, the Northeast Tennessee Valley Region is a mecca for manufacturers that make and distribute innovative products. One of the most recent manufacturers to locate in the region is Big R Bridge, a leading maker of pedestrian bridges. Impressed by the Valley’s probusiness programs, plentiful workforce and solid infrastructure, the firm is opening its newest fabrication facility in a former steel mill located in Abingdon, Va. “We like the resources here,” says Jeff Jensen, vice president of manufacturing for Big R Bridge. “There’s ample available workforce, strong highway and rail systems, and the local officials have been great to worth with.” Another manufacturer, Bell Helicopter, recently announced plans to expand its Piney Flats facility to meet a growing demand for its commercial helicopters. The $10 million investment will create as many as 125 new jobs. “Expanding our existing facility allows us to implement new technologies and processes to ensure a high-quality


N o r t h e a st T e n n e ss e e V a l l e y R e g i o n

customization and delivery process for our customers,” says Eric Cardinali, executive vice president of customer support and services for Bell Helicopter. Demand for Products Also investing in the region are well-known manufacturers like Snap-on Tools, which is expanding its Elizabethton facility to make room for increased production of its hand tools. Pet product maker and distributor Ware Manufacturing Inc. is also adding to its Surgoinsville facility to provide additional manufacturing and inventory space to accommodate its growth. Its $1.4 million expansion is expected to create 33 new jobs. To better reach its growing market in the eastern U.S., Kansas-based Koch & Co. Inc., makers of cabinets and interior and exterior doors, picked Morristown for its newest manufacturing facility. The company, which purchased a 208,000-square-foot plant in Morristown’s Lakeway Area, plans to hire as many as 40 new employees by the end of 2013. Increased product demand is also fueling growth at Fiber Innovation Technology in Johnson

Mecca Snap-On Tools makes hand tools such as wrenches and ratchets at its Elizabethton facility.

B u s i n e ss c l i m a t e . c o m / NE - T e n n e ss e e


City. The specialty synthetic fibers producer, a division of Switzerland-based Cha Technologies Group, is planning a $1.8 million expansion at its facility, where it develops fibers for a range of products including athletic clothing, baby wipes, car parts, construction materials and home furnishings. The company, which recently added approximately 30 new jobs to its operation, continually works on uncovering new applications for its products. Its heat-retaining, moisturetransporting 4DG fiber is being tested by airports to prevent cracking on runway tarmac, and it was selected by NASA as the best spacesuit material for future missions to Mars.

Photo Courtesy of Rick Sauer

Support and Incentives Businesses thrive in the Northeast Tennessee Valley Region for many reasons, says Mitch Miller, vice president of the Washington County Economic Development Council, a few of which include: a staunchly pro-business environment; a skilled workforce of more than 300,000 available employees; training programs rated in the top 10 nationally by site selection consultants; and a solid infrastructure with an affordable, cutting-edge communications system. The region also offers a variety of incentives through tax credits and refunds to qualified businesses, such as a Job Tax Credit, Industrial Machinery Credit, and resources available from the FastTrack Jobs Training and FastTrack Infrastructure Development programs. “We’re committed to retaining and expanding business opportunities throughout the region,” Miller says.

Top: Fiber Innovation Technology creates specialty synthetic fibers in Johnson City. Bottom: Big R Bridge, a leading maker of pedestrian bridges, recently located its newest fabrication plant in Abingdon, Va.


N o r t h e a st T e n n e ss e e V a l l e y R e g i o n

Strokes of Success Growth comes naturally for Valley manufacturer From supplying the world’s largest quantity of nail polish brushes to providing custom-made toothbrushes, kits and other products for the dental, medical, cosmetic and industrial market, there is no order too complex for TEAM Technologies Inc. “TEAM Tech is a company of ideas where innovation is highly valued,” says Steve Henrikson, owner, president and CEO of the Morristown-based firm. These innovations include sonic welding, piece-part assembly, filling and tubing, and packaging. TEAM Technologies has and shares patents related to “flow-thru” bristle technology and the development of the safety brush handles. “Our mission since the firm’s inception in 1988 has been to create

a business where the customer is ‘over-serviced’ in all aspects,” Henrikson says. “This includes customer service, quality, engineering, innovation, price and delivery.” The approach has paid off for the company with fast growth over the past 20 years. Today, the custom contract manufacturing firm comprises 11 spin-off companies including TEAM, TEAM Molding, Nagl, DentaCare, Allpro, Anchor Brush, PHB, Prophy Perfect, TEAM PDS, Diatech and TEAM International – all of which employ more than 800 workers across the United States. In 2012, TEAM Technologies announced plans to expand its Morristown operations, which employs 500, into a 136,000-square-

foot facility that will be used for packing its growing supply of dental and cosmetic products. And Henrikson sees more growth on the horizon. In the next two to three years, he expects to create between 100-200 new jobs in the Valley. – Lee Polevoi

B u s i n e ss c l i m a t e . c o m / NE - T e n n e ss e e



Wired for Growth Gigabit communities, data center sites distinguish the Northeast Tennessee Valley Story by Pamela Coyle Photography by Michael Conti


nchored by robust fiberoptic networks in Bristol and Morristown, the Northeast Tennessee Valley Region is attracting call centers, information technology companies and any enterprise that relies on fast broadband access. This industry niche is one of the fastest growing in the region. U.S. Solutions Group recently chose Sullivan County for its newest call center, creating 548 jobs, and Dial America is growing its customer contact center in Johnson City by 100 employees. They join multiple other data and call centers in the region including Advanced Call Technologies and AT&T in Johnson City, Sprint Telecenters in Bristol and OnePartner, a Tier III data center in Duffield, Va.

Geography for Growth Geography makes the Valley ideal for information technology companies. The region has a low risk for natural disasters, plus a large, qualified labor pool. In October 2012, Deloitte Consulting gave the region a high-profile Teleperformance provider U.S. Solutions Group recently opened a call center in Sullivan County, creating more than 500 jobs in the Valley.


N o r t h e a st T e n n e ss e e V a l l e y R e g i o n

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Digital downloads are faster than ever in Northeast Tennessee Valley communities like Morristown and Bristol, both of which offer fiber-optic networks with gigabit service.

B u s i n e ss c l i m a t e . c o m / NE - T e n n e ss e e


Ready to Transmit

Employees receive training at U.S. Solutions Group’s new Sullivan County call center.

boost when it identified Bristol West Industrial Park, near the Tennessee/Virginia border, and Scott County Business and Technology Park, in Duffield, Va., as pre-qualified data center sites in a study sponsored by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The elite group includes only 12 sites in TVA’s seven-state service area out of 50 evaluated. Both the Bristol and Duffield locations met criteria for electric service, fiber service, labor accessibility and low natural disaster risk.

Utility Systems, another municipal provider, rolled its network out in 2006. “As a recruiting tool you can get marked off the list if you don’t have it,” says Jody Wigington, MU’s general manager and CEO. “A telecom product is added value – added value for quality of life and for employees,” he says. “Most of our large industries use our Internet because it is faster.” Speedy Service Bristol started with 30-megabit fiber service, and 100-megabit service followed. In November 2012, gigabit service became available to all of the utility’s 33,000 residential and business electric customers. The system uses Alcatel-Lucent’s gigabit passive optical network (GPON) technology, and the utility has changed out electronics twice since 2005 to keep up with advancing technology. “We built it to be as futureproof as possible,” Browder says. In both Bristol and Morristown, the fiber and network capacity

High in Fiber Citywide fiber-optic networks in Morristown and Bristol make them gigabit communities, which means that downloading two hours of video or 200 songs in either location takes just six seconds. “We’re way ahead of any plans, and it puts our customers in position to be a leader with anything that has to do with technology,” says Mike Browder, CEO of Bristol Tennessee Essential Services. Bristol has had its network in place since 2005, and Morristown


N o r t h e a st T e n n e ss e e V a l l e y R e g i o n

Two Northeast Tennessee Valley locations have earned pre-approval as data center sites from Deloitte Consulting, which evaluated dozens of spots for the Tennessee Valley Authority. Bristol West Industrial Park (Tennessee) covers 300 acres five miles from the center of Bristol and is only a half-mile from the I-81 interchange with U.S. Route 11W. Two substations can deliver 5 MW each by Bristol Tennessee Essential Services, and more power is available. In Duffield, Va., the 65acre Scott County Regional Business and Technology Park is 22 miles from Interstate 26. Within the park, the Crooked Road Tech Center has 50,000 square feet of available space, with 70 percent of it finished.

create opportunities for efficiency and smart grid benefits. Morristown uses its system to improve traffic control and wastewater management, and Morristown Utility relies on it to control its electric system, capturing peak load and saving about $40,000 a month in wholesale power costs, Wigington says. BTES is part of another Smart Grid demonstration project that just received a $1 million federal grant to commercialize the technology. Because electricity also runs on the fiber, re-routing power during outages is already faster. “The possibilities are endless,” Browder says.

What’s Online  Learn more about the growing information technology sector in the Northeast Tennessee Valley Region at

Power Surge Johnson City company develops energy-saving technology Software technology developed by a Johnson City company has the potential to reduce power load by 8 to 12 percent, delay the need to build new power plants and cement the Tennessee Valley’s reputation as an energy tech innovator. Enhanced Systems Consulting, with partners Bristol Tennessee Essential Services and East Tennessee State University, has successfully tested and monitored the load management and peak shaving technology with a 1,200home pilot project. In June 2012, ESC received a Small Business Innovation Research Grant, which totaled $1 million, from the U.S. Department of Energy to help scale the system for commercial use. “We control capacitors to improve

quality of voltage of power delivered,” says Matthew Bolton, ESC president. “We estimate larger implementation could delay the need for building four generating plants.” New power plants typically cost approximately $1 billion apiece, which is one reason the technology has DOE’s attention. The $1 million grant follows a $150,000 DOE grant the project received to test the concept. “Ours is the first closed-loop monitoring and control system,” Bolton says. “With high-speed communications to many of the homes in the Bristol market, when we are monitoring outages and loads we know instantly what impact change has on them.” ESC activates capacitors, monitors and manages water heaters and shift loads to off-peak hours without any

disruption to the customer. The system knows instantly of any outage – and customers know the power company is already rerouting distribution while troubleshooting the outage. As a side benefit, the system is so precise it can even detect issues with individual water heaters. BTES alerts customers when data suggests that one or more of their heater’s elements is not working, Bolton says. Water heater management alone can shave the power load by 18 to 20 percent, and use of the software’s capacitor tools can reduce load by about 6 percent. “Customers don’t ever know it,” Bolton says. “They are never without hot water. If their electricity goes off, they don’t even call us anymore.” – Pamela Coyle

Hancock County TENNESSEE

… a great place to LIVE and WORK.

Site is ready to accommodate your building up to 90,000 square feet


All the Right Connections Region offers convenient transportation corridors

Story by Kevin Litwin Photography by Michael Conti


Interstates 40, 81, 26 and 75 run through the Northeast Tennessee Valley Region.


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driving force in the economic success of the Northeast Tennessee Valley Region is its transportation system, which benefits distribution and logistics companies as well as businesses that ship products. The region’s multimodal network has attracted leading distributors and logistics providers over the years including the Home Shopping Network and FedEx in Sullivan County, Landair and Forward Air Corporation in Greeneville and the Wal-Mart Distribution Center in Greene County. Interstates 40, 81, 26 and 75 all run through the region, which is positioned almost exactly at the midpoint between Miami and Boston, offering convenient highway distribution along the East Coast. “We’re also getting a lot of looks lately from prospects following the auto sector migration from Detroit and the Midwest to the Southeast,” says Alan Bridwell, executive director of the Northeast Tennessee Valley Regional Industrial Development Association. “The Valley is located

Tri-Cities Regional Airport in Blountville, which recently celebrated its 75 anniversary, offers passenger service to several regional hubs.

within 75 percent of the entire U.S. population.” Rail, Air Appeal The region has rail service via Norfolk Southern and CSX with direct connections to the Atlantic Ocean ports of Charleston and Norfolk. Air travel is also accommodating, thanks to facilities like the Tri-Cities Regional Airport in Blountville. The airport, which recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, offers US Airways commercial service to Charlotte, Delta service to Atlanta and Allegiant Air service to Orlando/Sanford and Clearwater/St. Petersburg. Tri-Cities Regional has undergone major improvements recently including the widening of State Highway 75 from two lanes to four, which will ultimately provide easier access from I-26 straight to the airport. “We’ve also opened a new hangar that can house two private jets, and are in the midst of a $10 million taxiway extension and a $15 million runway improvement project that should both be

completed in September 2013,” says Melissa Thomas, director of marketing and air service development for Tri-Cities Regional Airport, which serves Bristol, Kingsport and Johnson City. “The airport is also planning to open 140 acres of our on-site property that will be available for development to aircraftrelated companies.” Shovel-Ready Sites Other industrial sites are also available throughout the Valley for companies of all sizes. Air Cargo Logistics Center in Sullivan County, Tenn., offers more than 500 acres of space near Tri-Cities Regional Airport, while the East Tennessee Progress Center in Morristown is open near the junction of I-40 and I-81. “East Tennessee Progress Center is on 960 acres and already has quite a few existing tenant companies that are affiliated with the auto industry, food manufacturing and consumer supply manufacturing,” says Marshall Ramsey, president of the Morristown Area Chamber of Commerce. “The property lies

adjacent to I-81, so companies have immediate interstate visibility.” Sites such as these are invaluable assets when attracting new companies, Ramsey says – and the more of them the Valley has to market, the better. “We’re not competing with our next door neighbor anymore for prospects – we’re mainly competing against countries such as India and China,” he says. “Prospects looking for sites don’t see county lines – they have no idea where Hamblen County starts or Greene County stops or where Hawkins County begins. Marketing the advantages of an entire region is key to attracting companies nowadays, and the Northeast Tennessee Valley has many regional advantages – including transportation – that make it very attractive.”

What’s Online  Learn more about the Northeast Tennessee Valley Region’s wellconnected transportation network at

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Raising the Bar Region’s highly ranked hospitals boost services, technology Story by Kelly Kagamas Tomkies • Photography by Michael Conti


Meeting Community Needs From adding new services to expanding facilities, regional health-care providers listen to the needs of patients and continually work to address them. For example, MSHA recently opened a new outpatient oncology clinic at Sycamore Shoals Hospital in response to community demand. “In our mission to provide cancer care close to home, we are constantly listening to our internal and external customers about their needs so we may better serve them,” says Vanessa Bramble, director of oncology services for MSHA. “We have a good number of patients who reside in the Sycamore Shoals area. It was natural for us to extend our services to this area so patients could see their doctor and receive oncology care close to

esidents of the Northeast Tennessee Valley benefit from several highly ranked hospitals in the region including two progressive health-care systems: Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) and Wellmont Health System (WHS), both of which are top employers in the region. MSHA employs 9,000 people, with a total economic impact of $1.3 billion, and WHS employs 6,500, with an economic impact of $90 million. The region is also home to a cluster of community hospitals offering a high standard of care, including Laughlin Memorial Hospital in Greeneville, Unicoi County Memorial Hospital in Erwin, and Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System and Lakeway Regional Hospital, both located in Morristown.

home. When one is a cancer patient, every minute becomes more precious. By being able to have their care at Sycamore Shoals, patients have more time to go on with their daily lives.” MSHA, which received the National Quality Healthcare Award in August 2012 from the National Quality Forum for its commitment to excellence, is constructing a $69 million surgery tower at its f lagship hospital, the 445-bed Johnson City Medical Center, to make room for new technology and provide more space for patient care. The hospital is also expanding its robotic surgery program with 3D technology that will allow surgeons to remove the gallbladder from a single incision in the belly button, which reduces patient recovery time.

Awards and Accolades Hospitals in the Valley received high rankings for safety, patient satisfaction and care by U.S. News and the Joint Commission. Recognition includes: Johnson City Medical Center: Ranked No. 4 in Tennessee and recognized for specialties including cancer, pulmonology, geriatrics, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology, nephrology, orthopedics, urology, cardiology and heart surgery, ear, nose and throat care, and neurology and neurosurgery. Holston Valley Medical Center: Ranked No. 7 in Tennessee and recognized for specialties including


N o r t h e a st T e n n e ss e e V a l l e y R e g i o n

pulmonology, diabetes and endocrinology, nephrology, urology, and gastroenterology. Bristol Regional Medical Center: Ranked No. 8 in Tennessee and recognized for specialties including gastroenterology and orthopedics. Hawkins County Memorial Hospital: Ranked among the top 10 percent of hospitals nationally for medical care and satisfaction by CareChex. Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System: Recognized as a Top Performer on Key Quality Measures by the Joint Commission.

WHS is also adding to its network, with expansions that include new digital mammography services at Wellmont Breast Center, technological upgrades at Hawkins County Medical Center, a new robotic surgery program at Holston Valley Medical Center and a new interventional cardiology center at Bristol Regional Hospital. WHS also expanded its urgent care facilities in Abingdon, Va. “Our hospital is right on the edge between Virginia and Tennessee,” says Jim Wozniak, spokesperson for WHS. “We provide regional care for both Northeast Tennessee and Southeast Virginia. The expansion gives us a way to offer care to these patients closer to home. This facility provides another level of service from Wellmont to our patients.” Boosting Technology, Care Both WHS and MSHA have been aggressive in their efforts to integrate their electronic health records throughout their systems. “Patient safety, overall, was the main reason we completed the integration,” Wozniak says. “Electronic order entry revolves around patient safety as the main component. E-health records also provide patient convenience and ease of access for both patients and providers.” At MSHA, which ranked on Hospitals and Health Network’s “Most Wired Hospitals” list, technology is an integral part of delivering cutting-edge care, says Paul Merrywell, vice president of information systems for the system. “We made a commitment to improving not only the quality of care provided to the communities we serve, but we also decided to use the best, most robust tools and technology available to ensure we were positioned to make continuous improvements across the continuum of care in the most cost-efficient manner,” Merrywell says.

The Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System is one of several community hospitals that serve the region.

Part of the Mountain States Health Alliance network, Bristol Regional Medical Center is ranked among the top 10 hospitals in Tennessee.

B u s i n e ss c l i m a t e . c o m / NE - T e n n e ss e e



Smart Moves Regional colleges, universities boost workforce programs, facilities

Story by Kevin Litwin • Photography by Michael Conti


TTC at Elizabethton serves more than 1,000 students in Sullivan, Carter, Johnson, Unicoi and Washington counties. Its sister institution, TTC at Morristown, is 60 miles west of Elizabethton and serves students in Cocke, Grainger, Hamblen and Hancock counties. “The Elizabethton expansion will feature the three new buildings completed in the fall of 2013, and renovations to the existing building will be completed by January 2014,” Blevins says.

igher education is taking a smart approach in the Northeast Tennessee Valley Region, which is already connected by a strong network of colleges, universities and tech centers. Many of these institutions are expanding their programs and facilities to ensure that workers are better educated and trained for tomorrow’s jobs. Tennessee Technology Center in Elizabethton is in the midst of a $16 million construction project that will add three new buildings to its Highway 91 campus, while renovating its existing administration building. “We are adding 80,000 square feet of space, which will bring our total to 100,000 square feet,” says Dean Blevins, director of TTC at Elizabethton. “The added space will allow us to better train students in automotive technology, practical nursing, diesel mechanics, welding, drafting, machine tooling, IT and more. A lot of our programs are in high demand with students on waiting lists, so this expansion obviously helps.”


N o r t h e a st T e n n e ss e e V a l l e y R e g i o n

New Health, Tech Programs Other higher education institutions throughout the region are expanding their curriculums to prepare students to work in the area’s top industries. In June 2013, Emory & Henry will launch a physical therapy doctoral program at its new satellite campus in Marion, Va., on the grounds of the former Smyth County Community Hospital. In Harrogate, Tenn., Lincoln Memorial University recently debuted a nurse practitioner program, along with a new medical science laboratory

and a $26 million math and science building. Along with renovating its Regional Center for Automotive Programs facility, Blountvillebased Northeast State Community College has added fiber optics and cloud computing courses, and East Tennessee State University in Johnson City recently achieved accreditation for its computer and information sciences programs. In Carter County, Milligan College is developing new specialized MBA programs, and Carson-Newman College is introducing a master’s degree in applied social justice at its Jefferson City, Tenn., campus. Expansion and Entrepreneurship Walters State Community College also plans to add to its programs once construction of a new building at the college’s downtown Greeneville campus is complete. “We have four campuses and are expanding our Greeneville/ Greene County site to reduce capacity constraints,” says J.B. Pectol, WSCC associate vice

East Tennessee State University in Johnson City offers newly accredited computer and information sciences programs.

B u s i n e ss c l i m a t e . c o m / NE - T e n n e ss e e


Todd Bennet t

president for communications and marketing. “We haven’t been able to expand programs that the Greene County community was telling us they need, so the new 84,000-square-foot building will allow us to do so.” At Tusculum College, a newly launched Center for Economic Development & Entrepreneurship is providing critical resources to aspiring entrepreneurs in Greeneville. “The center began in 2012 to help small-business owners and student entrepreneurs, assisting them in areas such as developing business plans, marketing, competitor analysis, price analysis and finance,” says Luis Zamora, coordinator for the Center for Development & Entrepreneurship. “It is meant to not only help entrepreneurs and startups, but the regional economy in Greene County and Northeast Tennessee as a whole.”

What’s Online  Top: Walters State Community College is expanding its workforce development programs into Greene County. Bottom: A student trains on a Renewable Energy Training System at the Tennessee Technology Center in Elizabethton.

Read more about the area’s colleges, universities and tech centers at

Head of the classRegion’s higher-education institutions earn bragging rights The Northeast Tennessee Valley Region is home to several nationally ranked colleges and universities, including: Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City ranked as one of the Best Regional Colleges in America (South) for 2013 by U.S. News & World Report, plus Washington Monthly recognized the college as one of the Top 100 Baccalaureate Colleges in the U.S. based on its contributions to the community and its betterment of society. Emory & Henry College, located in Emory, Va., ranked among the top 30 liberal arts colleges and universities in the nation by Washington Monthly, and among the first tier of national liberal arts colleges by U.S. News & World Report. Newsweek ranked the


N o r t h e a st T e n n e ss e e V a l l e y R e g i o n

college No. 4 among all institutions in the nation in providing effective community service and service learning. King College in Bristol, Tenn., ranked as one of the Best Regional Colleges in America (South) for 2013 by U.S. News & World Report, and the Princeton Review named the college as one of the Best Colleges in the Southeastern U.S. thanks in large part to King’s average student GPA being 3.37. Milligan College in Carter County ranked among the Top 100 Baccalaureate Colleges in the U.S. by Washington Monthly based on what colleges are doing for their students and the public good, plus U.S. News & World Report ranked Milligan as one of the Best Regional Colleges in America (South).

Prescription for Success Johnson City named top medical school community Students searching for the best place to train for a medical career should look no further than the Northeast Tennessee Valley. The James H. Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City was recently ranked among the top 10 best places in the United States to attend medical school, according to PreMedLife. The magazine named Johnson City as the “editors choice” among the list of Top 10 Cities for Medical School for its low cost of living, affordable housing, nice climate, free arts and music festivals, and good public transportation. Inside the classroom, the school offers students one-of-a-kind opportunities. Recently, the college began using iPads in its anatomy lab. “There is so much to learn about the human body, and you have only

so much time to learn it,” says Dr. Caroline Abercrombie, director of the anatomy lab at the College of Medicine. “Having an iPad at each anatomy station puts everything in one place – course notes, highdefinition illustrations – and students also have three-dimensional images to help them identify structures.” Technology is also progressing in other ways at the medical school. In 2012, several departments, including internal medicine, surgery, and obstetrics and gynecology, and all three ETSU family medicine clinics converted from a paper patient records system to an electronic health records system. In 2013, the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences will also go paperless, along with divisions of cardiology, gastroenterology and dermatology. Along with technology upgrades,

the college also opened its new $6.8 million Johnson City Community Health Center. Managed by the ETSU College of Nursing, the center offers a wide spectrum of health-care services under one roof for patients of all ages and replaces the Johnson City Downtown Clinic that got its start in 1990 in the basement of the Salvation Army. – Kevin Litwin

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Part of Pisgah National Forest, the Linville Gorge Wilderness draws hikers and backpackers.

A Natural Retreat

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Region’s high quality of life draws tourists, residents Story by Jessica Walker Boehm


ith hundreds of miles of trails and countless opportunities for outdoor adventure, the Northeast Tennessee Valley Region has long been a destination for nature lovers, hiking enthusiasts and adrenaline junkies. Combine those amenities with a low cost of living, short commutes and close-knit communities, and it’s easy to see why many visitors eventually choose to stay and settle in the Valley. Haven for Hikers When Joel Zabel and his wife, Joy, were searching for places to relocate from Wisconsin, they knew they had to find an area where they could enjoy one of their favorite pastimes – hiking – and where they could also launch a business.


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“We looked all over the country for places that would suit us,” Joel says. “We picked Johnson City because of the low cost of living, great business climate and the mountains that are right outside our back door. The Appalachian Trail is less than 20 miles away, and we’re close to Pisgah National Forest.” Today, the Zabels are active members of the Johnson City Hiking Club, which plans weekly group hikes throughout the year. “Here, it’s not too cold, even in the winter,” Joel says. “There’s beautiful snow, and it’s great for yearround hiking.” The region also offers hiking opportunities at national parks such as Cumberland Gap National Historical Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as well as state parks including

S ta ff P h o t o S ta ff P h o t o

Virtual Vacation Guide A collaborative creation of community and conservation organizations, tourism associations, and state and federal agencies, National Geographic’s East Tennessee River Valley MapGuide is an interactive website that plots out the region’s distinctive destinations. The site encourages residents to nominate one-of-a-kind places like local restaurants, farms, wineries, hiking and biking trails, museums and art galleries – and these sites are vetted by National Geographic and its project partners. The goal of the project is to preserve and enhance the area’s geotourism, or geographical character. To view the East Tennessee River Valley MapGuide, visit

Above: The 18-hole Linville Golf Club in Linville, N.C. is one of many golf courses in the region. Right: The 33-mile Virginia Creeper Trail is one of the area’s most popular trails to explore.

Natural Tunnel State Park and Roan Mountain State Park. Hikers can also explore Grandfather Mountain – the highest point in the Blue Ridge Mountains – and the Virginia Creeper Trail, which stretches 33.4 miles from Abingdon, Va., to Whitetop Station, Va. Fun for All Seasons Along with hiking, the region features a diverse mix of activities that keep tourists busy and coming back for more. Snowskiing, tubing and snowboarding are available on Beech Mountain and Sugar Mountain, both of which are in North Carolina, while warm weather activities, including fishing, boating and water skiing, are plentiful along area streams and lakes such as the Watauga Reservoir, South Holston Reservoir and Boone Reservoir. Adventurers enjoy spelunking in Bristol, Tenn., which is home to Bristol Caverns, and in Linville, N.C., where Linville Caverns are located. Whitewater rafters and kayakers can test the rapids on the 115mile Nolichucky River, which stretches from North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains to East Tennessee. The region is also attracting motorists and motorcyclists for its portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway and its scenic U.S. 25 East route, which

travels from Newport, Tenn., to North Corbin, Ky. The Southern Dozen – 12 of the South’s most thrilling motorcycle rides – runs through the region, snaking 1,000 miles through Watauga Lake, Mountain City, Roan Mountain and Clinch Mountain. Golfers can find plenty of courses to tee up on including the Pine Oaks Golf Course in Johnson City, Buffalo Valley Golf Course in Unicoi and Warriors’ Path Golf Course in Kingsport. New State Parks Two new recreation projects are revving up in the region, both of which are expected to draw additional tourism to the area. Tennessee’s newest state park, Rocky Fork State Park, will be constructed on 2,000 acres in the Unicoi County area. Once completed, the park will be Tennessee’s highest-altitude state park and include trails, campgrounds, picnic areas, a ranger station and more. Plans are also in the works to develop Johnson County’s Doe Mountain. In 2012, the Nature Conservancy and the state of Tennessee purchased 8,600 acres of the mountain, which they plan to turn into a recreational area for mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, hunting and four-wheeling. B u s i n e ss c l i m a t e . c o m / NE - T e n n e ss e e


5th most affordable U.S. metro (Kiplinger 2010) Top regional university Retail, residential, medical hub for metro of 600,000 Strategic location: Interstate, rail crossroads

EPA air quality attainment Tennessee’s first Green City

Two-day shipping radius to 65% of the U.S. population

Washington County: Jewel of the Mountain South


visit our

advertisers Johnson City Power Board

Bristol Tennessee Essential Services

Morristown Utility Systems

Carter County Tomorrow

Networks-Sullivan Partnership

Eastman Chemical Company First Bank & Trust Co.

Northeast Tennessee Valley Regional Industrial Development Association

Greene County Partnership

Sleep Inn & Suites

Hancock County

Tri-Cities Regional Airport Washington County Tennessee Economic Development Council

Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce


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Time Travel Home to historic downtowns, cultural treasures and folk festivals, the North Tennessee Valley’s rich heritage is trademark of the region. In Bristol, the $10.6 million Birthplace of Country Music Cultural Heritage Center is nearing completion. Scheduled to open in August 2014, it will comprise 24,000 square feet in downtown Bristol, Va., and include exhibits, educational activities, live music and a lectureand-film series that will focus on the area’s traditional Appalachian music and the musicians who have created it. The facility is predicted to draw at least 75,000 visitors annually and bring in approximately $5 million. Each September, the city celebrates its music heritage with the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion – a festival featuring music from artists such as Robert Earl Keen, Pam Tillis and the Sam Bush Band. Jonesborough is famous for its reputation as Tennessee’s oldest town and the Storytelling Capital of the World. For nearly 40 years, the town has hosted the National Storytelling Festival, which attracts more than 10,000 people. Its historic downtown area also draws tourists. “When you come into Jonesborough’s historic downtown district, you feel like you have stepped back in time,” says Alicia Phelps, director of tourism & marketing for the Town of Jonesborough. Other popular historic towns in the region include Greeneville, Tenn., Rogersville, Tenn., and Abingdon, Va., which is home to the Colonial-era Barter Theatre, the second oldest drama venue in the U.S. Historic trails also abound in the region, from the Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail, which stretches from Kingsport to the Cumberland Gap following the original path blazed by the legendary frontiersman, to the Crooked Road Music Heritage Trail, which extends more than 300 miles and traces the region’s early musical roots. – Jessica Walker Boehm

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Historic towns celebrate region’s roots

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Ad Index

C2 Bristol Tennessee Essential Services

6 Carter County Tomorrow

19 Eastman Chemical Company

C3 First Bank & Trust Co.

35 Greene County Partnership

23 Hancock County

11 Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce

2 Johnson City Power Board

1 Morristown Utility Systems

31 Networks-Sullivan Partnership C4 Northeast Tennessee Valley Regional Industrial Development Association 5 Sleep Inn & Suites

36 Tri-Cities Regional Airport

34 Washington County Tennessee Economic Development Council

economic profile Business snapshot With a combined labor force of 347,000, the 15-county Northeast Tennessee Valley Region encompasses nine counties in Northeast Tennessee, three counties in Southwest Virginia and one county in Northwest North Carolina. Top industries in the region include manufacturing, automotive production, pharmaceuticals and medical technology, transportation and logistics, and a growing cluster of communications and information technology firms.

Population (2012) Region 776,001

Tennessee Carter County


Claiborne County


Greene County


Major Population Centers (2011)

Median Household Income (2007-2011)

Johnson City, TN



Hancock County


Kingsport, TN



Hawkins County


Bristol, TN



Hamblen County


Bristol, VA


Carter County


Jefferson County


Claiborne County


Johnson County


Greene County


Hancock County


Hawkins County


Sullivan County Unicoi County Washington County

Major industry sectors

156,786 18,235

Trade Transportation & Utilities, 23%


Virginia Lee County


Scott County


Washington County


North Carolina Avery County


Hamblen County


Manufacturing, 22%

Jefferson County


Education & Health, 17%

Johnson County


Leisure & Hospitality, 11%

Sullivan County


Professional & Business Services, 9%

Unicoi County


Washington County


Financial Activities, 4.8%


Information, 4.1%

What’s Online  For more demographic, statistical and community information on the Northeast Tennessee Valley Region, go to and select “Facts & Stats,” then click on “Demographics.”


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Lee County


Scott County


Washington County


North Carolina Avery County



Northeast Tennessee Valley Regional Industrial Development Association 3211 N. Roan St. Johnson City, TN 37601

Phone: 423-928-1203

Business Images: Northeast Tennessee Valley Region 2013  

Strong training and workforce development programs that produce skilled, educated workers, the presence of a network of colleges and technol...

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