WORKS innovates files mends
manufactures sculpts educates
• Annual Report 2015 NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership Annual Report • 2015 • 1
LETTER FROM THE
leadership unity direction
Northeast Tennessee Works. North. East. Tennessee. Works. NETWORKS. As an economic development organization, our staff and board are asked a great deal of questions, the most common of which is, “What exactly is it that you all do?” I imagine that holds true with most EDOs. Here, though, we also get a follow-up: “Why are you called NETWORKS?” NETWORKS is a loose acronym for Northeast Tennessee Works. I think that it serves well not only as the name of our organization, but as the impetus of our brand. Ours is a pioneering region, full of hard-working, smart, innovative people who recognize and value the incredible quality of life our natural beauty and resources provide. It is the very basis for our “Where Tennessee Begins Its Business Day” marketing mantra. I also like to think it’s reflective of the NETWORKS team – our investors, partners, Board of Directors, and staff. We strive to be on the front end of economic development best practices in all facets of the profession. Our FIRST program serves our existing primary employment base. FIRST – Focus, Innovation, Results, Synergy, Together – is named for the values on which the program is built. It is customer focused. We present ideas for services to our major employers or they present them to us and we follow through on those the consensus deems meaningful. This year, in addition to our usual oneon-one and group meetings, we created and executed a Wages & Benefits Survey, followed up on connecting industries with other industries as determined by the supply chain study we sponsored in 2014, and presented many programs on resources to the manufacturing community. We again set the pace in Northeast Tennessee with our marketing efforts. Our redesigned website has been touted by site location consultants and other EDOs. We set out to create a website that makes a strong business case for relocating or expanding to Sullivan County. In working with the Next Move Group, I think we hit the mark. We also continue to seek partnership opportunities and have worked closely with the Tennessee Economic Partnership (TEP). In addition to TEP partnering with us on our Red Carpet Tour, it elected our CEO, Clay Walker, to its Board of Directors and its Secretary-Treasurer and Chairman-Elect in 2016. We will also participate with leading economic development groups across the state, including the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development as a sponsor and host of next year’s Site Selectors Guild conference in Nashville. The bottom line in this business is, of course, jobs and investment. 2015 was a good year for NETWORKS and our partner communities in that regard as well. New and expanding companies such as Pure Foods, Send The Light, Homeland Vinyl, Royal Mouldings, ElectroMotor, and Probe Industries accounted for nearly 600 jobs and more than $50 million in new investment. We also spread our scope last year by agreeing to market the Phipps Bend Industrial Park in a partnership with the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board. The large, gently rolling terrain gives us a nice property to complement our many Sullivan County sites and has allowed us to compete for more projects and will ultimately bring more investment and jobs to the region. Working on more deals has also given us more opportunities to nurture our relationships with the TNECD, site location consultants, and other regional partners. And we haven’t stopped improving our existing product, investing in infrastructure in Partnership Park II, where we will soon implement a Virtual Building Program that staff unveiled at our November Board Meeting. Obviously we have done a great deal of work this past year. That work has set us up to do even more innovative work in 2016. We don’t shy away from work though. I mean, it is right in our name.
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red carpet tour
n 2014, NETWORKS launched its “Where Tennessee Begins Its Business Day” branding campaign. Not only are our residents among the first Tennesseans to see the sun come up each morning, the region also boasts a rich history of creating innovative economic and community development initiatives, many of which have been replicated across the region and state. The brand has proven to be effective and well received, so the organization continued to market its message in a variety of avenues over the past year.
The “Recruit the Recruiters” strategy was again a focal point in 2015, as NETWORKS and its local partners continued to feed regional and state economic developers pertinent information about the product here. In addition to regular contacts, NETWORKS hosted a dinner for senior staff of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) prior to the Governor’s Conference for Economic Development in Nashville and was joined by four TNECD staffers at the Red Carpet Tour in August.
The Red Carpet Tour, in its second year, is an inbound marketing event in partnership with the Tennessee Economic Partnership (TEP). NETWORKS hosted eight site location consultants for three days, familiarizing them with the unique business advantages of the region and treating them to the Bristol Night Race and VIP access and accommodations.
Photo Courtesy VIPSEEN Magazine
“In Tennessee, we have great colleagues throughout the state that help us maintain our momentum, and NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership is no exception,” TNECD Commissioner Randy Boyd said. “NETWORKS does a great job with reaching consultants and c-suite level executives. They are known for their innovative economic development initiatives and we are lucky to have them as part of Team Tennessee.”
NETWORKS Project Manager Brian Ritz, Tri-Cities Regional Airport Executive Director Patrick Wilson, RCT Guests Amanda & Dustin Swartz
“I handle all the labor analytics for our clients, so having an opportunity to learn about a community beyond my desktop is incredibly helpful because there are some things that do not show up in the data,” said attendee Amanda Swartz, Vice-President – Site Selection & Research for E Smith Realty. “This has literally put the Kingsport-Bristol market on the map for a project I am currently working on that was wide open to anywhere in the U.S. “NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership did an excellent job facilitating this event, it was the perfect balance between work and play!” CEO Clay Walker, already on the TEP Board of Directors, has increased his involvement in the state’s marketing organization, having been elected to serve as its Secretary/Treasurer and Chairman-Elect in 2016. NETWORKS also agreed to partner as a major sponsor of the upcoming 2016 Site Selectors Guild Annual Conference, to be held in Nashville. The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce lured the conference to Music City where about four dozen of the nation’s top site location consultants will gather. “NETWORKS is a key partner of the 2016 Site Selectors Guild Annual Conference,” said Courtney Ross, Chief Economic Development Officer for the Nashville Chamber. “Their sponsorship further demonstrates their aggressive marketing strategy for Northeast Tennessee and we look forward to a successful conference in February showcasing Tennessee as an ideal business location.” Working with regional partners and capitalizing on media contacts, NETWORKS was able to grab some national attention throughout the year in site selection magazines. In Trade & Industry Development’s May/June issue, NETWORKS properties were listed among the top industrial sites in the nation; Site Selection featured the county’s Educate and Grow program in a feature regarding the Tennessee Promise as well as the Pure Foods corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility announcement in July; in its September/October issue, Expansion Solutions featured Tri-Cities Aerospace Park and the Northeast State Community College’s aviation initiative; and Expansion Solutions followed up by featuring the NETWORKS service area in a community profile piece in November/December.
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red carpet tour
Popular websites also brought notoriety to the region. Nerdwallet named Bristol as the fourth best city in Tennessee for millennial job seekers in May and less than a month later placed Bristol 10th and Kingsport 18th as the state’s best places to start a business. Niche also recognized Northeast Tennessee on its list of the state’s best cities to raise a family with Kingsport ranking fourth, Bristol 18th, and Johnson City 20th. With the hire of Dana Glenn (see related story in Product Development section), NETWORKS also upped its social media game, reviving its Facebook page and creating a LinkedIn account that includes a protected, confidential discussion group for existing industries. Staff members are also active on Twitter and the organization utilized the Storify platform to showcase the 2015 Red Carpet Tour.
Aerospace Sector Opportunities While NETWORKS has a targeted approach to its marketing efforts for several sectors, aerospace seemed to present the most opportunities and activity last year. In addition to attending aerospace trade shows with Tri-Cities Regional Airport/Aerospace Park staff, NETWORKS partnered with the park on an advertisement in Expansion Solutions Magazine’s aerospace edition that was distributed at the NBAA show in the fall. NETWORKS also met with aerospace companies along with representatives of the airport and Northeast State Community College’s aviation program. “As a site selector, I look at a lot of data sources on behalf of my clients,” said Mike Michalski, principal of MCS Strategies, an Ohio-based consulting firm. “With a focus on aviation projects, I appreciate a community that has taken the steps to provide concise, high quality, and valuable information in their presentations. NETWORKS and the Tri-Cities Airport are among the best in the country for achieving that goal.” In total, NETWORKS’s marketing efforts have been responsible for 20 site location consultants visiting Aerospace Park (and other properties) over the past 16 months.
New Industry Prospect activity grew dramatically compared to 2014 and by the end of 2015, more projects were in the pipeline than at any time in recent memory. Many projects appear to be moving at a slower pace, but the successes of the past year (some 600 jobs and $50 million in investment), and the increase in leads give the NETWORKS staff cause for excitement. “We’re not only seeing more and more inquiries from our recruiting partners such as the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, but we’ve received many direct leads from site location consultants to whom we have been marketing over the past year,” said Executive Project Manager Michael Parker. “I think that our improved and increased product lining up with the maturation of our marketing efforts is creating a lot of buzz about our region. The real payoff is going to be seen over the next five years or so as we continue to handle this project load.”
Pure Foods Vancouver, British Columbia, based Pure Foods announced in March that it would locate its North American headquarters and primary manufacturing facility in Kingsport. The company, which will make a variety of healthful snack foods, purchased the NETWORKS speculative building in Gateway Commerce Park. “Our vision to give consumers across North America healthier snack options has come to life today thanks to the tremendous support of the city and Chamber of Commerce of Kingsport, the Tennessee Economic and Community Development team, and NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership,” Pure Foods President and CEO John Frostad said. “The central location of Kingsport along with a skilled and enthusiastic workforce is why Pure Foods made the decision to locate its head office and manufacturing facility there.”
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Pure Foods CEO John Frostad & COO Gary Southwood
Photo Courtesy Bristol Herald Courier
Send The Light, a distribution company specializing in Bibles and other religious items, relocated its east coast operations to Bristol in June. The company moved its 121 jobs into the former LP Shanks building, leasing it from developer Steve Johnson. Johnson invested some $800,000 in renovations to the property, while Send The Light spent about $400,000 in upgrades, including the addition of office space. “We were elated to see Send the Light Distribution become a part of our community,” Mayor Lea Powers said. “We are here to provide assistance as needed to see the company continues to expand and prosper.” Send The Light was formerly operating in Carter County. It is an international distributor of CONTINUED ON PAGE 10
Send The Light
launch linked in
“We want to welcome Pure Foods to Tennessee and thank them for their investment in Kingsport,” Governor Bill Haslam said. “Our geographic location and skilled workforce are incredible advantages when we’re out recruiting businesses to Tennessee and when a company establishes its U.S. headquarters and manufacturing operations in Tennessee, it sends another clear signal that we can compete with anyone.”
new website twitter
Upon build-out of the 85,000 square foot facility, the company will have invested more than $22 million in building and equipment. Once fully operational, the manufacturing portion of the project alone will create 273 jobs.
NETWORKS Launches New Website In a partnership with Next Move Group Consulting, NETWORKS unveiled a new website, designed to assist business owners, corporate realtors, site selectors, and others who are considering a new location to do business. The networkstn. com website has tailored data for each of the identified targeted sectors. As an example, what is important to an automotive supplier is different from a food processor, so each page contains data that is relevant to its specific audience. The site was developed by Next Move Group, an economic development and site location consulting firm with offices in New Orleans, Louisiana, and St. Louis, Missouri. The firm partnered with Troy University to produce specific data for target industries and Aha Creative to assist with the digital interface. The end result was an interactive, yet data driven website that is both appealing and functional. In addition to the targeted industry data, the website contains an inventory of industrial buildings and sites, thorough demographic data relevant to the area’s workforce, information about colleges, universities, and other educational partners, an overview of incentives, a section to serve existing business & industry, and information regarding the quality of life in Northeast Tennessee. It also provides links to retail developers and partners and the organization’s investors and other stakeholders. “The NETWORKS staff’s expertise in economic development combined with our site selection and web design experience has led to a website which should provide tangible return to Sullivan and Hawkins counties in terms of job creation,” Chad Chancellor, Founder and CEO of Next Move Group, said. “This service area is well positioned to attract new business and this website documents all of the assets it has to offer targeted business sectors. “As a site selector myself, I find more often than not I am searching for websites on my phone or iPad. This site responds to whatever technology I am CONTINUED ON PAGE 12
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hile recruitment of new industry into any community generally garners the most attention, a strong existing employment base is the lifeblood of a successful economy and a strong existing industry program of work is the foundation of an effective economic development organization. Maintaining and assisting the growth of the primary employment companies are important for a number of reasons. Typically, 75-85 percent of job growth comes from existing industry. And, just as in most businesses, retaining existing customers is a great deal less expensive in terms of time and money than attracting new ones. These jobs also tend to be more stable and higher paying with better benefits. Generally speaking, companies require fewer incentives and services when expanding an existing operations as they do when they are relocating or building a new facility. A less tangible, but very real benefit of the existing employment base is the regional, national, and international exposure it brings a community. Communities and regions become known for the industries to which they are home. These industries also are vital in assisting local officials in the recruitment of other, similar industries, many times in a proactive role and other times simply by their very presence.
FIRST Update The FIRST program came into its own in its first full year of existence. The program, whose name is an acronym for the core values on which it is founded – Focus, Innovation, Results, Synergy, Together – is designed to coordinate the existing industry services and programs of NETWORKS’s community partners while filling any gaps in meeting the needs and desires from our primary job sector employers. In 2015, the program offered a Wages & Benefits Survey to participating companies. This survey is a meaningful tool for human resources and company management in ensuring it is paying competitive wages and offering appropriate benefits to be competitive in attracting the region’s top talent. The results, which do not reveal companies’ individual data, also are used to help NETWORKS and its local and regional partners in the recruitment of new businesses. Meanwhile, NETWORKS and its community partners increased their business visits last year and organized three group meetings, where all of the program’s initiatives are presented and discussed prior to implementation. If a service is presented and not wanted by the consensus of the county’s primary employers, the economic development team does not take it any further. “The FIRST program is not about us; it is very much about our customers – our existing industry,” said Project Manager Brian Ritz, who oversees FIRST. “No matter how enamored we are with an idea or concept, if it isn’t wanted or needed by these customers, we move on. Our job is to identify services and activities that help them do business in Sullivan County, Tennessee.” NETWORKS held three FIRST meetings in 2015 and featured presentations on topics such as a Wages & Benefits Survey, the ACT Workforce Ready Certification program, workforce training opportunities from Northeast State Community College and the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing (RCAM), the benefits of utilizing the Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ), TNECD’s export support program, and a variety of updates regarding incentives available to expanding businesses. The NETWORKS staff and its partners teamed for dozens of on-site, one-on-one meetings with major employers throughout the year. The team is discussing more ideas with its customers for 2016, including creating a major employer opportunities section on the NETWORKS website where would-be employees can identify the types of industries and jobs, how to apply at respective companies, and find a listing of current available positions.
Companies in the News Several companies in Sullivan and Hawkins counties grabbed headlines over the past year, through growth and awards for excellence on several fronts. Although each preferred to do so with little fanfare, companies such as Royal Mouldings, Bristol Metal Company, ElectroMotor, and Probe Industries went through expansions that yielded about 200 new jobs and $12 million in new investment. Beyond those projects, other regional corporate stalwarts brought some positive attention to the area. As one would expect, the region’s largest employer was in the news much of 2015 and in a variety of impressive ways. In addition to Project Inspire, the company’s $1.6 billion expansion that includes a new corporate headquarters building, nearing completion, Eastman found other ways to make news.
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Eastman celebrated its fourth consecutive Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star Award. The company was named the EPA’s Partner of the Year – Sustained Excellence. The award was won in large part because of the company’s Energy Star program which officials credited as providing a proven strategy helping them achieve measurable reductions in energy use and greenhouse emissions. EPA introduced the program in 1992. Continuing its emphasis on energy intensity improvement, Eastman has improved intensity by nearly eight percent since 2008, which equates to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of one billion pounds. Eastman became the first chemical plant to be named Energy Star Partner of the Year twice when it captured the honor in 2012 and 2013.
Eastman’s “Workplace of the Future”
“We look forward to the opening of Eastman’s new corporate business center. It is a part of Eastman’s $1.6 billion Project Inspire investment in Tennessee and a reflection of Eastman’s continued commitment to global business growth,” said David Golden, Senior Vice President, Chief Legal Officer and Corporate Secretary. “It also represents the emphasis we have on supporting our communities and doing all we can to source locally and further encourage regional economic growth. As both a strategic partner and a responsible neighbor, we leverage Eastman investments in order to open doors for new opportunities. We believe that working together not only fosters innovation, but also improves the quality of life in our communities and across the globe.” Eastman once again received a Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Award as one of the “Best Places to Work in 2016” in December. Tennessee’s largest industrial manufacturer was also recognized as a Top 50 employer by Workforce Diversity for Engineering and IT Professionals. Through the survey that determined the list, readers selected the top companies in the United States for which they would prefer to work or believe would provide a positive working environment for engineers and IT professionals who are minority group members. It is no secret and quite intuitive that Bristol Motor Speedway has a major economic impact on the region. That impact was quantified by a study released by BMS and the Bristol TN/VA Chamber of Commerce in March. According to the study, the direct impact of the speedway and Bristol Dragway totaled more than $417 million from 2012 through 2014, with a combined regional impact of more than $1.4 billion. “One of the perks of working at BMS is that we come in contact with hundreds of thousands of people every year,” Executive Vice President and General Manager Jerry Caldwell said. “For each of these individuals, their trip to Bristol isn’t limited to their time at the speedway or dragway. Instead, it includes their interactions and experiences while staying in hotels, dining at local restaurants, filling up at the gas station, shopping at the grocery store, visiting local points of interest, and much more. “We are extremely humbled and grateful to the regional community and businesses that set the stage for this kind of impact.”
Photo Courtesy Bristol Herald Courier
In the fall of 2016, the region will see an added impact of the speedway when its hosts Virginia Tech and the University of Tennessee in the “Battle of Bristol” football game. The event is expected to represent the largest crowd (of some 160,000) in history to attend a college football game and have a direct impact of $125 million to the local economy with an indirect regional impact of more than $439 million.
Officials celebrate the Colossus announcement
BMS made more news when it announced its investment in the largest outdoor, permanent, center-hung digital display screens, collectively dubbed Colossus. Each of Colossus’s four custom-built screens is approximately 30 feet tall by 63 feet wide. In total, the system hosts nearly 54 million LEDs and 18 million pixels, which will provide a visual experience capable of offering 281 trillion different color combinations; one that is 23 times brighter and 25 percent sharper than the typical home HD TV. CONTINUED ON PAGE 11
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PRODUCT development airport
Economic development is a futile effort if there is an inferior product to market. The slickest, most clever marketing campaigns will soon fizzle if the product doesn’t match the messaging. Fortunately, in Northeast Tennessee, leaders have always placed a high priority on meaningful community development projects; 2015 was no exception.
Partnership Park II Perhaps the most ambitious of the activities took place in Partnership Park II in Bristol. NETWORKS and the City of Bristol teamed to complete the installation of infrastructure in the 204-acre park, investing about $500,000 in extending water, sewer, gas, and electricity throughout the property. From a fiber standpoint, the park also offers the renowned gigabit capacity provided by BTES. Working with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), the main road is being extended through a State Industrial Access (SIA) grant which will make for better access and quicker development on the park’s potential rail sites. Also along the quicker-to-market topic, at its November Board of Directors Meeting, NETWORKS staff gave a preliminary presentation of a Virtual Building Program. Team members hope to launch the first virtual building in PPII by the second quarter of 2016. The virtual building will be a predesigned structure on a predetermined tract in the park and is designed to eliminate about 90 days of the decision-to-marketplace timeline. Site plans and a building permit will be made available to a company utilizing the program and a marketing video is also in development. “Speed to market is a factor in nearly all site location decisions,” Walker said. “A virtual building provides a similar advantage that a speculative building does, but requires only a fraction of the investment and a great deal more flexibility. Our early work with our partners at the City of Bristol gives us great optimism that this program will be a very effective marketing tool.” Walker added that many projects seeking existing facilities rather than greenfield sites will accept virtual building submissions.
Tri-Cities Regional Airport Improvements Work was nearly complete by the end of the year on the $3.5-5 million project at the Tri-Cities Regional Airport. As the main door into our community and region, airport officials agreed to major improvements in 2014, including bringing the terminal’s tiered front plaza and parking lot down to one level. The project also included added green space and landscaping. The newly designed parking areas will eliminate bottlenecks during peak times to create safer pedestrian travel.
Finishing touches on TCRA improvements
NETWORKS partnered with the airport in an attempt to receive an InvestPrep grant from TVA to expand the area of Aerospace Park that had been leveled. The project did not receive funding, but did make the finalist round of the competitive process, earning a visit to the park from site selectors at KPMG consulting services.
TCRA was also honored as the recipient of the Tennessee Aeronautics Commission Award of Excellence. In an attempt to capitalize on the high traffic of potential corporate decision makers and influencers traveling through the airport, NETWORKS designed and purchased marketing signage that is seen as flyers enter the baggage claim area. The sign is located next to one of Eastman.
Phipps Bend Marketing Agreement In early 2015, NETWORKS entered into a marketing agreement with the Hawkins County Industrial Development Board to market and recruit companies to its western neighboring county’s primary industrial development, the Phipps Bend Industrial Park. “This partnership has proven to be beneficial to both parties in so many ways, which is the real benchmark of worthwhile collaborations,” CEO Clay Walker said. “We are able to bring our marketing and recruitment experience and talent to Hawkins County and having this unique site in our inventory allows us to work on projects in which we otherwise would not be involved. Ultimately, it has raised our profile with regional stakeholders, site location consultants, and TNECD. As cliché as it might sound,
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PRODUCT development airport
this really has proven and continues to prove to be a win-win arrangement.” Shortly after the agreement was reached, the park received some much needed news as AT&T announced that it was installing high-speed broadband fiber into the park, the last missing piece to completing its infrastructure. Hawkins County IDB staff is also working in conjunction with NETWORKS to have much of the park certified as a Select Tennessee site. Some 160 acres of the BAE property in Hawkins County was certified as shovel ready earlier this year, so by the end of 2016, NETWORKS could represent five such sites, or approximately one of every eight as Aerospace Park, Bristol Business Park, and Partnership Park II in Sullivan County were among the first sites in the state to receive this certification.
ACT Work Ready Community A qualified workforce is a key component of economic development and recruitment. The United Way of Kingsport first initiated an effort to secure ACT Work Ready Community certification in late 2014 and this year passed the baton off to Jeff McCord of Northeast Community College who put together a committee of workforce and economic and community development stakeholders. Work Ready Community Certification is directly related to the National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC). The NCRC is a portable, industry-recognized credential that identifies an individual’s WorkKeys skills in reading for information, applied math, and finding information – skills required for 77 percent of jobs based on the ACT JobPro database. The certification test is already administered in Northeast State Community College’s Career Center and scores are utilized by Eastman, Domtar, and Robinette, with many more companies prepared to follow suit.
NETWORKS ‘Internal’ Development NETWORKS looked within itself for ways to improve product, revisiting its Strategic Plan and updating it to reflect additional strategies, activities, and desired outcomes. An updated, precise plan is a key component maintaining in the county’s Three Star status, a factor in obtaining grants from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. The staff of NETWORKS also looks somewhat different today than it did last year, with two new team members already making significant contributions. Brian Ritz joined NETWORKS in April as Project Manager, replacing Jack Lawson who retired in May after more than 30 years in economic development. Ritz, a Sullivan County native, is a graduate of Milligan College where he was a standout baseball player. Prior to joining NETWORKS he was the Key Accounts Manager at Bristol Virginia Utilities. In addition to working in all phases of industrial recruitment and product development, he is in charge of FIRST, the organization’s existing industry program. In June, NETWORKS announced that Dana Glenn would be joining the team in a newly created position, Administrative and Marketing Coordinator. Also a local product, Glenn is an East Tennessee State University graduate, who most recently worked for KOSBE, the small business development and entrepreneurship arm of the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce. She manages NETWORKS’s social media and other marketing projects as well as maintains its website. As the staff evolved, Michael Parker was promoted to Executive Project Manager. Parker, an ETSU graduate, has been with NETWORKS since 2011. He handles most of the larger prospects, particularly in their initial stages of recruitment, and oversees the agency’s annual Red Carpet Tour which brings several site location consultants to the area for three days to familiarize them with Northeast Tennessee’s many differentiating business advantages. Parker also manages several special projects, primarily in product development. “I am over the moon excited about the team we have put together here,” Walker said. “Each of these individuals brings an incredible skill set and deep, unique understanding and points of view about economic and community development. They
NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership Annual Report • 2015 • 9
PRODUCT development airport
also work so well together and we have the chemistry needed to optimize our talents and resources as an organization. With these high quality people in place, we truly are greater than the sum of our parts.” The team also received some new energy from both its major cities, with Tom Anderson moving into the role of the City of Bristol’s Director of Economic Development and Corey Shepherd being promoted at the City of Kingsport to Business Development Specialist.
Northeast State Community College Aviation Program Photo courtesy Times-News
The partnership of Northeast State Community College and Bell Helicopter paid dividends in 2014 with the announcement of an aviation-based curriculum. In 2015, that program got further off the ground by adding the technical certificate program in Aviation Maintenance Technology. The 29-credit-hour program was announced along with news that longtime Bell training department manager Richard Blevins had agreed to become the program’s department head. Blevins told those attending a media conference that the program will emphasize craftsmanship, attention to detail, and students’ taking ownership of their work, saying, “There’s no room for errors in this business.”
Richard Blevins presents NESCC President Dr. Janice Gilliam with a model of a Bell helicopter
The program continues to be a great asset and partner to NETWORKS as well as serving its existing industry cluster; aerospace is one of the organization’s primary targeted sectors.
Rhythm & Roots Economic Impact Among the plethora of quality of life advantages NETWORKS markets are the region’s roots in music and the dozens of festivals and events throughout the year. In December, the region’s crown jewel music festival, the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion, put some numbers behind it. Missouri-based travel and tourism consulting firm Destination Services performed an economic impact study and found that the festival generated more than $16 million to the regional economy.
BTES Anniversary Celebration One of NETWORKS’s key partners, Bristol Tennessee Essential Services (BTES) celebrated a milestone anniversary in 2015. The utility company that offers a gig of broadband services as well as efficient, low cost, reliable power to homes and businesses for the City of Bristol and other parts of Sullivan County marked its 70th year with a community open house and tours of its facilities and equipment as well as refreshments and activities.
Marketing and Recruitment
(Continued from page 5)
many Christian products, including Bibles, books, communion cups and wafers, toys, educational material, jewelry, and CDs and DVDs.
Homeland Vinyl In a unique job retention and new industry location project, Homeland Vinyl, a Birmingham, Alabama, based manufacturer of vinyl fence, deck, and railing systems, purchased the Engineered Plastics Company building in Hawkins County’s Phipps Bend Industrial Park. Homeland Vinyl offered positions to the 40 remaining employees of EPC, which was relocating operations to its Alabama facility and added some 25 people to its workforce. “We welcome Homeland Vinyl to Tennessee and thank them for creating these new jobs in Hawkins County,” TNECD Commissioner Randy Boyd said. “Homeland Vinyl is a valuable addition to these communities and we look forward to their continued growth and success.”
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quality of life
shopping dining visitors
Photo Courtesy thepinnacle.com
hile many communities across the nation continued to struggle with retail development, Sullivan County enjoyed a landmark year. Following the development of over 600,000 square feet of retail space, hundreds of retail and service industry jobs were created. This accomplishment is due to the collaboration of private developers, city managers and their staffs, and chambers of commerce. In Bristol, the Pinnacle Development at Interstate 81’s Exit 74 continued to expand. Following the addition of Belk, Bed Bath & Beyond, Pier 1, Marshall’s, Boot Barn, Versona, Michael’s, Shoe Carnival, and GNC this spring, Pinnacle 12 Cinema by Marquee celebrated its grand opening in November. The cinema is a 54,000 square foot theater with luxury stadium seating. Currently over 530,000 square feet of retail development has been completed and opened in 2015, and over 188,000 square feet of new retail shops are under construction to open in the Crescent and Tower sections of the Pinnacle development in the spring of 2016. Additionally, CarMax will open in the fall of 2016.
Pinnacle 12 Cinema by Marquee
Restaurant openings in Bristol included Cootie Brown’s, Donut World and Waffle House, as well as Chick-Fil-A, Zaxby’s, and Johnny Brusco’s at the Pinnacle.
Tom Anderson, Economic Development Director for the City of Bristol, noted that retail sales have met and exceeded preliminary estimates for the Pinnacle, and expects that as The Pinnacle develops further, sales will continue to grow to the benefit of the region. Kingsport continues to be a strong retail sales center for the Tri-Cities region, as well. Through the first three quarters of 2015, retail sales were up over 16 percent as compared to the same three quarters last year and totaled over $1.2 billion. Kingsport enjoyed an investment of almost $8 million in new retail development and redevelopment. Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market opened its first location in the Tri-Cities and completed a full-scale redevelopment of a blighted shopping center in North Kingsport. This project, combined with several others, represents over 73,000 square feet of new retail space in 2015. Kingsport continued to see both franchise and non-franchise restaurant growth. Pie-Five, Senor Papas & Beer, Newly opened Panda Express and Freddy’s Frozen Main Street Pizza Co., Fermented, Uncorked, Hook & Ladder Distillery, Panda ExCustard & Steakburgers press, and Freddy’s Frozen Custard all opened their doors in Kingsport in 2015. Bellafina Chocolates, a unique “all profits for charity” gourmet chocolate company, opened its new production facility and gift shop in Downtown Kingsport.
Existing Industry (Continued from page 7) Colossus also includes a state-of-the-art 540,000 watt audio system powering 380 three-way loudspeakers and 48 stadium subwoofers. By contrast, the current system hosts 2,400 watts of power with 10 two-way loudspeakers and eight subwoofers.
Pal’s Again in the Spotlight for Excellence Pal’s Business Excellence Institute added an Excellence Award from the Tennessee Center for Performance Excellence to its mantle. Pal’s BEI offers training in efficiencies, customer service, and building results oriented cultures to companies and individuals based on the best practices of Pal’s Sudden Service, the region’s famous quick service restaurant chain. Pal’s Sudden Service also holds the distinction of being the only fast food franchise and only one of three companies headquartered in Tennessee (along with Memphis-based FedEx and Kingsport-based Eastman) to win the coveted Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award. Two companies made headlines with significant milestones. Bell Helicopter, which opened its Piney Flats finishing facility in 1999, celebrated its 80th anniversary. Meanwhile, the Domtar facility in Kingsport, which began doing business as the Kingsport Pulp Mill in 1916 finished its 100th year of operations in the Model City.
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NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership is the economic development organization serving the Northeastern Tennessee communities in Sullivan – including charter partners Bluff City, Bristol, and Kingsport – and Hawkins counties. Our team of professionals is ready and able to assist you and your company reach your fullest potential here Where Tennessee Begins Its Business Day.
PO Box 747, Blountville, TN 37617
networkstn.com • 423.279.7681
NETWORKS Launches New Website (Continued from page 5) using and does so in a fast manner.” Other features include: language translation for international prospects, interactive maps identifying key selection criteria such as interstates, rail lines, airports, and nearby major cities, and customized downloadable reports. “Surveys show that about 90 percent of site selections begin with an internet search,” said Dana Glenn, Administrative and Marketing Coordinator for NETWORKS. “Information must be accurate, up-to-date, pertinent, and easy to find. A website is never really ‘finished.’ We are constantly adding to and improving the site for our end users.” NETWORKS CEO Clay Walker said that the characteristics of the site that most appeal to him are its cleanliness and navigability, the vast amount of useful information for site selection projects, and its overall regional flavor. “We have to sell our entire region because while all economic development is ultimately local, the regional workforce, infrastructure, and quality of life amenities figure greatly into the site selection decision,” he stated. “This site, in my opinion, has a great balance of the objective data and business case information while giving the user a deeper understanding of our culture, particularly our outstanding quality of life and the pro-business environment which makes us ‘Where Tennessee Begins Its Business Day.’”
NETWORKS BOARD OF DIRECTORS 2015 Voting Members:
Mitch Walters, Friendship Enterprises – Chairman
Dr. Lyle Ailshie, Kingsport City Schools
John Campbell, AccelNow – Vice-Chairman
Jeffrey Dykes, Johnson City Power Board
Carolyn Ferrell, Robinette Co. – Secretary/Treasurer
Jeff Fleming, City Manager, Kingsport
Dr. Michael Browder, BTES
Dr. Gary Lilly, Bristol City Schools
Jerry Caldwell, Bristol Motor Speedway
Jeff McCord, Northeast State Community College (RCAM)
John Clark, Mayor, Kingsport
Evelyn Rafalowski, Sullivan County Schools
Michelle Denise, Bristol City Council
Bill Sorah, City Manager, Bristol
David Golden, Eastman
Jim Street, JA Street & Associates
Lea Powers, Mayor, Bristol
Clay Walker, NETWORKS CEO
Bill Sumner, Bell Helicopter
Isaac Webb, AEP
Richard Venable, Mayor, Sullivan County Irene Wells, Mayor, Bluff City Eddie Williams, Sullivan County Commission
Clay Walker, CEcD • CEO
Brian Ritz • Project Manager email@example.com
Michael Parker • Executive Project Manager Dana Glenn • Administrative & Marketing Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org