NETWORKS will focus on drawing people to Sullivan

Rick Wagner • Jan 18, 2007 at 10:51 AM

BLOUNTVILLE - For 2007, the leader of NETWORKS - Sullivan Partnership plans to place a special focus on attracting people to Sullivan County.

Speaking to the regular January meeting of the NETWORKS board at Northeast State Technical Community College, Richard Venable emphasized the importance and timeliness of the effort to attract people to relocate and/or retire to Sullivan County.

NETWORKS is a joint economic development program of Sullivan County, Kingsport, Bristol and Bluff City.

"If we don't have the people here, we won't be successful," Venable told the board.

Sullivan County is a participant in the Retire Tennessee program, and the only participant to have a relocation component. All the others are focused on retirement.

A new brochure unveiled to the board, presented as a white screen door, beckons people to "Come Home to Sullivan County Bristol-Kingsport Tennessee."

The brochure, produced in-house by NETWORKS Director of Research and Communications Jeanette Scalf, is a requirement of the Retire Tennessee program, but Scalf and Venable said it is a recruitment tool that should serve the county and region well.

NETWORKS Chairman Larry Estepp of Kingsport said he hopes the brochure - highlighting everything from Bristol Motor Speedway to Netherland Inn, Allandale Mansion, area lakes and waterways, medical services, the Carter Family heritage and Fun Fest balloons - will reach not only people unfamiliar with the region but also those who grew up here but moved away.

Underlying the campaign is a demand for more people to fill unmet job needs.

Eastman Chemical Co. announced almost a year ago that over the next five years, it would need to hire about 5,000 people to replace retiring baby boomers in existing Eastman jobs.

In addition, Scalf said that over the next five years, Mountain States Health Alliance, Wellmont Health System and Holston Medical Group will need to fill about 1,500 medical jobs.

Northeast State President Bill Locke said the need for skilled people became evident recently when high school students from Washington County, Tenn., got and took offers from a Japanese company for part-time welding jobs.

On other matters, Venable presented NETWORKS 2006 Annual Report that highlighted exceeding its 2006 jobs goal of 500. According to NETWORKS, 660 new jobs were created in which NETWORKS was directly involved or assisted.

The subset goals were 200 jobs from new business and 300 from existing business. NETWORKS missed the first goal, getting 160 jobs, but made it up with 500 jobs in the second category.

For the year, NETWORKS had 96 active prospects, including 66 in manufacturing - led by 17 in automotive - and 40 in the other category, including 16 in distribution.

Of 43 formal proposals the group made among those 96 prospects, 23 came from Tennessee, 12 from the Tennessee Valley Authority and Regional IDA, 46 from NETWORKS and 15 from others, including three leads that came from the Tri-Cities Business Alliance, a regional group serving Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.

For more information, go to the NETWORKS Web site at www.networkstn.com.

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