NETWORKS plans 2009 summit on work force preparedness

Rick Wagner • Oct 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM

Former Kingsport Mayor Jeanette Blazier, who helped head up Kingsport’s 1999 economic summit, has agreed to chair the work force summit.

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County economic development officials are planning a work force preparedness/work force development summit for early 2009, a decade after Kingsport held an economic summit.

NETWORKS – Sullivan Partnership — a joint venture of the county, Kingsport, Bristol, Tenn., and Bluff City — plans to hold the summit sometime after the first of the year, said NETWORKS board Chairman Keith Wilson.

In addition, the NETWORKS board Thursday approved its 2008-09 budget, got to see a new Performance Scorecard that encompasses more of what NETWORKS staff does, and learned of plans to focus its December meeting on its marketing budget and efforts.

Crucial to the summit is coming up with a way to apply performance standards to measure improvements in work force preparedness.

“We think it’s time,” Wilson said. “That’s our intent. It’s nebulous at the moment.”

Wilson told board members at Thursday’s NETWORKS meeting — held at Northeast State Technical Community College — that former Kingsport Mayor Jeanette Blazier, who helped head up Kingsport’s 1999 economic summit, has agreed to chair the 2009 summit.

“We have study after study that identifies this as an issue,” said Wilson, who is publisher of the Kingsport Times-News.

Wilson said he, NETWORKS Chief Executive Officer Richard Venable and Northeast State President and NETWORKS Secretary/Treasurer Bill Locke will meet in coming weeks to flesh out plans for the event.

He said NETWORKS holding the summit is not “mission creep” because a suitable work force is crucial to attracting new business and industry to the area, as well as retaining and growing existing industry and business.

On other matters, the board:

•Approved a 2008-09 budget of $714,000, basically a “flat” budget that keeps local government contributions the same and is just less than last year’s actual spending of $714,844.

It includes an increase in the marketing budget from the 2007-08 spending of $178,242 to $192,152 for 2008-09.

The marketing budget includes an increase for the Regional Alliance for Economic Development, headed by Andy Burke, from $89,278 in actual expenditures in 2007-08 to $103,000 and an increase in marketing travel events from $14,076 in actual 2007-08 expenditures to $25,152. Venable said that was accomplished by small cuts in other areas.

“We have invested with others a significant portion of our budget,” Venable said of the alliance.

“Our efforts are to reduce costs everywhere we can and put it in marketing,” Venable said before the vote on the budget recommended by the Executive Committee. “We need to put every dime we have in marketing.”

Member Hoyt Denton, a former Kingsport alderman, asked if NETWORKS keeps statistics on where leads are generated, such as from trade shows. Wilson and Venable said such information is available and that a discussion of NETWORKS marketing expenses and results is set for the Dec. 4 meeting.

•Reviewed the new Performance Scorecard that will supplement the traditional Scorecard used for the past four years.

In addition to tracking new jobs and capital investment, the new document tracks the number of prospects served, land sales, communications and marketing.

“We’re not included everything that happened in the county. We’re including what NETWORKS was involved with,” said Wilson.

Each item is weighted in percentages of importance from 15 percent down to 5 percent, although things like job creation and capital investment can exceed 100 percent and thus put the weighted overall score to more than 100 percent.

In addition, the Scorecard includes, where available, data from the past three years, which Wilson said is an acknowledgement that economic development is a process and occurs over the longer term.

Other new additions include reports on land holdings, and Wilson said the whole document gives the staff a clearer idea of what priorities are.

For instance, visits to existing industries are ranked at 5 percent.

The overall weighted score thus far is 84.03 percent compared to the raw score of 78.41 percent.

Jack Lawson, director of economic development for NETWORKS and the architect of the Scorecard, said about 77.4 percent of the calendar year had passed as of Oct. 13.

“Overall, we’re a little head of schedule,” Lawson said. “At the end of the year we should exceed that 100 percent” in the weighted score.

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