Regional Alliance for Economic Development promises more prospects for Tri-Cities

Rick Wagner • Dec 5, 2008 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — The interim head of the Regional Alliance for Economic Development on Thursday pledged to increase the number of prospects referred to NETWORKS – Sullivan Partnership, Sullivan County’s joint economic development effort.

Tom Ferguson, interim president and CEO of the alliance, spoke to NETWORKS members briefly after NETWORKS officials revealed that the alliance so far in 2008 has provided it with four prospects.

That compared to seven provided to NETWORKS from the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Northeast Tennessee Valley Regional Industrial Development Association, eight from the state of Tennessee, nine from consultants, and 37 from NETWORKS itself.

“We need to do a better job as an organization next year,” Ferguson said, adding that the alliance wants to work closely with all economic development agencies in the region. The alliance serves eight Northeast Tennessee counties and two in Southwest Virginia.

NETWORKS — a combined effort of Sullivan County, Kingsport, Bristol, Tenn., and Bluff City — provided the numbers Thursday in response to a request from board member and former Kingsport Alderman Hoyt Denton. Denton was absent Thursday but had asked for the information at the October NETWORKS meeting.

NETWORKS and economic development groups in Washington and Greene counties fund the alliance.

Ferguson said the alliance’s goals to market the region and position it for growth are not changing, but the means to get there are.

“Our strategy for getting there is going to be considerably different,” Ferguson said. “Clearly we need to improve on where you get your leads.”

Ferguson, former president of the Greene County Partnership, lauded the work of NETWORKS CEO Richard Venable and his staff.

“I’ve heard only great things about the organization from afar in Greene County,” Ferguson said. “We really look forward to working with this organization.”

Ferguson helped form the Greene County Partnership in 1993 and served as the organization’s president until 2001. During his tenure, that group attracted 18 new manufacturing/distribution companies while adding more than 4,000 direct new jobs and generating more than $400 million in new capital investment.

In March 2001, Ferguson left the partnership to form Ferguson Development Network, a consulting company providing a broad base of services to businesses, communities and economic development organizations.

In 2003 Ferguson opened Ferguson Real Estate and Development, which focuses strictly on industrial and commercial real estate. It will be closed as a result of his new appointment.

Keith Wilson, publisher of the Kingsport Times-News and chairman of the NETWORKS board, said the original intent had been to get a 2009 marketing plan report from the alliance and NETWORKS at the December meeting, held at Northeast State Technical Community College. However, since Ferguson just came on board in November, Wilson said the alliance marketing report might come at the Feb. 19 NETWORKS meeting instead.

And as far as the NETWORKS marketing plan for 2009, Jack Lawson, director of economic development, presented a draft report before those in attendance received a survey asking how NETWORKS should allocate its marketing efforts and spending.

Wilson said the results would be compiled, condensed and presented to the board later. For more information visit w w w. n e t w o r k s t n . c o m .

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