NETWORKS: No jobs added since April, but new prospects on horizon

Rick Wagner • Jun 18, 2009 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s economic development efforts resulted in no additional jobs since an April report, according to the June Scorecard of the NETWORKS — Sullivan Partnership.

However, NETWORKS Chief Executive Officer Richard Venable told the NETWORKS board at its Wednesday meeting that in the last week NETWORKS has gained seven new prospects. Fifty prospects remain active, with those in the likely and committed categories representing more than 878 new jobs and more than $137 million in new investments.

Year to date, NETWORKS in its June Report Card showed 165 new jobs, $11 million in capital investment, compared to goals of 605 jobs and $38 million in capital investment.

Of those, 140 jobs and $500,000 in capital investment are from new businesses and industries, while 25 jobs and $10.5 million are from capital investment.

Those numbers were as of June 15.

Also on Wednesday, the board viewed a presentation on Occupation Insight by Chairman Aaron Hawkins, a certified financial planner, and Jim Nisbet, vice president of marketing and customer service.

The Kingsport-based operation recently completed a pilot program serving 600 students at Dobyns-Bennett, Sullivan North, Sullivan South and Twin Springs high schools. The program, using interactive Internet applications and surveys of interests and expectations, is designed to help high-schoolers pick possible career paths, see how much money they might need to live as adults, and learn the importance of an education in getting a job they enjoy and that can provide them enough money.

Hawkins said he’d like to get business and industry to donate to the program, which could help in work force development. NETWORKS Chairman Keith Wilson suggested Occupation Insight become part of a team addressing improvements in the learning culture of the region, which grew out of a education and work force summit NETWORKS sponsored earlier this year.

Nisbet, as a former adjunct faculty member at Northeast State Community College and East Tennessee State University, said he instructed many students who had no interest in their studies and no clue what a college education would help them do.

“They didn’t know why they were they,” Nisbet said.

Venable and Wilson, publisher of the Kingsport Times-News, informed the board Wednesday that the traditional confirmation of new board members by July 1 would be delayed until the August meeting, giving the mayors of Sullivan County, Kingsport, Bristol, Tenn., and Bluff City time to meet June 30 and make their recommendations. Five board members must be replaced as required by NETWORKS bylaws after two consecutive terms.

However, Wilson said that new NETWORKS Chairman Jeff Byrd, Kingsport resident and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway, would take the gavel at the August meeting.

“You are one of the true visionaries of our region,” Byrd told Wilson, who among other things spearheaded the education and work force summit. “I will just try not to mess up what you and the others have started.”

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