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Scorecard shows NETWORKS lagging behind its goals for 2009

Rick Wagner • Aug 14, 2009 at 12:00 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — The bad news is Sullivan County’s economic development efforts have fallen behind new business capital investment goals for 2009 and are lagging behind 2008 levels year to date. The good news is that may turn around in the next month or two with pending projects, according to NETWORKS – Sullivan Partnership CEO Richard Venable. During a NETWORKS board meeting held Thursday at Northeast State Community College, Venable presented the August Scorecard report. The Scorecard revealed that through Aug. 10, new jobs created were 295 compared to an annual goal of 605, and capital investment was $48.4 million compared to a goal of $38 million. However, the capital investment year to date for new businesses was only $500,000 compared to a goal of $10 million and a figure last year of $40.5 million, which was driven by LeClerq Foods in the Northeast Tennessee Business Park in Kingsport off the Airport Parkway. Existing business and industry capital investment was $47.9 million and job creation was 145, compared to goals of $28 million and 400. “People are starting businesses on shoestrings,” Venable said of the low capital investment by new ventures. The Performance Scorecard, a more detailed analysis with weighted scores, shows NETWORKS reaching only 55.07 percent of its actual goals and 31.28 percent of its weighted goals. Venable said that was mainly driven by the low capital investment numbers and nonexistent land sales. Based on this time of year, NETWORKS should be at more than 60 percent of its goal. One bright spot already on the horizon is a $30.2 million grant received by Exide Technologies, which has a Bristol, Tenn., plant. The grant will result in 120 jobs added back to the Bristol plant in six months, which has had layoffs, and $37 million in new investment there. Venable also said that the $9 million of NETWORKS’ bonded indebtedness, which has been paid in the past by land sale proceeds, could require payments from Sullivan County, Kingsport, Bristol, Tenn., and Bluff City, based on their populations. The bond payments are about $700,000 a year — payable in $350,000 due Dec. 13, 2009, and another $350,000 due June 30. To date, no land sales have occurred compared to a goal of $700,000 and a three-year average of $542,300 resulting from sales of $150,000 in 2006, $976,800 in 2007 and $500,000 in 2008. Also at Thursday’s meeting the NETWORKS board: • Heard a report on Partnership Park II in Bristol, Tenn., from Randy Beckner, a Kingsport-based principal in Mattern & Craig Inc. Phase I would cost just more than $3.9 million to complete, excluding grading, and Phase II would cost more than $3.3 million. Full site grading could cost $12 million or more, but grading only for roads in the park could run less than $1 million. NETWORKS officials said they hope to get Tennessee and federal grant assistance to cover much of the costs, although NETWORKS is spending more than $200,000 on a new entrance to the park in conjunction with Tennessee Department of Transportation funding for the main entrance off Weaver Pike and a secondary one on State Route 394. NETWORKS also owns Partnership Park I, 105 acres adjoining Tri-Cities Regional Airport with FedEx as a tenant on 18 acres and other 8.3-acre sale pending. And NETWORKS owns Partnership Park III (Gateway Commerce Park) near the interchange of Interstates 81 and 26, a 166-acre park with 56 acres developed in a FedEx site. NETWORKS also markets the Tri-County Industrial Park in Piney Flats, which as 41 acres left for development, Brookside Industrial Park in Kingsport and some other parks. • Unanimously approved nominations of five new board members. They are Lee Shilito, president of Triad Packaging of Bristol, Tenn.; Bill Dudney, president of Citizens Bank; Craig Kilgore, executive director of Holston Medical Group in Kingsport; Tony Hewitt, director of development and community relations for BAE Systems; and Bill Prince, president and chief operating officer of BurWil Construction. Northeast State Community College President Emeritus Bill Locke is moving from secretary/ treasurer to vice chairman. Andy Hall, with government and community relations at Wellmont Health System, is moving to fill the secretary/treasurer slot. Those exiting the board because of bylaws that allow only two consecutive two-year terms are former Kingsport Alderman Hoyt Denton, HMG founder Dr. Jerry Miller, real estate agent and former NETWORKS interim CEO Gary Sproles, contractor Jim Street and Kingsport Times-News Publisher Keith Wilson, immediate past chairman of the group. However, new Chairman Jeff Byrd, general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway, said Wilson will remain involved in work force development with NETWORKS.

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