KINGSPORT - It's seen three executive directors come and go in as many years.
Now the Holston Business Development Center is hoping No. 4 is a keeper.
Chip Bailey took over management duties at the HBDC in mid January. A college professor, former small business owner, and long-time researcher of Appalachian entrepreneurship, Bailey plans to bring continuity to management in the job.
"You don't start looking at the success of an incubator for five years. We're at three and a half years. We really haven't had enough time - because of the leadership changes - to really get going. I'm hoping I can offer some consistency to the job," Bailey said.
The HBDC opened in 2003 and was initially headed by veteran economic developer Jim Anderson. Then Anderson retired and Tim Siglin, who was executive director of the Kingsport Office of Small Business Development & Entrepreneurship at the time, agreed to serve as director on an interim basis.
In 2005 Dan Valenti was tapped to lead the HBDC. But last year, he too left the facility when his wife, a physician, relocated to another area. The HBDC began searching for a replacement.
Meanwhile, East Tennessee State University was looking for someone to head its Tennessee Small Business Development Center in Kingsport. That office essentially offers free counseling to business owners and entrepreneurs in the community.
The TSBDC and HBDC decided to partner to fill both their vacancies, pooling their resources to offer a larger compensation package, including benefits.
According to the arrangement, Bailey is a full-time employee of ETSU, contracted to work as director of the incubator. He will also serve as counselor for the Tennessee Small Business Development Center, and be available to advise area small business owners and entrepreneurs on marketing and management issues.
"I wear two hats basically. I'm a counselor for TSBDC and I'm incubator director, assigned by ETSU to work for this nonprofit (HBDC)," Bailey said. "I feel like I come with the experience that this job needs."
Bailey, 57, grew up in Chattanooga and has lived in various parts of East Tennessee all his life. For the past 26 years, he and his wife, Diane, have lived in Jonesborough, where they raised their two sons.
Before joining the incubator last month, Bailey worked for more than 10 years as associate professor of business management and marketing and as lead professor of management for the adult education program at Virginia Intermont College in Bristol.
Before that he was director of marketing at Tusculum College in Greeneville and taught evening marketing management classes.
Prior to entering the academic world, Bailey worked in industrial sales and marketing for 20 years. For eight of those years, he operated his own small business on the side, supplying Civil War enthusiasts with uniforms and other gear and equipment for reenactments.
He entered college later in life and earned a bachelor's degree in business management from Tusculum College at age 42. He then earned a master's degree in business management from Tusculum, and started his academic career.
"I became a college professor with this experience level that I could apply in the classroom," Bailey said.
For the past 10 years, Bailey has researched entrepreneurship in Appalachia - an extension of his lifelong love of the Appalachian culture and old-time music. He plays guitar and mandolin, but his favorite instrument is the fiddle.
"It's tradition. Growing up in Appalachia - our culture has always interested me," Bailey said.
He said the Appalachian economy is leaning more and more on its small businesses and entrepreneurs. As many as 90 percent of today's new start-up businesses are small - consisting of just one or two people initially, he said.
"My interest for years has been, how can you make a living and stay in Appalachia? The chances of another Tennessee Eastman coming here and flopping down over at Phipps Bend (Industrial Park) are not real great unfortunately. So as a result, we're not going to be able to depend so much on big manufacturing as a source of income anymore. We're going to have to look to small business," Bailey said. "That's where I'm coming from."
Since starting his new duties, Bailey has been learning the names and faces of business owners and employees at the HBDC. The incubator is designed to help grow companies in the Kingsport area, and currently houses seven businesses employing 21 people.
Bailey said adding more tenants will be a top priority on his agenda.
"The first goal is to fill this place up with qualified people who understand what business incubation is all about," Bailey said.
In incubation, businesses ideally spend up to three years at a designated facility, receiving office space at low rent, plus technical support and counseling they may not get outside the incubator.
The HBDC includes 13,000 square feet, with offices measuring 400 square feet each.
Bailey said he hopes to eventually build an addition and include spaces designed for different uses, including smaller offices for smaller operations, and even space for light manufacturing, as well as a multi-purpose room that could be used for community courses and workshops.
He also plans to establish a satellite office at the back of Office Depot, and will be available to meet with business owners and entrepreneurs free of charge from 1 to 3 p.m. each Wednesday.
Bailey also has a satellite office in Rogersville, in the US Bank building on Main Street, where he meets with businesses from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursday of each month.
And he hopes to work with businesses in the Sneedville area. "I'm reaching out," he said.
Bailey said he's also hoping to spread the word about the incubator's affiliate program, which gives home-based business owners an opportunity to rent office time, with access to a conference room and equipment. Affiliate members can also use the HBDC address to receive mail.
Bailey said he wants folks in the region to know what the HBDC has to offer.
"This place has lots of potential - it's just really scratched the surface," he said.
For more information about the HBDC, visit www.holstonbusinesscenter.com, or contact Bailey at email@example.com or (423) 578-6235. The incubator is located at 2005 Venture Park, on the campus of Holston Army Ammunition Plant.
For more information about the TSBDC, visit www.tsbdc.org.