KINGSPORT - Forbes magazine is helping spread the word: If you want to do business in a town that won't break your bank, Kingsport should be on your short list of locations.
Kingsport was chosen by Forbes as the third most attractive city in the nation for cost of doing business. Greensboro, N.C., and Wilmington, N.C., respectively took the top two spots in the business cost category. The rankings factored in labor costs, energy, office space costs and taxes.
The rankings were published in Forbes' annual "Best Places" issue, dated April 23.
"The ranking by Forbes further validates what we have known to be true for some time. Simply stated: Kingsport is a great place to do business," said Miles Burdine, executive vice president and CEO of the Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce.
Marty McLean can vouch for that. He moved his business here from Erwin in early 2004 into a 30,000-square-foot facility on Eastern Star Road. Called Integra-Seal, the business manufactures tamper-evident closures for the dairy, juice and bottled water markets, and employs about 25 people.
"We looked around at quite a few areas before we made the decision to move here," McLean said.
He said local economic development officials made the move more enticing - Integra-Seal was the first company to participate in a jobs incentive program which offered funds to businesses moving into Sullivan County. Through the program, McLean received $12,500 from the Sullivan County Industrial Development Board to help get his business off the ground at its new location.
But McLean said the incentive wasn't the only reason for his move here.
"One of the real key issues was the availability of relatively well-educated people to work in my plant at reasonable costs," he said.
And McLean was impressed by the cooperation shown between city and county officials. For instance, he said, Kingsport tied his facility into its sewer system, even though the plant is outside the city limits.
"That's something that I haven't seen in a whole lot of places," McLean said.
Meanwhile the company gets its energy from the Tennessee Valley Authority through the Johnson City Power Board. McLean said the plant is a high user of energy, and "my energy costs are about half what they are in New York state and in California," he said.
The region's central proximity is another plus, McLean said. And his plant's location near two major interstates is a major benefit, allowing the company to respond quickly to customer orders.
"That's an advantage in terms of my cost of doing business," he said. "This is a great place."
Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips noted the Forbes ranking compared Kingsport and its metropolitan area with much larger cities.
"Fortunately or unfortunately, we're compared to the Cincinnatis, the Daytona Beaches, the Miamis, the big cities. And to be ranked Number 3 in this category is absolutely important to this community and should enable us to tell our story better to people who live in these other cities in order to bring economic development here," Phillips said.