BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s economic development team has been and will remain focused on jobs creation, helping existing business and industry expand and attracting new ones.
However, the NETWORKS — Sullivan Partnership also owns more than 400 acres of land, manages some of it for hay production and pasture and owns five or six rentable houses. And NETWORKS regularly sells land.
Those are some of the reasons NETWORKS, a joint effort of Sullivan County, Kingsport, Bristol, Tenn., and Bluff City, has expanded its Scorecard, which historically has measured jobs created, capital investment and current prospects.
The additional information is designed to measure NETWORKS performance and activities more completely.
Expanding the Scorecard
“We’re kind of looking at the way we do things, how we report things to the community,” NETWORKS Chief Executive Officer Richard Venable said of the revamped Scorecard that began appearing alongside the traditional ones at the October and December meetings.
“This is a gauge for the activities of the staff,” Venable said. “The bottom line will always be jobs and investments.”
Jack Lawson, director of economic development, handles mostly existing businesses, while Betty Martin, director of business development, handles mostly new businesses.
Jeanette Scalf is director of research and communications, while Marsha Fandal is the administration assistant.
According to the most recent traditional Scorecard, as of Nov. 30, NETWORKS was involved in projects that resulted in the the creation of 336 new jobs and capital investment of $67.7 million, compared to goals of 670 new employees and $45 million in capital investment.
That broke down to $41 million and 148 jobs from new businesses and industries and $26.7 million and 218 jobs from existing businesses and industries.
Among those are 15 jobs and at least $20 million in capital investment by Leclerc Foods, which located in the Northeast Tennessee Business Park in the old Cartamundi building. Eventually, that Canada-based company plans to have $30 million to $35 million in capital investment and a total of 80 to 100 employees.
In comparison, the new Performance Scorecard lists a series of activities with weighted and actual goals, tracking activities as well as results.
Each item is weighted in percentages of importance from 15 percent down to 5 percent, although things like job creation and capital investment can exceed 100 percent and thus put the weighted overall score to more than 100 percent.
Venable said future changes in the scorecard likely will come in the weighted percentages of the components of the card, not a wholesale change in what is measured.
“Different members of our board see different emphasis on different places,” Venable said. “It will be tweaked over the years.”
Keith Wilson, chairman of the NETWORKS board and publisher of the Kingsport Times-News, said at the December meeting that NETWORKS likely will not change the Scorecard until next year and that he already has referred suggestions for changes to 2010 Chairman-elect Jeff Byrd, general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway.
The new Scorecard includes, where available, data from the past three years, which Wilson said is an acknowledgement that economic development is a process and occurs over the longer term.
“We’re not including everything that happened in the county. We’re including what NETWORKS was involved with,” Wilson said.
The overall weighted score through Nov. 30, the most recent Scorecard released, is 94.57 percent compared to the raw score of 91.8 percent. The next scorecards will come out at the February NETWORKS meeting.
Give us results
For instance, capital investment from new businesses at $41 million was 410 percent of the $10 million goal, meaning that the weighted achievement was 30.75 percent since that component makes up 7.5 percent of a 100 percent score.
That compared $11.8 million in 2005, $5.7 million in 2006 and $9.8 million in 2007, making for a three-year average of 9.1 million.
Capital investment from existing businesses was $26.7 million, less than the goal of $35 million and thus 5.72 percent out of the weight of 7.5 percent.
That compares to $38.75 million in 2005, $29.25 million in 2006 and $26.4 million in 2007, resulting in a three-year average of $31.4 million.
Other items on the list are number of active prospects for which proposals or assistance was provided, 50 out of a goal of 60; existing business expansion, 15 out of a goal of 28; and new businesses located and existing business expansion, 12 of a goal of 19; jobs created by new businesses, 148 of 185.
Other items are jobs created by existing businesses, 218 of 485; acres of land sold, 17 of a goal of 30; land sales dollar amount $500,000 out of a goal of $1 million; visits to existing businesses, 36 of a goal of 48; communications and marketing activities, 44 of a goal of 46; and three-star certification at the Benchmark III level, goal met.
Focus on farming, rental property and automotive?
Venable said most every activity of NETWORKS goes back to its core measurements, but he said those don’t always give a complete picture of what the staff is doing.
For instance, he said NETWORKS has homes that were bought as part of Partnership Park II near Vance Tank Road and adjoining Bristol Metals.
The owner-occupied dwellings are not becoming vacant as the owners leave and will become rental properties, at least for the time being.
Other land owned there and elsewhere by NETWORKS is used for farming.
“It’s quite an asset from hay and pasture,” Venable said.
However, NETWORKS officials are by no means becoming full-time farmers. They are working on niche markets and specific industries, including a renewed emphasis on automotive industries.
Venable said that is driven on the surface by Volkswagen’s decision to spend $1 billion on a new production facility in Chattanooga, scheduled to open in 2011.
However, Venable said other opportunities exist with the General Motors former Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., the Nissan operation and headquarters near Nashville, a BMW plant in South Carolina, a Toyota plant in Kentucky and a Ford plant in Kentucky.
For the future, Venable predicted that investment in the community will become a strong focus. Jobs are still important, but he said those investments in buildings and equipment also provide local jobs, albeit temporary ones.
As an example, he cited LeClerc , which is making granola bars in its second U.S. location, near Tri-Cities Regional Airport.
Venable said the company likely will surpass $35 million at the end of three years in addition to the 100 jobs it is to create directly.
He said he and his staff put such projects through a cost-benefit analysis, and that even businesses with relatively few employees help keep the region’s economic engine going, especially in the start-up phase.
“Even if they’re not based out of here, they come in and hire local labor,” Venable said of industries that locate or expand to the Tri-Cities.