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Kingsport Chamber announces new hire, new position and two promotions

Kingsport Chamber of Commerce • May 17, 2018 at 10:08 AM

KINGSPORT —  The Kingsport Chamber is excited to announce four new staff position changes. Lora Barnett has taken the position of executive director of workforce development and government relations. Nicole Austin will now serve in the position of membership engagement director.

Vanessa Bennett has been promoted to executive director of operations and leadership programs, and Lindsay Powers has been promoted to membership and events director.


Lora Barnett, a native of Bristol, Tn., is the Kingsport Chamber’s new executive director of workforce development and government relations. She oversees all government relations events, serves on the Kingsport Chamber’s legislative affairs committee and distributes information during elections about all candidates. Barnett is also involved in the TN/VA Scholars program and other workforce development initiatives.

Barnett comes with previous experience with the Kingsport Chamber through fundraising for the Kingsport Chamber’s Annual Dinner and served on the Kingsport Chamber’s legislative affairs committee before her current role. Previously, she was a paralegal and court administrator for several attorneys and a judge in the Criminal and Chancery Court for 15 years. She received a bachelor of science degree in political science while minoring in economics from East Tennessee State University.

Barnett has served on several boards and been involved with several non-profit agencies throughout the years. She was recently appointed to the neighborhood commission for the city of Kingsport. She is also currently serving as a member of the Leadership Team with United We Read under the umbrella of United Way of Greater Kingsport, member of Junior League of Kingsport, council member of Leadership Kingsport, member of Women’s Symphony, and serving on the boards of Ross N Robinson Middle School Band Parents Association as well as the Dobyns-Bennett Band Boosters.

Barnett is married to Phillip and has two children, Nikolas, 14, and Mason, 12.

Barnett can be contacted at (423) 392-8835 or [email protected]


Nicole Austin, a native of Clintwood, Va., now serves as membership engagement director. She will manage the Kingsport Chamber’s member renewal program and build relationships with members to get them more involved with the organization and community. Previous to her new position, she served as the executive director of workforce development and government relations for 14 years. Austin has been employed by the Kingsport Chamber since 2003.

In 2010, Austin graduated from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for Organizational Management, a four-year premier nonprofit professional development program for nonprofit professionals, fostering individual growth through interactive learning and networking opportunities. She is a 2006 graduate of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce Executives Institute and was an instructor for the program for many years.

Austin is a 2003 recipient of The Business Journal of the Tri- Cities TN/VA 40 Under Forty Award given to forty rising business leaders under the age of forty. In 2005, she was selected to participate in the statewide Generation TN leadership conference for emerging leaders in their 20s & 30s. Austin is a graduate of the 2006 Leadership Kingsport class and the 2003 Lead Bristol class.

In 2014, she was appointed by Governor Haslam to the State Workforce Development Board. Austin has served on various other boards and councils including: Expect More Achieve More State Advisory Council; SCORE (State Collaborative on Reforming Education) Coalition; TN Scholars State Board, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce Education & Workforce Development Council; Business for TN Prosperity executive team; Dobyns-Bennett Career and Technical Education Advisory Council, Indian Path Medical Center Government Relations Council; United Way of Greater Kingsport Leadership Development team, Tennesseans for Quality Early Childhood Education Tri-Cities Council and the First Presbyterian Children’s Center Board.

Her greatest accomplishment is being a mom to her children Brayden, Reagan and Grayson. She resides in Kingsport with her husband, Ray, and their three children.

Austin can be contacted at [email protected]


Vanessa Bennett, a native of Unicoi, Tn., is the executive director of operations and Kingsport leadership programs. As the organization’s executive director of operations, a position where she works closely with the management team to develop and implement organizational strategies, policies and practices. In addition, Bennett helps to manage the organization’s $4.2 million budget, plans logistics for many Kingsport Chamber events and serves as a primary liaison between the Kingsport Chamber leadership and key business leaders. Bennett also provides administrative support for the Kingsport Industrial Development Board.

Bennett was appointed to serve as the director of Kingsport leadership programs in 2014. These programs include Leadership Kingsport and S.H.O.U.T.!® Youth Leadership.

In addition to her work with the Kingsport Chamber, Bennett has provided volunteer leadership as the Kingsport Chamber’s campaign chair for the United Way of Greater Kingsport, these efforts which increased the Kingsport Chamber’s contributions to the agency and continues to serve on numerous committees throughout the community. A graduate of both Leadership Kingsport and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce Executives Institute, Bennett will soon be graduating from the Institute for Organization Management, a four-year program with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Bennett also has served on the Board of Directors for the Rotary Club of Kingsport, the Regional Leadership Council and the Tennessee Association of Community Leaders (TACL). She was chosen as a 40 Under Forty Recipient in 2011 and for the “Power Woman” issue for the regional VIPSeen magazine March issue in 2016. Bennett is also a small business award judge for many communities across the country.

Bennett has two children, Makayla, 22, and Makenzy, 19, and a 2 two-year old grandson, Kyler.

Bennett can be contacted at (423) 392-8813 or [email protected]


Lindsay Powers, 24, grew up in Chilhowie, Va., and recently made the move to Kingsport. She is the director of membership and events at the Kingsport Chamber where she has worked for two years. During her time at the Kingsport Chamber, she has been promoted three times. She originally served as the RSVP coordinator for the Kingsport Chamber Annual Dinner as an intern, then came back to be the communications and events coordinator. After a year in that role, she was promoted to membership and events manager and now has recently been promoted to director of membership and events. She holds a B.A. in mass communications from Emory & Henry College.

Powers currently serves as vice president of PEAK – Kingsport Young Professionals (Professionals Engaged in Advancing Kingsport); member benefits coordinator for PRSA – Tri-Cities Chapter (Public Relations Society of America); and a communications committee member for the United Way of Greater Kingsport.

Powers is a recipient of The Business Journal’s Tri-Cities TN/VA Forty Under 40 Rising Young Business Professionals; a graduate of Tennessee Chamber of Commerce Executives institute; and a graduate of Insight KCS (Kingsport City Schools).

Powers has volunteered with Emory & Henry College, Relay for Life, United Way of Greater Kingsport, Kingsport Mack Riddle American Legion Independence Day Parade, Boys & Girls Club and the Spring Wing Fling.

Powers can be contacted at (423) 392-8805 or [email protected]


The Kingsport Chamber is composed of two non-profit organizations: the Kingsport Chamber Foundation (501(c)(3)) and Kingsport Chamber of Commerce (501(c)(6)).

The Kingsport Chamber Foundation manages, promotes, supports and assists a number of charitable, educational, environmental, leadership, quality of life and wellness programs that have a tremendous impact on the Kingsport community.

Programs of the Kingsport Chamber Foundation include: Communications & Development; Downtown Concert Series; Education & Workforce Development; Fun Fest; Healthy Kingsport; Keep Kingsport Beautiful; Kingsport Leadership Programs (Leadership Kingsport and S.H.O.U.T.!® Youth Leadership); Kingsport Office of Small Business Development & Entrepreneurship (KOSBE); Move to Kingsport; Santa Train; STREAMWORKS; Tennessee/Virginia Scholars; and Visit Kingsport.

The Kingsport Chamber of Commerce’s mission is to utilize resources and focus efforts on enhancing a strong and viable business environment for the Kingsport area.

Programs of the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce include: Communications & Development; Government Relations; and Membership. The Kingsport Chamber of Commerce has nearly 1,000 members.

For more information on the Kingsport Chamber, go to KingsportChamber.org or call (423) 392-8800. We’re social too; follow us on our Facebook page, Your Kingsport Chamber, and on our Twitter account, @kptchamber.

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