Grandy and Venable continue push for regional cooperation

J. H. Osborne • Dec 12, 2018 at 8:14 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable and Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy have appointed the “Blue Ribbon Committee on Regional Cooperation” to consider potential regional economic development strategies, the two announced in a joint press release issued Tuesday afternoon.

“Ultimately, everything is on the table,” Venable said in the press release. “Specifically, we know we want to drill down on entrepreneurial development, regional tourism marketing, existing business development and workforce development. Mayor Grandy and I will co-chair the committee, and we are looking for a wide variety of input on how we can work together to strengthen the future of our region.”

In October, Venable and Gandy orchestrated a joint meeting of the Washington County and Sullivan County commissions.

Venable said community leaders who’ve agreed to serve as committee members include:

Sullivan County Commissioners John Gardner and Mark Vance; Washington County Commissioners Phil Carriger and Jodi Jones; Johnson City Manager Pete Peterson; Kingsport City Manager Jeff Fleming; Bristol City Manager Bill Sorah; Johnson City Chamber of Commerce CEO Gary Mabrey; Kingsport Chamber of Commerce CEO Miles Burdine; Bristol Chamber of Commerce CEO Beth Rhinehart; NETWORKS Sullivan County Economic Development Partnership CEO Clay Walker; NETREP CEO Mitch Miller; AccelNow Director John Campbell, a former city manager of Johnson City and Kingsport, as well as a former CEO of NETWORKS; and BrightRidge Public & Government Relations Director Tim Whaley (who distributed the press release to local media outlets).

Venable said he and Grandy plan for creation of advisory subcommittees, each with a particular focus area that can be pursued on a regional basis.

“We know the days of chasing smokestacks are declining,” Grandy said in the press release. “And we know our communities are stronger together. But we must forge ahead to develop the businesses already located here as well as recruiting new entrepreneurs who desire a top-notch quality of life at a much lower cost than found in the typical technology hotspots.”

“We must do all we can to position our region to compete and succeed in the highly technological future,” Venable said.

Venable said his and Grandy’s vision is for the committee itself to meet only for a limited time, possibly six months, rather than become a permanent fixture.

The press release states both mayors agree the committee should work quickly to develop strategies, with a tentative deadline of July 2019. Its subcommittees would then continue and keep regionalism in the forefront, each with its own special focus, Venable said.

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