NETWORKS chief: 2019 was slow on the jobs front

Hank Hayes • Jan 13, 2020 at 8:30 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Economic development traffic has been slow, NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership CEO Clay Walker told the organization’s board at its January meeting.

“Traffic isn’t good right now across the state,” Walker said. “It might be another tough year (in 2020).”

It was particularly slow on the jobs front in 2019, Walker noted.

NETWORKS, in its annual report, did not list a number of jobs created in 2019.

The organization instead cited a number of more than 3,000 new jobs announced over the past five years with private capital investment of nearly $651 million and just shy of $18 million in grants collected for site development.

Other highlights recorded in the report included NETWORKS entering into a service contract with the Hawkins County Industrial Development board to market the Phipps Bend Industrial Park in 2015; the NETWORKS community profile video receiving more than 800,000 views and winning an award in 2017; and continued success of its Red Carpet Tour with site consultants.

The annual report’s theme is “The Big Picture.”

“Economic development to me, you hear all these definitions, is about improving the quality of life,” Walker, who is in his sixth year with NETWORKS, said. “We have been big-picture thinking.”

Two particular highlights during 2019, the report pointed out, were the country music documentary aired on PBS that featured Bristol’s role in the creation of country music and the MATE ROV competition, which brought more than 900 students to Northeast Tennessee.

The value of assets marketed by NETWORKS — mainly land for economic development — increased from $6.9 million to $7.5 million.

Walker also expressed disappointment in the local media coverage of two Gold Awards given to NETWORKS and Bristol Tennessee Essential Services by the International Economic Development Council.

“We need to work together to change the narrative,” Walker told the board. “Media is part of our community, too, and we need to work on our media relations trying to get them to see the impact they have.”

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