Johnson City’s population was less than 40,000 residents when the local Chamber of Commerce opened its current East Market Street headquarters in 1978. Today, our city is home to roughly 67,000 people. Our population has grown more diverse, our downtown has been revitalized, and our business community has taken on a whole new flavor.
When we look at developments in the retail, banking, higher education and in particular heath care, we cannot imagine that anyone in 1978 really could have foreseen the Johnson City of 2018.
To help continue that growth, a vibrant, progressive, well-equipped Chamber of Commerce is necessary. For a decade now, the Chamber has been looking for a new home. In 2008, the organization launched a fundraising campaign to relocate and bought the historic Model Mill on West Walnut Street with intentions of renovating into its new headquarters.
But that plan proved more costly than anticipated, and the old mill languished as a giant eyesore for the better part of a decade. The Chamber’s efforts to unload the property had roadblocks until Summers-Taylor owners Rab and Grant Summers stepped in and bought the property for a new corporate headquarters.
So where will the Chamber land? As Senior Reporter Robert Houk reported in Monday’s edition, the Chamber has plans for a new 10,000-square-foot facility with enough office and meeting space to accommodate the growing organization. Chamber President Gary Mabrey told Houk the new building will offer the technology needed in today’s business world.
Once the new location is announced, the Chamber will launch a $2 million new capital fundraising campaign.
We agree that the Chamber needs such a facility, but it needed it a decade ago. It’s time the Chamber got serious about the project and made good on the promises it made to donors in round one.
Chamber officials hope to be in the new headquarters by late 2019. We urge Chamber officials to make that a reality.