Lottie Ryans, Chair, Washington County Economic Development Council, presenting Ed Parker (right) and Bob Parker (left), owners of Johnson City Bedding, with a Milestone Achievement Award for 80 years of business in Johnson City. (Tony Duncan/Johnson City
Nineteen Washington County businesses were honored Thursday for their decades of contributions to the local economy.
To show appreciation to the businesses, which have a combined history of 275 years in the county, the Washington County Economic Development Council held a Milestone Achievement Awards luncheon and invited local leaders and state small business experts.
“We hear a lot about new businesses coming to town, but the existing businesses are such an important part of our economy,” WCEDC CEO Mitch Miller said after the awards ceremony. “They’re a big part of our tax base, so we wanted to take the opportunity to show some support for them.”
As the invited business leaders dined, politicians commended them for weathering the peaks and troughs of continued commerce.
“All too much, you see us chasing outside retail and working with new businesses,” Johnson City Mayor Ralph Van Brocklin said. “That is important, but to our existing businesses, I’d like to indicate that I understand your importance, and I sincerely appreciate what each of you has done over the years.”
Representatives from the state’s Department of Economic and Community Development spoke to the group.
The state partners with foreign facilitators in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the European Union, Mexico and China to help connect small businesses with trade partners looking to purchase their products.
The Tennessee ECD provides businesses with the education and statistics they need to analyze foreign markets and prepare to export to them, TNTrade program Director Hayley Hovious told them.
“Our goal is to make it easy,” she said. “We do that through our education and services we offer.”
Some of the businesses recognized Thursday, like Alo Tennessee, with five years, or Depot Street Brewing Co., with 10, were spring chickens compared to those with more than 30 years of existence.
The Johnson City Bedding Co. won the day, however, with 80 years of service to the community.
The mattress, box springs and bedding accessories manufacturer is still cranking out products from its West Market Street facility.
“It a huge honor,” company President Bob Parker said. “We’re just a family business with 35 employees, and it’s nice to see the council recognizing some of us.”
With many more worthy businesses in the county, Miller said he hopes to make the awards luncheon an annual event.
“We’re hoping to grow this every year,” he said. “We clearly didn’t recognize every business in the county here today, and that’s our eventual goal.”