3-county economic partnership celebrates collaboration during baseball-themed luncheon

Zach Vance • Updated Aug 24, 2017 at 10:31 PM

With four bases positioned in a diamond around the Millennium Centre conference room and banners resembling an outfield draped on the walls, Thursday’s Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership luncheon had an obvious theme. 

The baseball decorations and “Field of Dreams” movie theme were more symbolic to the group’s “team effort” approach to economic endeavors than it was to entertain the guests. 

More than one year ago, local government officials and business leaders approved the structuring of an economic partnership that aimed to unite the economic abilities of Washington, Unicoi and Carter counties. 

Now, NeTREP CEO Mitch Miller said regional partners meet on a biweekly basis and share ideas about enhancing economic prosperity in the region. 

“It’s just sharing ideas. That’s what it’s about because they’re doing things in (Unicoi and Carter counties) that we can learn from and vice-versa. The more we communicate and collaborate, the more success you’re going to see,” Miller said.

“When you don’t talk and you’re not there as a team, you immediately look at the person beside you as a competitor. We got to break that mold. That’s the whole intention of this thing. I thought the baseball theme was a really good way to talk about the team environment because it takes nine people to win a ball game,” he said. 

“The more people we can bring to the table, to work as a team and talk about things we can do together, we stand to succeed hand over fist because a win for Unicoi County is a win for Johnson City. People will work there, live here, shop here, explore there and beyond. You could look at it a hundred different ways.” 

On Thursday, representatives from each of those counties stood on a base and discussed ongoing projects happening in their region, which NeTREP had either supported or played some role in. 

Jamie Rice began the speaking rotation by highlighting the early success of the Erwin’s Farmers Market, which opened Aug. 7.

Elizabethton Planning Director Jon Hartman dedicated his five minutes to promoting the recently formed Outdoor Task Force and expanded parking for the Blue Hole Falls swimming area in the Stoney Creek community of Carter County. 

Trek Bicycle Shop owner Chad Wolfe said the development of the Tannery Knobs Bike Park in downtown Johnson City, which is supposed to include investments from both the private and public sectors, is what NeTREP is all about. 

“Projects like this in a downtown environment, if that’s not what NeTREP is all about, I have no idea what else we’re doing because this entices the industries, it can open an industry and not have to pay a bazillion dollars to trick people into wanting to live in East Tennessee,” Wolfe said. 

Wolfe said the park’s extreme proximity to downtown Johnson City will make it invaluable, especially since other cities promote mountain bike parks that are located 30 or 40 minutes from town. 

The last speaker, Alicia Summers, NeTREP development director, updated the ongoing process of finding a corporate tenant to land in the Washington County Industrial Park, located directly off Highway 11E.  

“Weather permitting, we should be within the next 30 to 45 days complete with the grading of the full project, which will give us a 150,000-square-foot pad and a 500,000-square-foot pad,” Miller said. 

“Every other week, we’re having a prospect visit. Just this past week, the state delivered a great prospect that really liked the area, and we’re hoping to hear back from them soon. When you really look at the scale and the square feet, that’s a lot of jobs. When you get a company that will bring that kind of investment in, it’s in the hundreds of millions and you’re looking at anywhere from 600 to 1,000 jobs.”

Email Zach Vance at [email protected] Follow Zach Vance on Twitter at @ZachVanceJCP. Like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/ZachVanceJCP.



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