Region should speak with one voice

Robert Houk • Jul 15, 2018 at 6:00 AM

Andy Dietrich serves as board chairman of the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce. The Kingsport native is vice president and co-owner of Champion Chevrolet Cadillac in Johnson City, which has been ranked the top sales volume Chevrolet dealership in Tennessee.

Dietrich, who lives in Jonesborough, earned a major in business management from Elon University in North Carolina. He has served as board chairman of CASA for Kids Inc. in Hawkins and Sullivan counties, and is currently a member of Washington County's Ballad Health Board.

1. What does regional cooperation mean to you?

It first means that local businesses, companies, banks, health systems and college/universities rally around the topic of regionalism and start getting a plan of action put together. Some great examples of this so far have been Bank of Tennessee, East Tennessee State University, Milligan College, Ballad Health, Bristol Motor Speedway, Champion Chevrolet, local Chambers of Commerce and Eastman have all come forward to support regionalism.

Next we will start inviting other key local business leaders and then local government officials.

2. How do you put that into action in light of the competitive world of economic development?

We can market the characteristics that make each city and county unique in one package. This will be a big selling point because our region can offer something for everyone. We can brand ourselves with a new name. There will be one website and one person/group that a company or individual can contact to learn more about relocating to our great region.

3. Is having two distinct metropolitan statistical areas for our region a help or hindrance when it comes to regionalism and economic development?

We need to get our region back to one MSA. Our economic data will be combined and it will help us become a bigger player in the outside world.

Going to one MSA and rebranding/marketing our region under a new entity will not change or consolidate any of our cities, counties or local governments.

4. How do the local chambers of commerce and economic development organizations keep the lines of communication open?

The Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City Chamber chairs and CEOs have been meeting almost every month this year to discuss the topic of regionalism. The last two to three years our Chambers have worked together on the Ballad merger and other activities that would benefit our region and Chamber memberships.

Over the last two to three months we have been inviting more people and our local economic development arms to the table. We are taking baby steps so that we can gather as much info as we can and study it.

5. What is the one thing you think could be a game changer for our region?

There are actually two things that could be game changers. The first would be to go from two MSAs to one. The second would be for our local community leaders within Ballad’s footprint to come together and support a regional plan that calls for us to work together.

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