Chamber to find 'new energy' with its move

Robert Houk • Nov 30, 2019 at 10:00 PM

Next year will mark a major transition for the Johnson City Chamber of Commerce.

The 104-year-old business organization will be moving from its long-time offices at 603 E. Market St. to 7,500 square feet of leased space in the redeveloped historic Model Mill on West Walnut Street. Along with the relocation, the chamber will expand its programming and services to its 750 members. 

Bob Cantler, the chamber’s president and CEO, said he expects to be in the new offices by June. He said the 2020 move offers many new opportunities for the chamber to evolve.

He said the chamber hopes to become an even more integral part of the community’s business ecosystem.

“I think it will better position us in the community,” Cantler said. “We will be closer to an active downtown, overlooking Founders Park. We will be a link to East Tennessee State University, and an anchor in the redevelopment of West Walnut Street. It will give us new energy.”

Cantler said the new location “reflects the quality of our community,” and tells new businesses and tourists that Johnson City and Washington County are dedicated to preserving its history while looking to the future.

“The new location will give us more opportunity for programming for education, better government relations and to offer networking for businesses,” Cantler said. “The chamber will be a catalyst to help our community and businesses to grow.”

With the move, Cantler said the chamber will focus on more programs aimed at business development and attracting talent to the area. That includes enticing young professionals to the region, aiding “remote workers” to find the resources they need and helping entrepreneurs start their businesses.

“We want to be the front door for businesses to connect with the resources they need,” Cantler said.

All nine of the chamber’s employees will be moving to the Model Mill, including the four who work in the Convention and Visitors Bureau. Cantler said a lot of the chamber’s key documents and files are being digitalized for the move. 

That includes photographs of all of the chamber board’s chairpeople, dating back more than a century to the first  — Amzi Smith. 

“My goal is to not take as much with us,” Cantler said. “This is a fresh start.”

The chamber has not decided what it will do with its current headquarters, which has served the organization since it was built in 1978. Cantler said the chamber may sell the property, and is in “very preliminary talks” with the city of Johnson City about purchasing the building.

In the meantime, the chamber is still raising funds for its relocation. Cantler said an announcement will be made soon to acknowledge and thank the corporate sponsors who have underwritten the costs of moving to its new offices and board/conference room.

The conference room will be used to recruit new businesses and for educational workshops. It will also be available to other organizations for community events.

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