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Fund established to support businesses affected by COVID-19 crisis in NE Tennessee, SW Virginia

Contributed To The Press • Apr 17, 2020 at 10:41 AM

The following is a news release from RegionAHEAD (Appalachian Highlands Economic Aid Directory):

Regional business organizations and companies have united to support local businesses severely impacted by the COVID Crisis. The group has established the Local Business Recovery Fund that will share monies received through a fundraising effort with grants to small businesses that are found to be in the greatest need.

“Organizations across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia are doing what they can in a united effort to help save jobs and local businesses in the region,” explains Andy Dietrich who helped organize the fund. “For local businesses that may not qualify for government loans, we want to provide another option to help them get through the crisis and hopefully survive.”

“This is a great testament to the effort to bring a regional focus to our area,” says Ken Heath, Executive Director of the Town of Marion, VA’s community development organization.

Grants are intended for local businesses involved in arts, entertainment or recreation, accommodation and food services, retail trade, or the manufacturing sectors. Businesses can apply for the grants by going to RegionAHEAD.com and submit their applications. An allocation committee made up of regional economic development representatives, educators, healthcare professionals, a banker and a Certified Public

Accountant will review the applications and disburse the funds as quickly as funding and

applications can be received through the effort.

“The amount that we will be able to give to small businesses relies on how much consumers and other businesses are willing to give,” say Beth Rhinehart, President and CEO of the Bristol Tennessee-Virginia Chamber of Commerce. “We know that local businesses here have always supported key fundraising charities, such as the Niswonger Children’s Radiothon or Speedway Children’s Charities,” says Claudia Byrd, Director of the Bristol Chapter. “Many of those great donors are now in a crisis at no fault of their own, and I hope consumers and other businesses who have not been impacted so deeply will donate enthusiastically for this important cause.”

Any donor can learn more about the fund and can donate online at RegionAHEAD.com. Those wishing to donate by check can do so by submitting to the Local Business Recovery Fund, 603 East Market Street, Johnson City, Tennessee 37601. “The support of our local media outlets has been extraordinary and appreciated in support of this effort,” says Mitch Miller, Executive Director of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership. “Every media company that we have contacted has wanted to play a role in this important undertaking,” explains Clay Walker, CEO of NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership.

“Greene County businesses are hurting,” explains Jeff Taylor, President and CEO of the Greene County Partnership in Tennessee. “Citizens and businesses who are less affected by the COVID crisis can do something important for these hurting businesses across the region now with their donations.”

Local businesses and sole proprietorships that are locally operated are eligible to apply for a grant in Carter, Greene, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington Counties in Tennessee and Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington and Wise Counties along with the independent cities of Bristol and Norton in Virginia.

“We hope that this crisis will end very soon so that we can begin the recovery,” says Bob Cantler, President and CEO of the Johnson City, Jonesborough, Washington County Chamber of Commerce. “Till then, and long after, your donations can help to preserve jobs tied to local businesses that we know and love.”

Miles Burdine, President and CEO of the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce sums it up. “The government loans can’t serve all of the needs of small businesses in our region. We want to help businesses across the region that might fall through the cracks of government loans. Our focus is on not just the Tri-Cities but the region to help businesses in smaller rural counties as well as our cities.”

Learn more about the fundraising effort at RegionAHEAD.com.

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