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'Blue ribbon' panel created on regionalism

Robert Houk • Dec 11, 2018 at 9:30 PM

The mayors of Sullivan and Washington counties have appointed what they are calling a “blue ribbon committee on regional cooperation” to find common ground on economic growth, workforce development and tourism issues in Northeast Tennessee.

“We’ve put together a group that includes county commissioners, representatives from the chambers of commerce and city officials who all have a vested interest in regional cooperation,” Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said Tuesday. “We will establish smaller committees on identifiable issues involving economic development.”

Grandy said the first meeting of the panel, which is expected to be called in January, will focus on creating working groups to produce results by early summer.

“We are ready to create some action,” he said.

Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable said he and Grandy have set a tentative July deadline for the committee to reach its conclusions.

“Ultimately, everything is on the table,” Venable said. “Specifically, we know we want to drill down on entrepreneurial development, regional tourism marketing, existing business development and workforce development. These are all very important issues. I’m very excited about it.”  

Grandy and Venable said the committee’s creation is a product of a historic joint meeting of commissioners from Sullivan and Washington counties at the Tri-Cities Airport in October to talk about the aerospace park and economic cooperation in the region.

 “We are already doing some things now with workforce development and promoting outdoors tourism,” Grandy said. “We will be reaching out to others to help move these things forward.”

The two mayors will serve as co-chairmen of the committee, which includes Sullivan County Commissioners John Gardner and Mark Vance; Washington County Commissioners Jodi Jones and Phil Carriger and Johnson City Manager Pete Peterson.

Other committee members are Kingsport City Manager Jeff Fleming,  Bristol City Manager Bill Sorah, Johnson City Chamber CEO Gary Mabrey, Kingsport Chamber CEO Miles Burdine, Bristol Chamber CEO Beth Rhinehart, Networks Sullivan County Development Partnership CEO Clay Walker, Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership CEO Mitch Miller, AccelNow Director John Campbell and BrightRidge Public and Government Relations Director Tim Whaley.

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