Over half fundraising goal pledged for WCEDC regional partnership

Zach Vance • Nov 17, 2016 at 10:39 PM

During the fundraising process, Mitch Miller, CEO of the Washington County Economic Development Council, said he met with and pitched a regionalization idea to as many as five potential private-sector partners per day in Northeast Tennessee.

Now that work is paying off.

During Thursday’s monthly Council meeting, Chris Marshall, campaign director of the financial effort to form the regional partnership, said investors have already pledged 71 percent of the $1.1 million-per-year campaign goal.

“It’s absolutely critical that you’re out there,” Miller said.

The new three-county economic regionalization partnership will be officially be called the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership, and will include officials and business leaders from Washington, Unicoi and Carter counties.

“For the most part, it's been very good as far as meetings go,” Miller said. “We think the support will be there, and we'll get to the goal that we're looking at, (which is) $1.1 million a year for the total of $5.5 million over a five-year period.”

Marshall said the campaign calendar is currently 62 percent completed, and it was on schedule to meet the fundraising goal. Currently, Marshall and Council leaders have met with 37 private-sector investors with 86 remaining.

“I'm not sure of the exact number we're meeting with on a regular basis, but we've had some days where it's been four or five private sector members that we've met and talked about the plan, the organizations, where we hope to be and just trying to get that support on their end,” Miller said.

The regionalization investors are currently categorized as either platinum, gold, silver or bronze investors.

Those classified as platinum donors include: Appalachian Community Credit Union, Carter County, City of Elizabethton, City of Johnson City, Eastman Credit Union, Johnson City Power Board, Mullican Flooring, Unicoi County Economic Development Board and Washington County.

Gold donors include: Ferguson Enterprises Inc., General Shale, LDA Engineering and Summers-Taylor Inc.

First Bank & Trust and the Town of Jonesborough were listed as silver-level investors, and SunTrust was a bronze-level investor.

Marshall also said 28 potential private-sector investors are in “decision mode” on whether to invest in the regional partnership.

“It’s been a great process, and we’ve got the leadership that we need, which is really critical,” Marshall said.

The Council is planning a “kickoff” celebration event on Jan. 26 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Millennium Centre.

“(The event) is really capping the success we've had as an organization to the point where we're really talking about the future, moving forward together (and) working as a true region,” Miller said.

Marshall said the fundraising process will likely stretch into February or March depending on when the goal is met.

Last month, Council attorney Steve Darden said the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership filed its 501(c)(6) federal tax designation application to become an official business league, similar to that of a Chamber of Commerce.

Miller said it would likely be in mid-to-late December before the Internal Revenue Service responds to the application.

“Once we get that back, you’ll really start to see everything from a structural standpoint kind of fall in place,” Miller said.

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

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