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NETWORKS CEO Clay Walker speaks on panel at 2017 Governor’s Conference 



BLOUNTVILLE, TN – NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership CEO Clay Walker was one of the speakers on a panel during a plenary session during the 2017 Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development on October 26. Walker joined Bryan Daniels, President and CEO of Blount Partnership, Mike Evans, Executive Director of Montgomery County Industrial Development Board, and Brad Maul, Target Market Specialist of TVA Economic Development. The session, titled “Selling Your Site”, was moderated by Allen Borden, Deputy Commissioner of Business and Community Development for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development. The conference was held in Gatlinburg. 

“This year’s Governor’s Conference was a great success. We had so many great speakers from all over Tennessee throughout the event giving their insight into the world of economic development,” TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe said. “I want to thank NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership and Clay Walker for their role in this year’s conference and for putting on a great session, Selling Your Site. NETWORKS and Clay Walker have been a part of the Governor’s Conference for three out of the last four years and I appreciate their partnership and support.” 

Walker’s past panel experiences at the annual conference have been on the topics of “Branding Your Community” (2014) and “Regionalism” (2016). He has also served as an instructor for the University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services “Marketing and Attraction” course as part of its Tennessee Certified Economic Developer curriculum. He also chairs the Tennessee Economic Partnership (TEP) which held a strategic planning retreat in Gatlinburg on the eve of the Governor’s Conference. 

“Clay’s participation in the plenary session at the Governor’s Conference only raises the profile of NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership, and strengthens the relationship between NETWORKS and TNECD,” NETWORKS Chairman Carolyn Ferrell said.  “Not everyone receives these opportunities, and our consistent involvement and inclusion at the Governor’s Conference demonstrates our role as a key partner with the state.” 

About 700 people attended the Governor’s Conference for Economic and Community Development. The session “Advancing Apprenticeships as a Workforce Strategy” featured Dr. Jeff McCord and Jeff Frazier of Northeast State Community College, discussing its apprenticeship program run out of the Regional Center for Advanced Manufacturing (RCAM) in Kingsport. 

“It’s always an honor to be asked to participate in the conference and to be in the company of the gentlemen who were a part of this panel was especially gratifying as I have so much respect for everyone with whom I shared the stage,” Walker said. “Having NETWORKS as a part of that panel, along with Jeff McCord and Jeff Frazier telling the RCAM apprenticeship story and the great representation from our region clearly made us a very visible part of the conference and reinforced our position as a valuable player for Team Tennessee.”


 BRISTOL, TN - Turtleson, Inc. announced today that it will relocate its headquarters and distribution center from North Carolina and Georgia to downtown Bristol, Tennessee.  This will result in around $1.5 million in investment from the company and 20 new jobs.  Turtleson will remodel and occupy 25,000 square feet on Shelby Street in Downtown Bristol. In addition to housing the headquarters and distribution center, the Shelby Street location will also be home to a custom embroidery facility that will serve Turtleson as well as other employers in the region and across the country.

“In Bristol, there exists a tradition of not only a dedication to producing goods of the highest possible quality, but also a sense of pride in every step of the process, from production, to distribution, to cultivating lasting customer relationships,” Mayor Jack Young said. “Turtleson has built its brand around unparalleled workmanship and a remarkable attention to detail. With the full scope of its operations coming together under one roof in Bristol, Tennessee, that commitment to these traditions is undeniable and we couldn’t be happier to welcome them home.”

For the past two decades, company co-founders Greg Oakley and Chet Sikorski have traveled the world to secure the best resources – fabrics, accent pieces, quality producers – to corral into the Turtleson brand which is known as the ultimate quality in fit and finish. Joined by President Andy Plate and Sales Manager Chris Warren, the team is built on trust, common interest, and dedication to true goals: the best goods, the best price, and no shortcuts.  For more information on Turtleson, please visit turtleson.com




ECD Week Day 4


Although announcements of new company locations garner most of the headlines and fanfare, about 80% of new job growth comes from existing business and industry.  In order to more effectively serve our existing industry base, we have created the FIRST program.  The program’s name represents our prioritizing of our outstanding corporate citizens – putting existing business and industry first – and is an acronym of the value system on which the program is built:  Focus, Innovation, Results, Synergy, Together.


Our Focus is on our customers, the existing industries throughout Sullivan County.  These corporate leaders continue to determine how the program evolves.  Participating in FIRST means that you have our attention and full support.


Our economic development team offers years of experience and a track record of coming up with innovative and creative solutions to complicated issues facing companies in today’s challenging market.  We deal with challenges in partnership with our industries and continually work toward perfecting our business climate.


Our work is measured by how well we help our companies.  Obviously, the goal of most existing industry programs is to have successful retention and expansion projects.  However, our success is ultimately judged by the value our initiatives bring to our area businesses.


In bringing our companies together and establishing a support system, programs after which FIRST is modeled have proven records of remarkable success.  The mitigating factor in these successes is the sharing of information and experiences, which provides participants with solutions and knowledge well beyond their own.


Perhaps the most significant common denominator of the FIRST acronym; all of the stakeholders in this program – companies, economic development and chamber of commerce professionals, educators, and city leaders – are dependent upon each other.  The FIRST program brings these people together in an environment that fosters open, candid dialogue so that we can continue to make our community the best place to do business.

Let us be the first to work for you!

In order for us to honor our pledge of putting existing industries first, we need you to do one thing for us:  participate!  Please attend FIRST meetings whenever possible and pick up the phone or drop us an email to let us know how we can be of service to you.  The foundation of this program is that we are here to serve you, not the reverse, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us as we continue to prove that we are “Where Tennessee Begins Its Business Day!”


FIRST is a free program for existing industries in Sullivan County.  For more information, please contact Brian Ritz at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

If you represent a Hawkins County existing industry, please contact Rebecca Baker about the REAP program at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  

ECD Week Day 3

Two Words to Our Volunteer Team Members:  Thank You

As part of Economic Development Week, NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership would like to thank the many volunteers for their invaluable service to our communities and region.  One of the best aspects of an economic development career is that it enables you to work closely with community leadership.  We rely on this leadership more than you might know.

Our Board of Directors is the group with whom we work most closely.  Having a board with representation from the public sector along with various private business sectors gives us direction that takes many perspectives and considerations into account.  It gives us a holistic, scrutinizing strategic plan and scope of work.

We also work with the Sullivan County IDB, Bristol IDB, Kingsport EDB, and Hawkins County IDB.  The collective and individual relationships are of great value to us as economic developers and citizens.  Most importantly, they help ensure that well-thought-out, responsible decisions are made.

So, we say thank you to the men and women who help guide our efforts.  You receive no pay, very little thanks, and a whole heap of responsibility and demands on your time.  Please know that your participation is of great value and appreciated greatly.  Thank you for being such important members of our team!


Other Economic Development Week Posts - Who We Are & What We Do  •  Workforce

Our Community

Sullivan County, Tennessee is home to companies and attractions known around the world.  Browse our website to learn all the reasons you should join Eastman, Bell, Domtar, Teleperformance, Home Shopping Network, Bristol Motor Speedway, and many others by locating a facility in Sullivan County!


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  10368 Wallace Alley St., Suite 1, Kingsport, TN 37663
PO Box 747, Blountville, TN 37617

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