Created by the International Economic Development Council in 2016, the goal of Economic Development Week (EDW) is to increase awareness for local programs that attract jobs, advance career development opportunities, and increase the quality of life in communities everywhere.
Over the next few days, we’ll be sharing information about different facets of economic development. First up, let’s learn about what we do here at NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership.
NETWORKS is the economic development organization (EDO) that represents Sullivan County, its cities of Bluff City, Bristol, and Kingsport, and Hawkins County’s Phipps Bend Industrial Park. When you break it down, our name is an acronym for Northeast Tennessee Works. We have a small but mighty team of five with expertise in project management, industry recruitment, marketing, workforce development, management, event planning, and existing industry management.
Our main focuses are the recruitment of new industry and retention (and growth) of existing industry. We do this in a multitude of ways – lead generation from targeted trade shows and industry conferences, connecting prospects and existing industry with funding sources, submitting RFPs for projects, and arranging consultant visits to name a few – and we work with many different partners, including local municipalities, local utilities, AEP, TVA, and TNECD.
We'll be back tomorrow with more information, but in the meantime, be sure to check out our strategic plan, 2018 Annual Report, and our community video (linked below).
Regionalism… what is it? We hear the word so frequently that it can lose its meaning. Webster defines regionalism as (a) consciousness of and loyalty to a distinct region with a homogenous population and (b) development of a political or social system based on one or more such areas. In our office, we define regionalism as “a collaborative culture that benefits us all.” We’re firm believers that with regional growth, we don’t get a smaller piece of the pie, the pie gets bigger.
Most folks are aware of our partnership with Hawkins County. Here are a few of the examples of how we work regionally:
Northeast Tennessee Red Carpet Tour – The NETN Red Carpet Tour is a 2 ½ day fam tour, where we roll out the red carpet for site location consultants. (If you’re new to the economic development world, site location consultants connect companies and communities; it’s crucial for them to know everything that a community has to offer!) We visit Eastman, tour the RCAM and discuss its education system, share information on infrastructure and utilities, tour Aerospace Park, host a Songwriter’s Night with a Grammy-Award winning songwriter at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, and wrap things up with a VIP experience at the iconic night race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
This event has received an award from the International Economic Development Council.
Tri-Cities Quality of Life Video – The Tri-Cities Quality of Life video was launched in May 2018 and was intended to be a gift to the region. Following the success of the award-winning NETWORKS Community Video, this video focuses strictly on how incredible the quality of life is in our region. All three Tri-Cities communities receive equal representation, with famous landmarks from surrounding Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia communities sprinkled in, as well.
If you are interested in having the NETWORKS logo bookends replaced with your company logo, please contact us for the licensing agreement.
Composites Coalition Partnership – We are partnering with Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley to co-host a Composites Coalition quarterly meeting on Wednesday, May 15, at RCAM. As the composites industry continues to grow in Tennessee, we want to ensure that our existing composites related companies have the support they need to thrive and that our community is positioned correctly to attract other composites companies.
Support of other EDOs – We are proud to support the work of other economic development organizations, including our friends at NeTREP. NeTREP has increased its focus on Outdoor Development and Talent Recruitment. Our Director of Marketing, Dana Glenn, serves on the Outdoor Task Force Steering Committee, as well as the Meet the Mountains festival planning committee. Our team also participates in Talent Connect – a fam tour for students that aims to connect college students with career opportunities in Northeast Tennessee.
Recently, our team has become increasingly involved with STREAMWORKS, a regional educational program that delivers enhanced opportunities for K-12 students to participate in project-based programs that focus on STEM skills, inspire innovation, and foster well-rounded life capabilities. We have sponsored Twenty Under 20 and a regional MATE competition, and will also sponsor the International MATE competition June 20-22. Clay sits on the organization’s board and also had the opportunity to present the marketing award at the regional MATE.
Although it's only one piece of what economic developers do, many assume that recruitment is the bulk of our work. Here are some of the initiatives that we use to share the message that we are Where Tennessee Begins Its Business Day.
Red Carpet Tour – As we discussed on Tuesday, the Northeast Tennessee Red Carpet Tour is a 2 ½ day fam tour where we roll out the red carpet for site location consultants. Site location consultants connect companies with communities, and it is imperative to stay on their radar. Agero is one of many examples of a project landing in our community because of the Red Carpet Tour.
Tradeshows – Our team attends a few tradeshows each year among our targeted industry sectors, in partnership with Tri-Cities Airport and Aerospace Park. Tradeshows not only provide an opportunity to increase brand awareness, but are used to collect new leads, follow up on existing leads, visit with existing industry (and their corporate headquarters' staffs), and meet with consultants focused on the aerospace industry. More information about our tradeshow activity, specifically at MRO Americas, will be highlighted in the May issue of The Business Journal of Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia.
TEP – We have been members of the Tennessee Economic Partnership (TEP) since 2014. Through strategically planned networking events, TEP generates leads and business relationships with key prospects and consultants to attract jobs and investment to Tennessee. Our CEO, Clay Walker, was Chairman of the organization in 2017 and remains heavily involved.
Print & Online Advertisements – While we continue to scale back the amount of print advertising we invest in, we strategically place ads in publications such as Site Selection Magazine and Livability Tennessee, which is sponsored by TNECD. We often receive a spotlight or have team members quoted in various trade publications and advertise in those, as well.
With 43% of US adults receiving news online or on social media, we realize the importance of online ad placements. Each year, we place a higher emphasis on online advertisements in the same publications we work with for print advertising.
Videos – We’ve produced two videos and plan to release more this year. Our first video, the now-viral NETWORKS Community Video, highlighted our community’s pro-business culture, robust education system, transportation infrastructure, available industrial properties, and quality of life. The video is updated each year. It received an award from SEDC.
The Tri-Cities Quality of Life video was released a little under a year ago and was intended to be a gift to the region. This video focuses strictly on the quality of life assets primarily located in the Tri-Cities with famous landmarks from surrounding Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia communities sprinkled in. This video is our gift to the region, and the logo bookends are interchangeable with the logo of any interested company or organization. So far, this video has received an Addy Award from AAF Northeast Tennessee.
Both of these videos are used by numerous organizations to sell our community. We couldn’t be prouder of the impact they’ve made and the community pride they’ve inspired.
Conferences - We typically attend conferences with site selectors in attendance (the application-required Site Selectors Guild, for example). The world of economic development is ever-changing, and being able to learn not only trends but what consultants like to see on websites and RFPs, is invaluable. Conferences also provide an incredible opportunity to network with consultants.
Success Files – Later this month, a spotlight on the aerospace cluster in Sullivan County will air on Success Hosted by Rob Lowe. The segment will air on national television, including stations like Fox Business News, reaching 100 different markets and over 45% of US homes. This opportunity came to fruition after a competitive application process.
On the final day of Economic Development Week, we’re discussing the backbone of economic development – existing industry. While existing industry doesn’t tend to receive the attention that new job announcements receive, expansions account for the majority - as much of 80 percent - of new jobs created.
We understand the importance of existing industry support. Here are a few examples of existing industry assistance that we provide.
Regular existing industry visits – Members of the project management team routinely meet with existing industry representatives. The visits provide an opportunity for our team to stay in the loop and learn more about current company needs and pain points. Whether its support for expansion, a connection to a workforce development agency, assistance scheduling a meeting with TNECD representatives, and anything in between, our staff is passionate about supporting our existing industry and ensuring they have all of the tools necessary to thrive.
FIRST – In 2014, NETWORKS launched the FIRST program. The program’s name is derived from the values on which it is built – Focus, Innovation, Results, Synergy, and Together – as well as an appropriate title of the economic development community’s prioritizing existing business and industry services.
Services and activities offered by the FIRST program include: one-on-one visits, group meetings that build a support system of economic development and workforce resources as well as peers for management and HR professionals, meaningful surveys and data collection (that offer results and useful information to our corporate citizens, not just from them), and various initiatives that address common issues among our major employers.
Special events – In 2018, existing industry representatives from Sullivan and Hawkins counties hopped on a charter bus and visited Oak Ridge National Lab. The tour, led by Jesse Smith, Manager of Industrial Partnerships and Economic Development, was tailored to the industry sectors represented in the group. As a result of this visit, multiple local industries now utilize resources provided by the lab.
We continue to research and pursue special events that are valuable for our existing industry partners and ways to provide them at zero cost to those partners.
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!