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Appalachian Highlands Economic Aid Directory calls for business updates during COVID-19 crisis

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Local economic leaders want more businesses to input data into a new website designed to help regional businesses in the wake of COVID-19. More than 200 regional businesses have entered vital information since Thursday, organizers say.

“The more businesses that respond, the better we’ll be able to organize help for both them and the community now and in the weeks and months ahead,” Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association (NETTA) Executive Director Alicia Phelps said of the Region Ahead website, regionAHEAD.com.

A group of partners stood up the website last Thursday, including Bristol TN/VA Chamber of Commerce, Johnson City Chamber of Commerce, Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership, Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association and Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership.

Phelps said the group would like to at least double the number of participating businesses by week’s end. The site allows consumer users to search for different business sectors and see both the type of help they can use, such as gift card purchases or even new employees, and what services they may be offering. One business, for instance, is offering to drive seniors to appointments.

The Region Ahead project has created new features to bring the community together safely and boost the economy during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. There are now pages for community F.A.Q., community resources and for volunteers to sign up to serve the community.

“We’re continuing to adapt the website on a daily basis to meet the needs of both businesses and consumers,” Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership (NeTREP) CEO Mitch Miller said.

In response to the region’s current and projected economic situation, several economic development and tourism leaders created the online information sharing platform called the Appalachian Highlands Economic Aid Directory (AHEAD).

The directory is being used to let the public know what businesses are doing during the quarantine. Businesses input information such as take-out options, closures and other information that could assist them until the situation improves.

Now that the listing portion of the site is active, organizers are turning their attention to other ways to leverage the site to build community and get ahead of the projected decline in our local economy.

The website is financially supported by the Bristol TN/VA Chamber of Commerce, Johnson City Chamber of Commerce, Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership, Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association and Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership.

To submit information, go online to www.regionAHEAD.com.