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Regional ‘Blue-Ribbon Committee’ formed by county mayors

From STAFF REPORTS

Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable and Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy have appointed a Blue-Ribbon Committee on Regional Cooperation to consider potential regional economic development strategies.

“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. Mayor Grandy and I will co-chair the committee, and we are looking for a wide variety of input on how we can work together to strengthen the future of our region.”

The effort builds on a historic October work session between Washington County and Sullivan County local legislative bodies.

“We know the days of chasing smokestacks are declining,” Grandy said. “And we know our communities are stronger together. But we must forge ahead to develop the businesses already located here as well as recruiting new entrepreneurs who desire a top-notch quality of life at a much lower cost than found in the typical technology hotspots.”

In addition to the mayors, who will co-chair the Committee, members will include:

Sullivan County Commissioners John Gardner and Mark Vance; Washington County Commissioners Phil Carriger and Jodi Jones; Johnson City Manager Pete Peterson; Kingsport City Manager Jeff Fleming; Bristol City Manager Bill Sorah; Johnson City Chamber of Commerce CEO Gary Mabrey; Kingsport Chamber of Commerce CEO Miles Burdine; Bristol Chamber of Commerce CEO Beth Rhinehart; NETWORKS Sullivan County Economic Development Partnership CEO Clay Walker; NETREP CEO Mitch Miller; AccelNow Director John Campbell, a former City Manager of Johnson City and Kingsport, as well as a former CEO of NETWORKS; and BrightRidge Public & Government Relations Director Tim Whaley.

Both Mayors anticipate further appointments to advisory sub-committees as an action plan is developed to move forward on a regional basis.

“We know there are many great minds in the region and we want to bring as many of those folks as possible to the table to get their input moving forward,” Grandy said. “As with the historic kick-off when both commissions sat together and broke bread, we know this is just the beginning.”

Further, both Mayors agreed that the committee should meet and speedily work to conclusions, with a tentative deadline set for July 2019.

“We must do all we can to position our region to compete and succeed in the highly technological future,” Venable said.