Quarterly Newsletter

Community Stakeholders Report - Quarter Three - 2020

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From the Desk of the CEO

On the Make


In Northeast Tennessee, We Don’t Apologize for Manufacturing. It’s a Big Part of Us and Will Continue to Be



Like so many things in this period of COVID-19, National Manufacturing Day came and went without the attention it usually gets. Even at its best, I don’t believe the day draws the attention it merits. The National Association of Manufacturers, US Department of Commerce, and many other local, regional, state and national professional business associations (particularly economic development organizations and chambers of commerce) have promoted the day for the past decade, which was declared by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in 2012 and was a Presidential Proclamation signed by President Barack Obama two years later. The primary purpose of the day is to create awareness and continue a pipeline of students into the manufacturing workforce. It also creates awareness among elected officials and the public as to the importance of manufacturing to our economy, national security, and way of life.


I believe this awareness can’t be overstated. Having been in the economic development profession for a quarter of a century – in Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee, and for the past seven years Northeast Tennessee – it is paramount that we not lose our ability and desire to make things. I’ve seen a handful of “new” economies over the years and we must adapt to technologies and lifestyle changes to remain a world leader. COVID has reminded us all of the power and importance of adaptability to survive times of crisis. Even though we’ve been hearing for years that US manufacturing is dead, I just can’t see it happening. Which is great news for Northeast Tennessee. Our people are smart, innovative, inquisitive, and hard-working – traits indicative of a strong manufacturing workforce.


Over the past several weeks, project activity has picked up a great deal, although companies are still trying to figure out how COVID will affect them in the long term. With this run of activity, we have been reminded of what a great product we are selling here; our product is, in a word, culture. We are about doing things well and manufacturing is among the things we do best.


In this edition of our quarterly newsletter, stories such as the repurposing of Kingsport’s Domtar mill, the opening of Northeast State Community College’s Technical Education Complex, Phipps Bend’s Homeland Vinyl’s latest expansion, and Eastman celebrating its centennial. None of those stories are possible if not for our value of and skills in manufacturing. We know how to make stuff and, when additional training is required, we have the facilities and expertise to fill that need.


Though it’s not featured, another common theme of each of those stories is our ability to partner. It has certainly been at the forefront of my mind in recent weeks as we’ve been busy with some promising projects and with the ongoing work with our local governments, NeTREP, and other stakeholders toward improved regionalism. Economic development does not happen in a vacuum and without dependable, effective partner agencies and supporters, communities, and regions sputter. Truth be told, sometimes they go through periods of sputtering even with them, but those downtimes don’t last and they are always overcome if meaningful partnerships with a shared interest are in play.


So, as we said throughout the day on social media and other platforms on October 2, thank you. Thank you to our incredible group of manufacturers. Thank you to our educators. Thank you to our pro-business governments. While we offer a great more than manufacturing careers, we certainly value our makers. You are a true force in our economy and without you, we wouldn’t be Where Tennessee Begins Its Business Day!

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Upcoming Meeting - Networks Sullivan Partnership Executive Committee Meeting

Wednesday, Nov. 11th, 8am

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Ronnie Price - Economic Development Specialist