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NeTREP comes to fruition: Carter, Unicoi and Washington counties unite economic development efforts

Photo above: Ron Scott, photo courtesy of NeTREP By Scott Robertson Three Northeast Tennessee counties that have traditionally been rivals in everything from high school football to economic development officially set aside the “Friday night football mentality” last month to partner in a new economic development organization. The Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership (NeTREP) unifies economic de ...

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CareerQuest to bring students, businesses, educators together in a big way

By Scott Roberston Working under the name CareerQuest, the First Tennessee Development District will bring 5,000 students in grades 8-12 from nine Northeast Tennessee counties and Bristol, Va., to a massive career fair March 21-22 in the Minidome on the campus of East Tennessee State University in Johnson City. The district’s director of Workforce Initiatives, Lottie Ryans, attended a similar event attended ...

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Bellafina Chocolates: Combining charity and ministry while staying all-business

By Scott Robertson If you’ve recently received a box of chocolates with a company or organization logo in full color on every individual truffle, it probably came from the kitchen of Bellafina Chocolates in Kingsport. The small business founded by Brenda Barnicki has been putting out corporate-gift quality chocolates for just over six years now with an all-volunteer workforce and a policy of giving 100 perc ...

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From the Editor: Is Haslam being led down primrose path on roads?

By Scott Roberston Last year, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam dipped a toe in the water to see whether he could gain any traction on the idea of a gas tax hike to pay for highway fund increases. Tennessee’s highways have for the last couple of decades been among America’s best, and they are built and maintained on a pay-as-you-go basis, rather than through issuance of debt. But prices of labor and materials ...

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The Last Word: Dr. John’s COPA time blues

By Jeff Keeling Dr. John Dreyzehner’s role in the Mountain States Health Alliance-Wellmont Health System merger application process emerged front and center Jan. 13. Someday, history will judge the Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) commissioner’s involvement. I hope when that day comes, Dreyzehner won’t have just cause to channel another Dr. John (musician “Dr. John” Rebennack) and say, “I been in the ri ...

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Revitalizing Southwest Virginia’s economy one drone at a time

  By Scott Robertson When Fred Coeburn got into flying model airplanes as a hobby, he had no idea it would lead to an opportunity to bring an entire industry cluster to a region desperately in need of economic diversity. Yet somehow that’s what has happened. Coeburn teaches a course listed in the Mountain Empire Community College (MECC) catalogue as AVI-195, Introduction to Unmanned Aerial Systems. In ...

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2017: the year of Southwest Virginia?

By Scott Robertson I rarely take this space to preview the content of a given issue. After all, the Table of Contents was published just three pages ago. But this issue’s primary focus, I think, warrants an overture. The dawning of 2017 marks a time of increased optimism in Southwest Virginia, where the near-decade-long decline of the coal industry has negatively affected virtually every aspect of the regio ...

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Go Virginia gets going

Photo above: Virginia is divided into nine regions, with 13 Southwest Virginia counties designated as Region 1.  Source: U.S. Census, VA PDC By Scott Robertson Southwest Virginia’s economic woes are undeniable, yet the region is not so much worse off than the rest of the Commonwealth in some respects. That fact has spawned the creation of an effort formally known as “Go Virginia, the Virginia Initiative for ...

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Tri-Cities Airport has full agenda for 2017: Aerospace Park funding, Highway 75 widening top list

Photo above: A marketing map of Aerospace Park made when TCA was still TCRA By Scott Robertson When Tri-Cities Airport (TCA) Executive Director Patrick Wilson finished showcasing the facility’s new electric-powered tug and baggage conveyor Dec. 20, he was wrapping up a busy year. Only days before, Wilson had hosted a news conference announcing the rebranding of what had, since 1937, been the Tri-Cities Regi ...

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States’ role in Ballad drama winding down: FTC waiting in the wings

Photo above: Alan Levine, Mountain States Health Alliance CEO and Bart Hove, Wellmont Health System CEO File Photo By Jeff Keeling The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) is in the process of a thought experiment as it stares down a deadline to rule on Mountain States Health Alliance and Wellmont Health System’s application for merger approval. It’s an experiment that has been keeping lawyers plenty busy u ...

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