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Take heart: Common sense, accountable leadership not dead yet

By Jeff Keeling When you deal directly with potholes, pill heads and peoples’ education, political leadership can be difficult. Local and regional leaders haven’t the luxury of layers of lesser governments or bureaucracies between themselves and the citizens they are charged to serve. If they do a poor job, act irresponsibly or lack the fortitude to make hard but necessary decisions, the results are readily ...

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Macrochange at Microporous: Battery separator manufacturer attempting Phoenix-like rebirth

By Scott Robertson Travis Cunningham, production manager at Microporous, Inc., has seen good days and he has seen bad days, and he knows the difference. The good days, he says, are finally here. For most of the last decade, Cunningham and his colleagues at the Piney Flats manufacturing facility felt they were working in the dark. “They (new management) have come in and turned on the lights,” he says. The da ...

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Alpha fighting UMWA in preparation for asset auction: $500 million stalking horse bid in place

By Scott Robertson Bristol, Va.-based mining company Alpha Natural Resources hopes to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy by June 30 after a planned auction of assets, which should net the company $500 million or more in cash. The auction is scheduled to take place May 16. Alpha announced March 8 it had filed reorganization plan documents in United States Bankruptcy Court, which, together with the planned auc ...

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GO Virginia offers Southwest regional economic developers a hand up

By Scott Robertson Last month’s news from the King Institute for Regional Economic Studies that Southwest Virginia individuals bring in a shockingly low amount of income from wages and salaries (a little more than half) with government transfer payments (social security, medical programs) making up a rapidly growing piece of the income pie set me thinking. With the tobacco economy gone from the Southwest an ...

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With systems’ merger application in, deciders making haste slowly

By Jeff Keeling  Work groups are meeting in Southwest Virginia with health care access, quality and cost on their minds. An advisory group is making the rounds in Tennessee, seeking input on measures for an “index” that would grade any merged hospital system on its effectiveness in a variety of areas. Health officials in state capitals Nashville and Richmond are scrutinizing reams of documents and proposals ...

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Legislators can do right thing, readdress tuition bill

By Jeff Keeling When Tennessee’s commissioner of economic and community development struck a bullish tone on the state’s economy during a recent visit to the Tri-Cities, the role of education rang through clearly. Randy Boyd exhorted local economic development leaders to focus as much on education as they do on things like available land. “Everybody’s got dirt,” he put it. He also touted, with good reason, ...

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Hospital system merger: Factors to be considered in Virginia

E. 1. The Authority shall recommend for approval by the Commissioner a proposed cooperative agreement if it determines that the benefits likely to result from the proposed cooperative agreement outweigh the disadvantages likely to result from a reduction in competition from the proposed cooperative agreement. 2. In evaluating the potential benefits of a proposed cooperative agreement, the Authority shall co ...

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Building business by building for businesses: Part one of a two part series

By Scott Robertson  This month saw the release of the national construction cost reports. Cost levels in the U.S. remained stable, a trend that has been in place for some time. “What I see nationally, I can usually see here too,” said Jim Street, founder of JA Street and Associates in Blountville. “Inflation nationally has been at about 2 percent and material prices have been flat. The increases have been m ...

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Innovate or Die

By Scott Robertson Mark Costa, CEO of Eastman Chemical Co., gave a Trumped-up introduction to the annual Eastman Regional Leaders Breakfast (long-informally dubbed the  “State of the Eastman”) address March 3. “I was thinking about what we’d talk about today and we created a bunch of slides that go into detail, and then I thought, I don’t need to do that. All I need to do is say, ‘It’s gonna be yuge! It’s a ...

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Continued FTC scrutiny likely despite merger’s proposed structure

By Jeff Keeling If the legal community’s blogosphere is close to being on target, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) could exert significant influence as Tennessee and Virginia officials consider the proposed Wellmont Health System-Mountain States Health Alliance merger. Tennessee’s Certificate of Public Advantage (COPA) law and its Virginia counterpart are intended to shield the states from federal antitru ...

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