By Dave Ongie
A total team effort led to a huge economic development victory in Sullivan County last month.
Advanced Call Center Technologies announced a pair of projects – one in Kingsport and the other in Bristol – that will bring a combined total of 650 jobs to the county. A ribbon cutting was held in front of the former Agero building, which will house 300 employees. A separate operation in Kingsport will provide 350 jobs.
ACT has operated in Johnson City for over 20 years and currently employs around 2,000 workers. Clay Walker, CEO of the NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership, said the success of ACT’s operation in Johnson City ended up playing in Sullivan County’s favor thanks to the high performance of the workers on that site, which convinced ACT that the workforce in the region could handle the influx of jobs at new sites in Kingsport and Bristol.
“Workforce is everything in today’s recruitment,” Walker said. “You have to prove your workforce. You’d think that coming to a region where you already have 2,000 people would work against us. Their workforce in Johnson City deserves a lot of credit for us getting this today. It actually turned out to be a huge advantage for us.”
Although both sites will house ACT operations, Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable said the opportunities came through two different channels, which he said was a testament to the coordinated economic development work being done in his county. It took the efforts of the cities of Kingsport and Bristol along with the county and NETWORKS to get the deals done.
“These two different operations came from two different directions,” he said. “It’s important that (potential employers) get to the right people, and over 20 years, we’ve established that in Sullivan County.”
Walker said when the opportunity in Kingsport presented itself, all hands were on deck to land the project, and the same was true when space came available at the Agero building in Bristol.
“We heard of the project that ended up in Kingsport first,” Walker said. “We all worked as a team there. Then before that was finished, we found out a second project was coming and Agero was taking their employees and leaving them at home and the lease was coming up.
“Everything fell into place, but everything doesn’t fall into place if the team’s not collaborating and communicating. It makes my job easy.”
The cooperation in Sullivan County didn’t go unnoticed at the state level.
“We’re here to celebrate a great win for this community and this county,” Bob Rolfe, Tennessee’s Commissioner of Economic and Community Development, said during his remarks prior to the ribbon cutting. “When a great company comes to our state, and they are successful as they have been in Johnson City, they make the decision to double down. The team locally deserves a lot of the credit, if not all of the credit, for being able to recruit this company and this expansion.”