Blackburn visits Tri-Cities

Kelly Price, President and CEO, Eastman Credit Union and Senator Marsha Blackburn. Photo by A.J. Kaufman

By A.J. Kaufman, Managing Editor

Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn returned to the region on June 14 for a legislative breakfast event held at the MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort & Convention Center in Kingsport.

More than 100 people attended the event co-hosted by chambers of commerce from Bristol, Elizabethton, Johnson City, Kingsport, Greene County and Unicoi County. Kelly Price, president and CEO of Eastman Credit Union, facilitated the discussion with Blackburn.

Spending multiple days in the region, Blackburn understands why so many newcomers have relocated to the Tri-Cities.

“You hear a few things, and you hear them repeatedly,” Blackburn exclusively told the Business Journal after the event. “First, no state income tax, a low cost of doing business, responsive local elected officials and entities…and they’re wise with the tax dollar. And then, great quality of life, great food, awesome people.”

During the 35-minute interview, the senator said her current concerns are illegal drugs like fentanyl, border security and especially inflation.

Blackburn sits on the Senate Finance Committee, which she reminded attendees deals with taxes, economic growth and health care. She noted how tax policies from Washington affect corporations like Eastman and other Tri-Cities companies.

She believes provisions from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 should be made permanent, claiming “you don’t need to be wondering every year if this is going to be normalized or extended or how it ends up affecting your companies.”

Blackburn spoke about her visit to Elizabethton’s Snap-on Tools, where she again realized the positive impact of the tax cuts.

“When I was in Carter County with Snap-on Tools, they talked a lot about the growth they experienced after the Tax Cut and Jobs Act and being able to utilize some of those tax credits,” she said.

Blackburn boasted of a recent bipartisan bill she sponsored — with specific aims toward popular Northeast Tennessee locales like the Birthplace of Country Music in Bristol — and how “we should all be anxious to have a conversation with people who want to make the lives of Tennesseans better.”

Sen. Marsha Blackburn traveled to Kingsport June 14 for a wide-ranging discussion. Photo by A.J. Kaufman

Introduced in May, the American Music Tourism Act intends to support and increase music tourism by requiring the U.S. Commerce Department to implement a plan to attract domestic and international visitors to nationwide venues.

She also discussed rural health care reimbursement rates and working with Ballad Health toward an overall goal to “bring parity to what rural and urban areas are paid.”

“This affects healthcare access and healthcare delivery,” Blackburn, who visited the new Northeast Tennessee Regional Recovery Center in Roan Mountain during her trip, claimed. “We are thrilled to be able to look at these systems and say, ‘this is not working; how do we make that change?’”

She also promoted her bipartisan work on the root causes of human trafficking with the 2023 “Kids Online safety Act,” though the bill has yet to pass.

Asked by Price in conclusion where she finds hope, Blackburn immediately said “the people.”

“You look at groups like this. These are people that love the country; you love where you live; you love our state…this is where you find hope,” she explained, then added. “Every day I say I defend faith, family, freedom, hope and opportunity. You get those things right, and you can make your American dream come true.”

Blackburn, who began her political career in 1998, represented Tennessee’s 7th district in the U.S. House for nearly two decades. She is Tennessee’s first female U.S. senator and seeks her second term in the upper chamber this fall.

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