Johnson City Chamber plans move to Mill; Mabrey to move on


Owner Grant Summers explains renovation details during a November 2018 tour of the former Model Mill building. Photo by Bill Derby, publisher.

The Board of Directors of the Chamber of the Chamber of Commerce Serving Johnson City, Jonesborough and Washington County announced a pair of planned changes for 2019. The Chamber plans to move its headquarters to the newly renovated former Model Mill at some point in the new year. Meanwhile, longtime Chamber President Gary Mabrey will move on “to pursue other opportunities.”

“We would not be in the great position that we are in without the more than 30 years of Gary Mabrey’s leadership,” said Board Chairman Andy Dietrich. “We will begin a nationwide search for a new Chamber President beginning in the coming weeks.”

Gary Mabrey

In a press release issued Tuesday afternoon, Mabrey said he was gratified the Chamber was beginning the process of moving to the mill. “I applaud the shared vision of our leadership team to make important decisions that demonstrate our commitment to economic growth for the region by announcing our intent to move our chamber’s headquarters to The Model Mill site,” Mabrey said. “It is the culmination of a vision that began a decade ago and now can become a reality. I want to be part of the fundraising effort to enter a lease/purchase agreement for a permanent home for the chamber within the mill before I move on to new pursuits by mid-year 2019.”

Dietrich echoed Mabrey’s enthusiasm for the move to the Mill property. “The redevelopment of the mill property is the next great advancement for growth along an economic crescent that connects Johnson City’s downtown with ETSU, the Veterans Administration and Ballad Health’s medical complex, Med Tech Park to I-26 and beyond.”

Dietrich’s successor, Neil Poland added, “The move is a strategic decision that places our chamber at the epicenter of the West Walnut Street Redevelopment Project and along State of Franklin Road that better connects our downtown to ETSU. This redevelopment will help grow our tax base, create jobs and enhance our quality of life.”

The chamber plans to sign a Letter of Intent that will include a seven-year lease for more than 7,400 square feet within the mill, then purchase the space from developers Rab and Grant Summers to serve as the chamber’s new home. The chamber’s Convention & Visitors Bureau will also locate to the mill. “Our finalization of the agreement is contingent upon the completion of a successful financial campaign, supported by the community, especially the business community, and our local governments,” says Vince Hickam, the Chairman of the Chamber’s Foundation Board. “Our purpose is to complete the fundraising component of our transition plan in early 2019.”

The Chamber first planned to move to the mill property a decade ago, but after the Great Recession scuttled a capital campaign, the Chamber tried for several years to sell the property before the Summers family purchased it. In addition to becoming the Chamber’s home, the site will become the new corporate office for Summers-Taylor, which hopes to lease space to other business and commercial entities as well.

The departing Mabrey said he will assist in familiarizing a new president for the Chamber before leaving by mid-year for other pursuits. “It has been a distinct honor to serve as Chamber president in my home town,” Mabrey said. “It has been the hard work of our staff, hundreds of Chamber volunteers and a great community in which to do business that has made my job a joy. I want to play a role in moving our Chamber headquarters to the Model Mill. It will be a great step forward for the next generation of Chamber achievements and will be a wonderful landmark during Johnson City’s Sesquicentennial in 2019.”

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