A strong performance at this year’s International Economic Development Council (IEDC) competition helped put the Northeast Tennessee region on the map. Organizations from our region earned a combined six awards in a competition that drew 500 entries from four countries.
The IEDC is the world’s largest organization of economic development professionals with 5,000 members. Its 2021 awards ceremony was held in Nashville in October and attended by 14 representatives from the region.
“Our award winners represent regional collaborations like no other time in our region’s history,” explains Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership (NeTREP) CEO Mitch Miller. “The achievements recognized on a world stage were even more impressive because they were achieved during a world pandemic. It highlights why our region deserves its place as a preferred destination for those in search of a great place to live, work, retire here, or open a business or locate an industrial site here.”
RegionAHEAD, a grassroots organization originally created to support small businesses in Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, won a pair of awards. The organization earned an award for its Appalachian Highlands COVID-19 Response in the category of Regionalism and Cross-Border Collaboration, raising more than $255,000 to offer grants to small businesses in the region.
RegionAHEAD also earned another award within the Resiliency, Recovery and Mitigation category. The award noted that the Small Business Recovery Campaign helped save more than 200 jobs in Tennessee and 55 in Southwest Virginia.
“We bootstrapped a team of professionals to launch a perfect demonstration of cross-border collaboration that saved jobs and maintained struggling small businesses at the height of a historic pandemic,” RegionAHEAD organizer Andy Dietrich said. “RegionAHEAD remains an important new source for assistance when challenges arise.”
Also earning an award in the Real Estate Redevelopment and Reuse Category was R&G Ventures for its Model Mill Redevelopment. The $30 million project was the nexus of a new Walnut Street Redevelopment Project underway by the City of Johnson City to rebuild a direct link between East Tennessee State University and Downtown Johnson City businesses and restaurants. The Model Mill, developed by Rab and Grant Summers, redeveloped a blighted and abandoned flour mill into a flourishing office and business complex.
NeTREP also took home a pair of awards, the first for its annual report showcasing more than $50 million in capital investments within the partnership from both new and existing companies and the creation of nearly 700 jobs. NeTREP also earned an award for its InCompass Council within the Economic Equity and Inclusion category.
The InCompass Council is comprised of members of various backgrounds who seek to remove barriers to entry into outdoor recreation and safety. The goal is to establish a framework for future job creation, improved job retention and increasing the tax base of partnering communities.
The Unicoi County Joint Economic and Community Development Board also earned an award for its Real. Wild. Unicoi County Campaign in the category of Special Purpose Website. The award noted that the website and other collateral created by the Real. Wild. Unicoi County Campaign “helps the historically underserved, economically depressed Appalachian community market itself more effectively.”