Northeast Tennessee leaders launch regional economic development hub

The NETNHub executive board, clockwise from top left: Will Barrett, Jerry Caldwell, Brian Noland, Alan Levine, Mark Costa

Talk of a new regional economic development hub was put into action on Wednesday afternoon when business and community leaders officially announced the launch of NETNHub, an entity intended to support and enhance existing and new economic development across the eight counties of Northeast Tennessee.

NETNHub’s vision is to elevate the region’s profile to both national and international companies to locate here, as well as to attract, retain and support talent. The newly established entity is intended to serve as a collaborative partner, a catalyst for economic development, and a collective regional voice, underscoring its mission to unite the region and create prosperity for all communities involved. 
The kickoff included the introduction of an executive board, which is made up of representatives of the private and social sectors. Jerry Caldwell of Bristol Motor Speedway will serve as the chairman of the executive board with Brian Noland of ETSU serving as vice-chair. Will Barrett of Bank of Tennessee will serve as treasurer while Mark Costa of Eastman and Alan Levine of Ballad Health will also have seats on the board.

Additionally, the invitation to fill public seats on the board is being extended to the cities of Bristol, Johnson City and Kingsport as well as Sullivan and Washington counties.

Caldwell has been a strong voice for regionalism for quite some time, and he echoed his support for regional cooperation in a statement announcing the NETNHub

“When you look across city and county lines, our region boasts incredible talents, amenities and opportunities,” Caldwell said. “We have a compelling story to tell for a national and global audience. We will tell a compelling story in cooperation with our partners for years ahead. That’s the vision for the Hub. We want to celebrate all the wonderful attributes that make our communities special to us, expand on those capabilities and resources we have, and scale them to achieve the greatest collective impact. When the region wins, we all win.”

The executive board will be instrumental in governing the overall strategy and priorities based on the long-term goals they collectively identified for the Regional Hub. The goals include: 

• Developing a comprehensive regional strategy supported by a robust project portfolio and marketing plan 

• Coordinating funding requests and grant applications to garner additional resources for major projects across the region 

• Accelerating investments for regional economic development to enhance the quality of life for residents 

• Attract business and industry to the area 

• Establishing a regional scorecard to outline key milestones and measure progress. 

“The creation of the Hub is both a finish line and a starting point,” said Will Barrett, President and CEO, Bank of Tennessee. “The Hub represents the culmination of many conversations on regionalism over the last several years and the belief of many different people that we are better together. More importantly, it signals a new approach to collaboratively redefine what economic development can be for our region and how we can uncover a greater level of prosperity for everyone that calls Northeast Tennessee and Appalachian Highlands home.”  

In the coming weeks, the executive board will appoint a chief executive officer and key leadership roles that will serve as the Hub’s primary operations team. The Executive Board is also establishing an Advisory Board to assist with regional strategy development, tactical execution, and committee formation. The Advisory Board and supporting committees will play a critical role in providing functional expertise and ensuring the Hub’s strategy and actions are  reflective of all eight counties, various industries, and diverse voices.
“This is a work in progress, and today’s announcement is just the beginning,” said Mark Costa, Board Chair and CEO, Eastman. “There is much to determine about the structure and long-term operations of the Hub, but the Board is committed to its success. We have questions to address and details to finalize, but we want to be clear that this Hub is not intended to replace existing efforts, organizations, or local activities. We intend to amplify these efforts to provide scale, collaboration, and support. Think of the Hub as an extension of good work already underway to make our region a great place to live, work and play. We are thrilled to take the next step toward a truly collaborative approach to elevate the Appalachian Highlands region and our  communities.” 

The Hub will regularly communicate new developments in its formation and collaborative partnerships as they evolve. If you would like to be updated on those developments, you can follow the Hub and subscribe to news related to it via and its social media channels.

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