Regionalism takes center stage at Kingsport Chamber Annual Dinner

Hank Hayes • Feb 2, 2019 at 8:02 AM

KINGSPORT — Regionalism was a focus as the Kingsport Chamber celebrated the 2018 business year with its 72nd annual dinner Friday night.

“Your chamber has continued, with renewed focus on the promise of a true regional focus, an initiative that will present a combined metropolitan region with more than 600,000 residents,” outgoing Kingsport Chamber Board Chair Bob Feathers told more than 1,700 attendees at the MeadowView Marriott event. “A region that will celebrate the unique attributes of each of the individual communities that make up this region — the Appalachian Highlands. With more than 3,000 business chamber members, the major chambers in the region have zeroed in on developing and promoting this region, together — a region that will be able to economically compete on most any national stage. We are better together. Together, we will prosper.”

“I am committed to carry the mantel that Bob Feathers has laid down to continue our efforts in regionalism and growth within our city,” said Lori Payne, a controller with Contour Glass and the 2019 chamber board chair.

New Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee attended the event.

“The Tennessee Chamber applauds Governor Bill Lee’s dedication to increasing educational opportunities for communities across Northeast Tennessee,” Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry CEO Bradley Jackson said of Lee. “From expanding technical education opportunities to incorporating work experience into our education systems, workforce development is essential to attracting good jobs to our state. The Chamber is excited to work with Governor Lee to make these proposals reality.”

Eastman served as title sponsor and WJHL News Channel 11/ABC Tri-Cities was the host sponsor. Ballad Health presented the entertainment, Eastman Credit Union served as concert hall and stage sponsor, Contour Glass, East Coast Wings Grill and WorkSpace Interiors were the associate sponsors, and Food City was the printing sponsor.

The Kingsport Chamber says the event remains the largest chamber annual dinner in the nation.

The evening’s theme was “Cheers to Kingsport!”

Citizens Bank’s Larry Estepp was recognized as the newest Kingsport Chamber Lifetime Member.

Among 2018’s highlights:

■ Eastman received the Extraordinary Employer Support Award from the Department of Defense program Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) and was designated a 2019 Military Friendly Employer and Military Friendly Brand based on publicly available data from federal agencies; was recognized by the Ethisphere Institute as a 2018 World’s Most Ethical Company for its commitment to lead with the highest ethical business standards and practices; and was again recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency with an ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year Sustained Excellence Award for continued leadership and superior energy efficiency achievements.

■ Ballad Health was officially launched on Feb. 2, 2018, following nearly three years of work on the part of health system leaders, state officials and community advocates to create a regionwide health improvement organization.

■ Strategic Behavioral Health celebrated the grand opening of its newest psychiatric care and substance abuse treatment facility, Creekside Behavioral Health, in Kingsport. The $20 million, state-of-the-art hospital will create nearly 250 jobs for the Model City. A 72-bed, acute behavioral health inpatient hospital, Creekside Behavioral Health is SBH’s 11th facility in the nation and its first in Tennessee.

■ BAE Systems announced it received a $96.6 million contract modification — bringing the total contract value to $158 million — from the U.S. Army to design, build and commission a natural gas-fired steam facility at the Holston Army Ammunition Plant (HSAAP). The modernization project will replace an existing coal-fired power supply and greatly reduce the facility’s environmental footprint when the new natural gas plant is commissioned. The construction of the natural gas facility is part of a long-term, U.S. Army-driven modernization requirement for the HSAAP installation, in part meant for more efficient energy production. The project is estimated to be completed in late 2021.

■ Anita’s Snack Foods opened its first East Coast plant in the United States in Kingsport. Headquartered in San Bernardino, California, the company plans to hire more than 250 people and invest more than $7.5 million (including a $2 million expansion) in the 88,000-square-foot facility located in the Gateway Commerce Park at Tri-Cities Crossing.

■ Kingsport’s MeadowView Marriott welcomed more than 321,000 guests, held more than 750 events, grew overall group room nights by 2,200 over the previous year and generated a $35.3 million impact on the local economy. In addition, the global award-winning resort continued to achieve a high level of guest overall satisfaction and associate engagement and was recognized as a “mover and shaker” and achieved top honors in RevPar growth for Marriott’s eastern region. And Golf Channel’s nationally televised World Long Drive Tour’s Tennessee Big Shots was held in Kingsport at Cattails MeadowView. The event, which benefitted Niswonger Children’s Hospital, brought substantial national attention to the city.

■ NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership announced the creation of 608 jobs in new and existing industry and more than $530 million in capital investment for the region.

■ The city of Kingsport announced it has purchased the Regions Bank building downtown and has plans to turn the six-story structure into a new City Hall. The move will consolidate many city offices into one location and greatly improve operational efficiencies and customer service. Regions Bank will be moving its Kingsport headquarters to another location downtown.

■ City officials also announced plans to conduct a feasibility study for a $12 million minor league baseball stadium at Brickyard Park, located on the General Shale property. In addition to becoming the home of the Kingsport Mets, the 3,500- to 4,500-seat facility could host other year-round events, including concerts, festivals and other baseball games and tournaments. A pedestrian bridge connecting Brickyard Park to downtown is also being planned. The new venue is expected to attract thousands of residents and visitors and to have a significant economic impact on downtown.

■ The city of Kingsport also announced plans to build a $2.2 million Miracle Field at Brickyard Park. The Miracle League, which is free and noncompetitive, removes the barriers that keep children and young adults with mental and physical disabilities off the baseball field and lets them experience the joy of America’s pastime. Since the main barriers for these athletes arise from the natural grass fields used in conventional leagues, Miracle League teams play on a custom-designed, rubberized turf field that accommodates wheelchairs and other assistive devices. This will be the first Miracle League complex in Northeast Tennessee.

■ Visit Kingsport supported 41 meetings and conventions with an estimated economic impact of $19.2 million and hosted 25 sporting events with an estimated economic impact of $23 million. Kingsport’s lodging tax collections also surpassed $1.8 million for the third consecutive year.