Editorial: If the BMA wants to stand alone, it needs a plan

Editorial Board • Sep 28, 2019 at 2:03 PM

Make no mistake about it, some members of the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen don’t like the Appalachian Highlands name. They recently vocalized that sentiment in crystal clear fashion. Like others in the community, they can’t seem to wrap their heads around a concept bigger than the Tri-Cities, or that the Tri-Cities (one of more than 20 such designated places around the country, thus making that a confusing designation) is the Heart of the Appalachian Highlands.

That’s all well and good. Don’t use Appalachian Highlands. There won’t be an edict nor legislation to mandate use of that branding.

And more than one BMA member seems to be hung up on retail recruitment, though way back when, virtually everyone acknowledged there always will be a battle for retail. Kingsport lost Best Buy — which was rarely what any business person would call “busy” — and suddenly the prevailing sentiment is that retail has tanked in Kingsport. But here’s a news flash: Retail in Kingsport has been declining for a decade or more.

And the BMA got its collective feelings hurt over just about everything connected to the regional economic forum — held in Johnson City. And there’s part of the larger rub — Johnson City. The forum was in Johnson City. Those two words — Johnson City — rub too many folks in Kingsport the wrong way. Why is that?

Then there’s the misconception that none of the “five wise men” on the panel at the forum represent Kingsport interests. That’s simply not true. Eastman CEO Mark Costa was one of the “five wise men.” Last time we looked, Eastman’s world headquarters was in Kingsport. Ballad Health CEO Alan Levine was also on the panel. Last time we looked, Holston Valley Medical Center — one of Ballad’s two largest hospitals — was in Kingsport.

Ballad doesn’t succeed without HVMC, so to even suggest Levine and Ballad don’t have interest in Kingsport’s success would be ludicrous. Every other member of that panel has interest, or has done business, in Kingsport. And every one of them will tell you that it is as vital for Kingsport to succeed and prosper as it is for any other municipality in the Appalachian Highlands.

So, our BMA has virtually shrugged off regionalism. Some of you will applaud that. But those who will applaud that isolationist thinking are some of the same people who complain the loudest that Kingsport doesn’t have anything to do, Kingsport doesn’t have good restaurants (not true), Kingsport doesn’t have good retail (also not true) — Kingsport doesn’t have (you fill in your own interpretation).

In response, we ask the BMA, what’s your plan for Kingsport’s future? What’s your plan to stop the brain drain? What’s your plan to reverse the depressing numbers we saw at (yes) the economic forum?

We sincerely hope the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen has the answers to those questions.