By Dave Ongie, News Editor
The Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Parntership (NeTREP) investor update luncheon last Friday offered plenty of opportunity to reflect upon encouraging economic data high atop Tannery Knobs Bike Park, which is a recent success story in its own right.
But as the meeting unfolded, the focus shifted quickly toward finding ways to put the talk of regionalism into action. Will Barrett, the chair of NeTREP, spoke of a conscious effort being made by leaders of NeTREP and the NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership to work together on behalf of the entire region, which has recently been dubbed the Appalachian Highlands.
“That could mean potentially merging organizations,” Barrett said.
For now, leaders of both groups are sifting through success stories from other regions around the country to find out what works and what doesn’t. They are also digesting feedback from a recent forum hosted by ETSU and awaiting another update from the Blue Ribbon Task Force.
But Barrett is eager to “translate that into a comprehensive plan we’ll announce in the future.”
Barrett’s vision is a regional hub capable of driving economic growth for the entire region, creating efficiency through cooperation.
“It’s not meant to be in charge of everything,” Barrett said. “It’s not meant to be over everything or to take away anyone’s unique identity. It’s really to coordinate the efforts and not duplicate them, to be the hub and spoke instead of the umbrella.”
As leaders look to put words into action, outdoor recreation seems to be something everyone can rally around.
“We really want to brand this region as an outdoor destination,” said Mitch Miller, CEO of NeTREP.