BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — NETNHub, the private-sector regional economic development group, has chosen John Rose as its new executive director.
Rose will take the reins Dec. 4 after a three-year stint as Kingsport’s economic development director and told News Channel 11 his first priority will be helping develop a strategic plan — something the organization doesn’t yet have 18 months after its formation.
“We’re going to work on a strategic plan based on input from the communities in the region to evaluate needs and how can we help them, and we will develop our planning strategy based on input from private industry, private businesses and meeting with elected leaders,” Rose said.
The Hub, primarily funded by Eastman Chemical Co., Bank of Tennessee, Ballad Health and Bristol Motor Speedway, convinced the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership to fold into the Hub early this year. That group, also a private-public partnership, did economic development for Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties.
But the Hub has struggled to get buy-in from some communities and from NETWORKS-Sullivan Partnership.
Former Kingsport Mayor Dennis Phillips, who was hired as “launch CEO,” stepped aside in June after much effort to get NETWORKS to endorse a formal level of partnership with the Hub.
“I think there was some enthusiasm to get stuff moving quickly that maybe we skipped some steps,” Rose said.
“The biggest step was … we didn’t listen maybe as much as we should have, as detailed as we should have.”
That approach will leave Rose doing a whole lot of listening as he tries to gather input from people living across eight counties.
“It might take two months for me to get to talk to everybody I need to talk to. There’s a lot of people in this region, but we want them to have input on that plan, period. We’re going to make sure that we take the time to do it right.”
The goal for the Hub’s board — which committed about $750,000 a year for three years to an initial run that’s at the halfway point — is still to be what Chairman Jerry Caldwell called an “additive” in efforts to promote and grow the region.
“We’re thrilled John Rose will lead the Hub forward,” Caldwell said in a news release. “John has a track record of success in the region. People know him, they know they can trust him, and he has a history of working well with others.”
Rose said the growth that’s occurred over the past several years is thanks to the region’s outdoor, educational and employment opportunity “assets.” He believes the Hub should play an important role in keeping Northeast Tennessee an attractive destination for people to move, start businesses or expand them.
“The Hub is very much needed from a regional a broad region perspective,” Rose said.
“We need to be able to work together as we talk to communities in the region, as we talk to elected officials in the region and private business owners and private business leaders. To look at the region as a whole so that we can market the region more broadly within ourself and across the nation.”
He said the region needs to grow even more to continue providing economic opportunity for people.
“The way we do that is to continue to support developers, investors that want to grow our housing across all aspects of housing — multifamily, workforce, single-family townhomes. That will continue to help our population increase and that also attracts employers.”
Rose said those “rooftops” also attract commercial development like the IMAX theater that recently announced it was coming to Kingsport.
“It stabilizes your tax base, increases your property tax base. It helps all aspects. It helps the new people coming and the existing people that live here.”
Rose is a Tusculum University graduate with a degree in business management and economic development certification from the University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Service.
He spent more than 20 years in the private sector, working mainly as a civil and residential project manager, estimator and small business owner.