Bristol Motor Speedway President Jerry Caldwell, who chairs the NETNHub Board of Directors, announced on June 21 the completion of Dennis Phillips’ one-year commitment as Launch CEO and a search for a permanent executive director for the regional organization (click here to see the full job description).
NETNHub was created as a convener, counselor, facilitator, and connector working with local businesses, chambers, governments, and other economic development organizations across the region.
“Dennis has a long history of business success and public service,” Caldwell said. “We appreciate his willingness to help us get the NETNHub up and running. It has been a challenging task, we have learned a lot, and we are optimistic about the role the NETNHub can play in serving the region's interests going forward.”
Phillips, who served as Kingsport’s mayor for 10 years and as Tennessee’s commissioner of Banking, said, “The mission of the Hub is of paramount importance to our region. While I have completed the year of service I committed to, there should be no question that the board has my full support and I will do anything I can to help move regionalism forward.”
Highlights of Phillips tenure as interim CEO include the Hub’s implementation of a TVA workforce development grant aiding businesses in multiple counties, folding in the staff and resources of the former Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership, and making a $50,000 commitment and recruiting other donors for a grant to assist Tri-Cities Airport in bringing on additional passenger service. The Hub continues work on several other projects and programs.
Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull, a NETNHub board member, also emphasized the importance of respecting local interests while bringing communities together for the scale required to pursue larger opportunities.
“That starts with listening to small and midsize business leaders, officeholders, and economic developers,” Shull said, “to find out what would be most beneficial to them on a regional level. How can we improve regionwide assets, workforce education, tourism, infrastructure, and air service?”
“Competition between our cities and counties,” Shull continued, “for jobs, businesses, and other benefits is natural, but there are goals we collectively share as a region, and it’s important we are communicating well, working together, and speaking together when appropriate, as we work to grow in smart ways, keep our kids here, and protect our rich heritage and culture.”
“It’s time now,” Caldwell continued, “to find a permanent leader who is a strong consensus builder, someone who can work inclusively with local businesses, elected leaders, and other organizations while keeping an eye on big-picture opportunities that benefit the whole region, as well as individual communities.”
While no timetable has been set for completion of the search, Caldwell says the process will be both thorough and efficient. “We’ll do what it takes to find the right person. That having been said, this will not be a drawn-out process. We anticipate making an announcement soon.”
Caldwell hinted that a number of things, beyond new leadership, may soon change about the Hub’s approach, including its name, the composition of its board, and a broader private sector funding model to ensure it is representative of more small and midsize businesses and individual communities.