The Northeast Tennessee Regional Partnership received two national awards at the International Economic Development Council’s annual conference last month. A program designed to attract talented students to pursue careers in the Johnson City metro area captured a silver excellence in economic development award. A downtown Johnson City redevelopment project that transformed an unused building into a bicycle store with apartments on the upper floors also won silver.
“These two awards represent two important elements of collective efforts to help the region grow and prosper,” NeTREP Chairman Ron Scott said. “Talent Connect brings young people to an area they may not have heard of before. Projects that help revitalize downtowns enhance our quality of life and provide young, talented people with the experiences and lifestyle options they expect and demand.”
NeTREP’s “Talent Connect” program was honored in the Business Retention and Expansion Single Event category. The “Farmers Exchange Building Redevelopment” won in the Real Estate Development & Reuse category.
“The awards process is a thorough, non-biased and multi-layered process. These are extraordinary accomplishments for all winners,” IEDC board chair Michael Langley said. The IEDC has over 5,000 members and is the largest global non-profit serving economic developers.
Talent Connect introduces college students from around the Southeast to the area, its top employers, and the career paths available. It focuses on recruiting top graduates in various engineering and business/finance fields for the regional workforce.
Talent Connect was a response to regional employers’ challenges recruiting talent to fill key roles in their organizations. Talent Connect became the matchmaker, giving students the opportunity to explore life as a young professional in the region and employers a chance to engage them before they entered into an ultra-competitive job market.
The real estate award was a result of developer Brent Long’s investment in an unused three-story building at the corner of West Market and Commerce streets. Ultimately, the project thrust Johnson City into the spotlight as a destination for outdoor recreation.
Long’s work, aided by a façade grant from NeTREP, attracted a Trek Concept Bicycle store on the ground level. The upper floors feature 26 high-end apartments to serve the city’s growing demand for downtown living. Trek's engagement in Johnson City has amplified the project’s effects. From social rides around town that attract up to 300 people to the creation of a new mountain bike park less than half a mile from downtown, the project has spurred the kind of growth that is key to making programs like Talent Connect successful.