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August 23, 2012 | Tom Ballard

“Economic Summit” set for October 30 in Johnson City

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The following news release was provided by the Washington County Economic Development Council.)

The 10th Annual Johnson City Economic Summit, set for October 30 at the Millennium Centre, will celebrate entrepreneurship with two dynamic speakers and a few new, entrepreneurially minded wrinkles.

With addresses on tap from East Tennessee State University Dr. Brian Noland and Nashville entrepreneur Dr. Michael Burcham, CEO of the Entrepreneur Center in Nashville, an expansion of last year’s live streaming component and informative updates from the Summit’s six development groups, the Summit promises to be a can’t-miss event.

“We’re excited that Dr. Noland has agreed to share his vision for how ETSU can harness its potential as an economic engine for the community and the region,” ETSU’s Dr. Jon Smith said. “He is bringing an entrepreneurial mindset to his presidency here that I think community members will be interested to hear about.”

Dr. Noland will deliver a luncheon address, while Burcham will inspire attendees over breakfast. Nashville’s Entrepreneur Center served as the model for nine Regional Entrepreneurial Accelerators started by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration, including one operated by ETSU.

“Michael has a long track record of successful entrepreneurism, and he’s an energetic, captivating speaker,” Smith said. “We have some great entrepreneurial energy and talent in our region, and he should be an encouragement to those folks.”

Between those bookend speeches — both of which will be streamed live through the Summit’s website, — participants will enjoy their choice of six updates and work sessions with the Summit’s development groups. The groups include Infrastructure, Health/Wellness, Business Development, Hospitality/Tourism, Livable Communities and Education/Workforce.

Since the Summit’s inception in 2003, the development groups have adopted a number of self-driven initiatives aimed at improving Washington County, Johnson City and Jonesborough. For instance, discussions of the Health/Wellness group helped drive creation of the Bill Gatton College of Pharmacy at ETSU.

The infrastructure group has played a key role in promoting much-needed projects around Washington County, such as the improvement and reconfiguration of Interstate 26 exits in Gray and Boones Creek. The hospitality/tourism group, most recently, helped spur the current campaign to market the area’s potential as a destination for motorcyclists with its support of the “Southern Dozen” video campaign – an effort that has received national and international attention.

The business development group, meanwhile, will host the live streaming, provided by local business Digital Fridge, during the breakout session, providing the opportunity for a question-and-answer session that can include people tuning in from the outside. Burcham will attend that breakout session and speak there as well.

Washington County Economic Development Council Marketing Director Jeff Keeling said the recent live streaming of a national softball tournament from Johnson City was a great success.

“This year’s Summit streaming will make it possible for people from around the world to see what kind of progressive things are happening in Washington County, Jonesborough and Johnson City,” Keeling said.

The Summit’s current leadership team will also honor former Johnson City City Manager Michael West. West, the city manager of Dothan, Alabama, was instrumental in establishing the Summit during his tenure in Johnson City.

As always, the event is free to the public, though pre-registration is required. Activities kick off with a continental breakfast from 7:30-8 a.m. After a welcome, introductions and a brief overview of Summit accomplishments from 2003-2012, Michael Burcham will deliver his address.

Following this, the development groups will host information and action planning sessions. Participants attend their choice of session, where leaders will brief the audience on current initiatives and leave time for interaction and questions.

Over lunch, ETSU’s Dr. Noland will give a brief “State of the University” overview before focusing in on his interest in maximizing the university’s role and impact in the local and regional business community. More specifically, he will detail the activities and potential of the Regional Accelerator, the ETSU Innovation Lab and other ETSU-sponsored efforts to boost entrepreneurship and innovation.

The Summit will wrap up around 2:15 p.m. after brief development group reports and final comments from Summit chairman Jon Smith.

For more information call Jeff Keeling at (423) 794-9173 or visit for online registration.

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