KINGSPORT, Tennessee (WJHL) – Kingsport’s potential future leadership discussed a variety of topics at a virtual forum Wednesday night hosted by the city’s chamber of commerce.
The future of retail in Kingsport is uncertain after the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in online shopping. Some of Kingsport’s alderman candidates had suggestions for boosting business after one of America’s toughest economic years.
“We should recruit gunmakers who shy away from leftist politics in the Blue States. With Bristol Motor Speedway on the road, we would be a great place for research and development for a company like Tesla, which is leaving California due to high taxes, ”said candidate Joe Carr.
Incumbent Betsy Cooper hopes to retain her seat as Kingsport alderman. She said her education experience would help her develop skills not only for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students, but also for preschool and college students.
“I think we need to, to expand the skills to go down to preschool, we have adopted their kind of core standards so that our children, when they leave our preschool, are ready to go to kindergarten, to the other end of that higher, we have JSIS in downtown TCAT that do some of the training we’re talking about doing the training to prepare people for employment. So I think we have to work at both ends of the spectrum, ”she said.
Business-focused candidates like pharmacist Bob Harshbarger and former Chamber of Commerce chairman Paul Montgomery had suggestions for the potential future of Kingsport businesses.
“I would like to see Kingsport stronger than it is today. And I see that by having a more vibrant downtown, more entertainment downtown, a place where people can go to a show and have dinner, ”Montgomery said.
With Amazon naming Alcoa, Tennessee as the next site, Harshbarger said Kingsport could be the home of big companies, potentially.
“The way you stand out is customer service. This is how we are going to have to differentiate ourselves from online retailers. Amazon has built an unparalleled, customer-centric approach. And so for local businesses, I guess, to compete with that, they’ll have to focus on products that are online retailers like Amazon and Walmart that they can’t supply, ”he suggested.
Another sitting city councilor, Colette George, said her experience as a real estate agent in downtown Kingsport gives her an edge when making suggestions for the future of Kingsport’s business.
“If you have a developer, it’s going to come and bring stores that aren’t competing in this area, that provide a service to our citizens that they need. We need to look at the incentive possibilities available, ”said George.
The issues of homelessness and the opioid pandemic have been at the forefront in recent years in the town of Kingsport, and city councilors spoke about possible plans for the future at the forum on Wednesday evening.
“Fiber optic lines and free broadband is something that big progressive cities do, what’s wrong with a small town that does? I think Kingsport could lead the way in the Tri-Cities. We could also be a tech magnet for people, ”said author JS Moore.
Former Foreign Service officer Sara Buchanan said Wednesday she had a difficult decision to make in deciding to run for alderman because she would have to relinquish her role in the federal government. Her vision for her hometown, however, won this particular moral dilemma, she told the forum.
“The issue of homelessness, the issue of urban blight, the issue of safety and crime in our city is very, very important to me and it really breaks my heart to see that more money and time will be dedicated to a dog shelter. for homeless people. So I will bring compassion to the council of the mayor and aldermen, ”Buchanan said.
Candidate Wesley Combs told the forum that he hopes to lead Kingsport in the future.
“A movement that is happening with the circular economy here in Kingsport that we could easily brand and make a Kingsport national name that we can recycle, all plastic so that no plastic ends up in the landfill, and no cardboard ends up. found in the landfill. dump more I think these are pretty promising things in today’s world, ”Combs said.
One candidate, Gerald Sensabaugh, was not present at Wednesday’s forum.
If you missed the forum, you can watch it in its entirety here:
Election day is May 18 and early voting will take place from April 28 to May 13. Postal ballots can be requested until May 11.