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RegionAHEAD to help businesses recover from COVID-19

From staff reports • Apr 17, 2020 at 7:00 PM

A new regional organization — RegionAHEAD — has organized a local business recovery fund for businesses impacted by COVID-19.

The organization is expected to share funds received through a fundraising effort with grants to small businesses that are found to be in the greatest need.

“Organizations across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia are doing what they can in a united effort to help save jobs and local businesses in the region,” Andy Dietrich, who helped organize the fund, explained in a news release. “For local businesses that may not qualify for government loans, we want to provide another option to help them get through the crisis and hopefully survive.”

“This is a great testament to the effort to bring a regional focus to our area,” said Ken Heath, executive director of the town of Marion's community development organization.

Grants are intended for local businesses involved in arts, entertainment or recreation, accommodation and food services, retail trade, or the manufacturing sectors. Businesses can find out how to apply for the grants by visiting RegionAHEAD.com. An allocation committee made up of regional economic development representatives, educators, health care professionals, a banker and a certified public accountant will review the applications and disburse the funds as quickly as funding and applications can be received through the effort.

“The amount that we will be able to give to small businesses relies on how much consumers and other businesses are willing to give,” said Beth Rhinehart, President and CEO of the Bristol Tennessee-Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

“We know that local businesses here have always supported key fundraising charities, such as the Niswonger Children’s Radiothon or Speedway Children’s Charities,” said Claudia Byrd, director of the Bristol Chapter. “Many of those great donors are now in a crisis at no fault of their own, and I hope consumers and other businesses who have not been impacted so deeply will donate enthusiastically for this important cause.”

Any donor can find out more about the fund and can give online at RegionAHEAD.com. Those who want to donate by check can mail donations to the Local Business Recovery Fund, 603 E. Market St., Johnson City, TN 37601.

“The support of our local media outlets has been extraordinary and appreciated in support of this effort,” says Mitch Miller, executive director of the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership. “Every media company that we have contacted has wanted to play a role in this important undertaking,” said Clay Walker, CEO of NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership.

“Greene County businesses are hurting,” said Jeff Taylor, president and CEO of the Greene County Partnership. “Citizens and businesses who are less affected by the COVID crisis can do something important for these hurting businesses across the region now with their donations.”

Local businesses and sole proprietorships that are locally operated are eligible to apply for a grant in Carter, Greene, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington counties in Tennessee and Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington and Wise counties, along with the cities of Bristol and Norton in Virginia.

“We hope that this crisis will end very soon so that we can begin the recovery,” says Bob Cantler, president and CEO of the Johnson City, Jonesborough, Washington County Chamber of Commerce. “Till then, and long after, your donations can help to preserve jobs tied to local businesses that we know and love.”

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