In response to the region's current and projected economic situation, several economic development and tourism leaders have created an online information sharing platform called the Appalachian Highlands Economic Aid Directory (AHEAD).
The directory will be used to let the public know what businesses are doing during the quarantine. Businesses will be able to input information such as take-out options, closures and other information that could assist them until the situation improves.
The form asks for a point of contact, business name, email address, phone number, the city, the county, hours of operation, type of business, operations and most importantly provides a space to tell others how to help. This information will also be helpful when speaking to local, state, and federal agencies in the coming months once the overall impact from COVID-19 can truly be accessed.
Once all the information shared by business leaders is collected, the site will launch with listings, resources, tools and stories from around the region. The intent of this portal will be for locals to learn how to help each other. The directory will be launched within the coming days.
"It's difficult when our industry is dependent upon the public, and it is such a hard decision to temporarily suspend operations, furlough staff, or postpone an event in the best interests of your employees and customers," Northeast Tennessee Tourism Executive Director Alicia Phelps said.
"However, there are still opportunities to support businesses in our area by shopping online, gift cards, ordering to-go and delivery services, as well as planning a future trip. There are also businesses that are still open, as well as outdoor opportunities. Right now the most important thing is your health and safety, and folks are strongly advised to take certain precautions and use their best judgement. This region has a strong sense of community and is unbelievably resilient. This too shall pass, and when it does, the tourism and hospitality industry will be there to support our local economy. We must lean on each other now more than ever."
Partners involved in this effort so far are: Bristol Chamber of Commerce, Johnson City Chamber of Commerce, Kingsport Chamber of Commerce, NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership, Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association and Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership.
The input portal is available now. To submit information, go online to www.regionAHEAD.com.
Alicia Phelps, Director Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association – 423.791.8071
Beth Rhinehart, President & CEO Bristol Chamber of Commerce – 423.360.6777
Mitch Miller, CEO Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership – 423.483.0011