Call center opens at Borla Facility

Published February 26, 2013 in

A new call call center in Johnson City, Tenn. will employ 100 people. The Festiva Hospitality Group is investing $1.1 million in the project, according to a release from the Tennessee Department of Economic and community Development.

“We are thankful for Festiva Hospitality Group’s decision to locate in Johnson City and the investment in our state and its citizens,” Gov. Bill Haslam said. “I’m certain the company will find a welcoming home in Tennessee and the Tri-Cities area as we continue our work to make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.”

The Asheville, N.C.-based vacation ownership company is owned by Festiva Adventure Group and employs approximately 900 people worldwide. The new inbound/outbound call center is housed in the Borla facility at 500 Borla Drive in south Johnson City. Festiva manages and operates a wide array of resorts throughout the United States and Caribbean, as well as a fleet of luxury yachts.

“Festiva Hospitality Group is another great addition to the state,” Commissioner Bill Hagerty said. “In this globally competitive economic environment, Tennessee’s business-friendly reputation continues to be an attractive choice for companies. I am pleased Festiva recognizes this and has chosen to include our state in its path to success.”

Festiva cited the metro area’s strong labor pool and the willingness of state and local officials to help establish operations successfully as primary keys to its decision to locate in Johnson City.

“This community has long embraced call centers,” said Mike Ross, Festiva director of marketing. “So when the opportunity came to find a home that would support growth, Johnson City was an easy decision.”

Festiva is currently seeking qualified candidates to help expand their Johnson City operations. Interested candidates should contact Mike Ross at [email protected]

“It has been wonderful to work with Mr. Ross and Festiva Hospitality Group in bringing new jobs to our region,” said Tom Anderson, Carter County Tomorrow president. “Through collaborative efforts and multi-jurisdictional cooperation, Mitch Miller of Washington County Economic Development Council, Alicia Summers with the state of Tennessee, and Carter County Tomorrow have worked together for a common solution for job creation.”

GP Harmon Recycling Comes To Elizabethton

GP Harmon Recycling, a leader in recycling solutions, today announced its acquisition of The Highlands Group’s (THG) plastics recycling facility located in the Watauga Industrial Park in Elizabethton, Tenn. The facility’s operations specialize in separating various polymers from mixed material streams to generate high-grade plastic raw materials that can be used for a variety of commercial purposes.

“This acquisition expands our recycling technologies and service offerings to meet customer needs,” said Marc Forman, president – GP Harmon Recycling. “We are excited to operate in Elizabethton and welcome THG employees to our company. They have developed a great customer base and bring a tremendous new opportunity to GP Harmon Recycling that we plan to expand.”

For more than 40 years, GP Harmon Recycling has been offering its expertise to the recycled paper industry by bringing together buyers and sellers in transactions involving millions of tons of recycled paper annually. In 2007, the company expanded its portfolio of products to include non-fiber material such as plastics and metal. Today, GP Harmon transacts more than 100,000 tons of non-paper recyclable material, making it one of the largest recyclable commodities traders in the world.

GP Harmon Recycling distributes recycled materials in the United States and internationally. It employs about 185 people and currently has offices and operations in several states including New York, California, New Jersey, Georgia, Wisconsin, Arkansas, and now Tennessee.

GP Harmon Recycling is a subsidiary of and the sole provider of recovered fiber to Georgia-Pacific, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and marketers of bath tissue, paper towels, office paper, packaging, pulp, building products and related chemicals. Georgia-Pacific employs nearly 35,000 people worldwide. For more information, visit

The Highlands Group, Inc., founded in 1988, is headquartered in Winston-Salem, NC, and has a well-established reputation within the plastics industry, focusing primarily on processing of injection grade commodity resins, parts and regrind.

Committee creating petition for business improvement district

By Ashley Rader

Work toward starting a business improvement district in downtown Elizabethton continues as city staff members work to complete a petition to show support for the project.

Director of Planning and Development Jon Hartman said the committee working on the district is meeting regularly and is drafting a petition to circulate among the property owners in downtown Elizabethton for those who support the district to sign.

Before the petition is finalized and presented to business owners, the downtown improvement plan will be reviewed to give estimates for what the improvements to the downtown district would cost.

“We are about a month away from a finalized petition that is ready to sign,” Hartman said.

Hartman said the planning department was continuing the education process about the BID to keep the property owners informed with the process. He said one option would be to bring in guest speakers from areas that have established districts.

Chamber speaker: Stick to what you do well

By Ashley Rader

Johnson City’s Public Works director offered a tip to local chamber members: Do more of what you do well.

The Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors heard a presentation Thursday from Johnson City Public Works Director Phil Pindzola, who provided some suggestions and tips for improving the business conditions of Carter County.

Chamber Board President Keith Young said he would invite guest speakers to the monthly board meetings to give the board members ideas to consider when thinking of ways to improve the Chamber’s impact on local businesses.

Pindzola, who has been public works director for 35 years, said government officials need to look at the city or the county’s strengths and play to those areas.

“Don’t invent something else,” Pindzola said. “Expand on what you do well. You will always succeed when you expand on what you do well.”

Local leaders celebrate completion of Sutherland water project

By Max Hrenda, The Elizabethton Star @

In October of 2002, then-Johnson County Mayor Dick Grayson applied for federal assistance to install and extend water utility lines in the Sutherland community in Shady Valley.

Eleven years and one mayor later, that community’s wait has come to an end.

On Friday, some of Tennessee’s lawmakers and Johnson County’s local leaders gathered at the Sutherland Community Church in Shady Valley to celebrate the completion of one of the state’s longer running projects.

Current Johnson County Mayor Larry Potter began the ceremony by thanking the officials in attendance not only for attending the event, but for their work in securing the project’s conclusion.

“I really appreciate, from the bottom of my heart, you all coming out today to acknowledge this,” Potter said.

Forty-three homes in Shady Valley will now have access to fully functional water lines. The project extended water lines from state Route 133, adjacent Johnson County roads, and South Shady Street in nearby Damascus, Va., and was assisted by nearly every conceivable level of government – Johnson County, the Washington County (Va.) Service Authority, the state of Tennessee, the commonwealth of Virginia, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I guess it’s true,” Potter said. “When government works together, at its best, (it is) for a reason like this. I can’t thank you enough for these people and getting water up here.”

That sentiment was echoed by state Rep. Timothy Hill, who represents Johnson, Carter, and parts of Sullivan counties in the state Legislature.

“I’m excited to see the determination from one mayor to the next, from a Congressman and a lieutenant governor, and to be able to see a good project finally get finished,” Hill said. “It just shows a real sense of community.”s.

New workshops take aim at job searches, job skills

By Ashley Rader

People who need help with a job search or improving job skills can find it in new workshops being offered by the Alliance for Business and Training.

AB&T Executive Director Kathy Pierce said the agency offers the new employment workshops, which began Monday, to help the local population become more prepared for a job search and then for the work force.

“As of August, 8.5 percent of the population of Carter County is unemployed,” Pierce said. “That is up a little from the last report. We don’t know the numbers for September because of the shutdown. That is 2,400 people that are unemployed, and that is just the ones that reported. There is a huge contingent that is not there so it is probably much higher.”

Pierce said underemployed workers or people who had ran out of unemployment benefits and have given up their job search would not be included in the totals.

She continued that in the five Northeast Tennessee counties served by AB&T there were almost 1,400 unfilled jobs, and there were 30,000 unfilled jobs in the state.

“Our mission is to match the people who need the jobs with the jobs that need to be filled,” Pierce said. “Obviously there is a mismatch between the jobs to be had and the skills the job searchers have that are needed to fill those positions.”