Advance Bristol Unveils Economic Development Initiatives and Community Partnerships, Contributes $25,000 for Downtown Project

BRISTOL, Tenn. — A coalition of local leaders from the private sector gathered Thursday evening to introduce the Advance Bristol Foundation, a nonprofit organization established to foster economic growth and community development in Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia. 

In collaboration with Believe in Bristol, Bristol Chamber of Commerce, local governments, and community business and industry, Advance Bristol encourages the private sector to provide financial support and partner with the public sector to execute projects that benefit Bristol’s economic viability and overall appeal. 

“Advance Bristol’s mission is to engage innovative leaders who are willing to unite in a collaborative spirit to advance the growth and development of Bristol,” said Advance Bristol Chairman David Wagner. “Bristol is indeed ‘A Good Place to Live,’ and we want to work with our community partners to strengthen our cities, both for those who are here now and for generations to come.”

Advance Bristol’s short-term objectives are to:

  • expand educational programming and workforce development; 
  • pursue additional greenspace and common gathering areas in downtown Bristol;
  • create a façade improvement grant program; and
  • establish and develop art and cultural districts, among other goals.

Potential long-term projects for the organization include:

  • additional downtown parking opportunities;
  • a world-class indoor sports complex; 
  • downtown street arch placement and interstate gateway(s) signage;
  • a redesign of West State Street;
  • new programs and services for the homeless population;
  • investment in new housing developments; and 
  • a broadening of opportunities to use Bristol’s natural resources and outdoor activities.

Advance Bristol’s debut featured a $25,000 contribution to Believe in Bristol, which will help fund installation of a speaker system in downtown Bristol. The $70,000 project is being subsidized via an additional $25,000 provided by Believe in Bristol, $5,000 each from Bristol, Tennessee, and Bristol, Virginia, and $10,000 from Main Street program grants and other private investors. 

The system will enable music to be played in the downtown area during regular business hours and will span the length of State Street, from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Commonwealth Avenue and Volunteer Parkway, with additional coverage on adjacent side streets. 

Installation of the speaker system is planned to begin in a few weeks, and project officials are hopeful that phase one work will be complete and ready for use during the holiday season. The project is expected to be completed by early spring 2022. 

“The idea for the speaker system stemmed from input that our downtown merchants received from shoppers during the holiday season,” said Believe in Bristol Executive Director Maggie Elliott. “The only thing missing from our annual Christmas Open House has been music playing on the sidewalks and streets, so we feel that this project will positively benefit our community and greatly enhance our existing arts and entertainment district.”

Advance Bristol also served as a key partner in the creation of Viking Academy, an off-site, work-based learning program for Tennessee High School and Tennessee Middle School students. Announced in September 2021, the academy will be located at the Friendship Career Center, a more than 24,000-square-foot facility in Bristol, Tennessee, and include automotive, MEP (mechanical, electrical, plumbing) and agriculture programs, and serve as an extension of the school system’s existing Career Technical Education (CTE) program.