Heath Guinn, President and Executive Director of Sync Space, describes the mutually beneficial relationship that he sees between rural communities and entrepreneurs.
Heath Guinn believes his community in the Tri-Cities has something special to offer, an ideal environment for entrepreneurship.
“We have our flag in the ground around how rural companies can succeed in a region such as ours,” he said. “The focus on rural as a positive, not as a negative, actually puts us in a position to be one of the nation’s leaders for rural health and rural innovation.”
In this episode of Disrupt the Continuum, Guinn shares how he and the team at Sync Space are supporting entrepreneurs as Launch Tennessee’s newest network partner. He also explains why the Tri-Cities region is an excellent place to start and grow a company.
The Benefits of Rural Entrepreneurship
Guinn’s appreciation for rural entrepreneurship began back in high school, when he started his first business and realized the value of community connections.
“There’s something to be said for being able to get a hold of the city managers and mayors on a quick phone call and introducing the startup companies and young entrepreneurs. Because it demonstrates a level of commitment and access that is hard to find in a bigger market,” he said.
With Sync Space, Guinn hopes to start a conversation about the ways entrepreneurship could encourage economic development. When a region has a strong startup culture, it helps with both talent development and recruitment. Additionally, Guinn believes the Tri-Cities is uniquely suited to help new businesses thrive because people are so willing to help and support each other.
“We’re very much a resilient community,” he shared. “We’re very consistent throughout different events that happen in the economy as a nation and in other things, and so it becomes a really stable place for business and a really great place to live and enjoy and grow families in our area. It’s something we’re very proud of.”
Uniting Businesses Across Industries
That strong community focus is also what ties the whole region together, even as each of the three cities has its own dominant industry. Kingsport is a manufacturing hub, Johnson City has a major healthcare focus, and Bristol is home to a thriving tourism industry.
“Each city has their own unique focus, their own unique goals, and their own unique programming as far as how they achieve those goals, but together we’ve found a way which we can help elevate those goals, but then also have them fit together nicely in a package which is adaptable for entrepreneurs,” Guinn explained.
In the next year, Sync Space plans to have four locations open across the region: one in each city and an additional maker space.
“We don’t have anyone epicenter where entrepreneurs congregate, so we’re forced to look at how we bring people together in a real environment, versus finding them in an existing place. But it also gives us a lot of diversity in what opportunities we have.”
And through its partnership with Launch Tennessee, Guinn hopes that Sync Space will help attract more businesses to the state.
“Tennessee is a great place for small businesses to exist. We all know that,” Guinn said. “[Businesses] can grow in an environment that’s really set in Tennessee and quite different from what they’d find in other parts of the country.”
Please subscribe, rate, and review Disrupt the Continuum wherever you listen to podcasts. This season we’re sharing Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem story. It’s about how, as a statewide community, we collaborate and provide resources founders need to build, scale, and execute their businesses. It’s the power of our statewide network and the boots-on-the-ground startups that #BuildTN.