By Richard Rourk
A new, multi-tiered campaign to promote outdoor tourism and population growth has been launched in Unicoi County.
Anchored by the theme, “Real. Wild. Unicoi County,” the strategy aims to grow awareness of the county as a destination for outdoor enthusiasts and those looking to move to or retire to the county.
“While the region may know of the many assets Unicoi County offers, we’re launching a campaign to let the world know,” Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County Executive Director Tyler Engle said. “With so many people in search of the peace and beauty of the great outdoors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our launch is well-timed to make Unicoi County a destination for tourists and those looking to move or retire to a safe and beautiful place.”
RealWildUnicoiCounty.com provides deep insights into the county’s offerings to outdoor enthusiasts, who according to Engle, in 2019, generated more than $9.7 million in tourism expenditures in the county.
“Tourism generated $780,000 in local tax revenues here, according to the Tennessee Department of Tourism in 2019,” Engle explains. “We want to greatly increase that number in the coming years and create new jobs related to tourism.”
The campaign will likewise reverse stagnant population growth in the county by attracting families to move to the county with MoveToUnicoiCounty.com or retire here through RetireToUnicoiCounty.com, according to officials.
“The pandemic caused many companies to allow employees to work remotely and that practice is expected to continue,” Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County Chairman Lee Brown said. “We are ideally positioned with Erwin Fiber’s gigabit broadband service to most of our county and an affordable co-working space for small business start-ups and entrepreneurs offered by Erwin Utilities (go to SquareOneErwin.com).”
The taxes alone are a reason for individuals to retire in Unicoi County.
“Unlike most states, Tennessee has no state income tax and does not tax retiree incomes,” Engle said. “Unicoi County’s cost of living also compares well to anywhere in the country. The websites offer a convenient calculator that enables users to estimate the additional dollars that they can pocket when they move or retire to Unicoi County.”
The website provides users with a deep insight into everything Unicoi County and features a logo as unique as the county itself.
“The logo on the website is done by Tony Treadway and the team at Creative Energy,” Engle said. “You can see the ‘U’ logo starts with the falls at Rocky Fork and then travels to the bottom and features the Nolichucky River and finally goes back up to the Pinnacle Mountain Fire Tower.”
The campaign will include social media ads and other forms of digital marketing targeting specific groups and regions within the U.S.
“This is the most ambitious campaign launched in the county to grow jobs and increase our population and tax base,” Engle said. “I believe that it will also attract more businesses to Unicoi County and allow us to become a home to new business startups. While much of our emphasis remains on industrial recruitment, tourism and the beauty that we offer here can play a significant role in our economic growth.”
According to Engle, the Joint Economic Development Board of Unicoi County has worked hard to become a destination for retirees.
“It started with my predecessor, (former executive director) Tish Oldham – we had participated with the State Department of Tourism Development on a project called ‘Retire Tennessee,” Engle said. “We would actually go and give talks in places where the weather and living conditions were miserable, and we were offering four comfortable seasons here in Tennessee and people were snatching it up. Of course with this year, the county only funded us at about 50 percent of their obligation, we had to make tough choices. That’s when we started working with Tony Treadway and the wonderful people at Creative Energy to focus on dispatching a new game plan.”
Engle explained why it is so important to bring in fresh faces.
“The more people we can relocate to Unicoi County, the less tax burden it is on our citizens,” Engle said. “Imagine we have a pool that needs to be drained. The more people we have bailing out the pool the easier it will be.”
You can visit the multi tiered website at realwildunicoicounty.com.