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Web site draws huge response

SHARON CASKEY HAYES • Mar 5, 2007 at 11:21 AM

KINGSPORT - Move to Kingsport.

It's becoming the city's mantra to people looking to relocate.

The Kingsport Area Chamber of Commerce officially launched its new movetokingsport.com Web site last October. And so far, the response might be surprising.

In February alone, the site attracted 1,900 unique visitors and nearly 3,000 total hits.

Of those, 157 came from the European Union, and 31 originated from Canada.

In January, the Web site attracted more than 2,100 unique visitors and 3,200 total hits.

The most commonly viewed Web pages on the site are photographs of the city, including its mountains and lakes, landmark buildings such as the Train Station and the MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center, and community events such as Fun Fest.

The second most commonly viewed pages are those with real estate information.

And the third most commonly viewed are those with employment information.

The Web site also includes information on quality of life in Kingsport, such as arts and entertainment, school systems and institutions of higher learning, child care and health care, as well as relocation resources.

Elaine Bodenweiser, director of chamber services, said requests to the Kingsport chamber for packet information on the city have increased substantially since the site was launched. Such requests jumped a whopping 62 percent from December to January.

"This has been a wonderful site. It's such a good tool. And the statistics we're getting back every month just reinforce how much this site was needed," said Bodenweiser.

The Web site is fueling a trend that is already well under way. According to new water tap registrations - which show where residents previously lived - nearly 900 families moved to Kingsport from 32 different states between July 2006 and January 2007. Florida generated the most new families - 64 of them migrated here from the Sunshine State during that time.

Some folks find East Tennessee and ultimately Kingsport through Web site searches. Others have family or friends who already live here.

"Our best salespeople are people who are here talking to friends and family. And in the future, that's going to be one of our emphases - a friends and family campaign," Bodenweiser said.

She said national statistics show that a person looking to relocate will visit an area three to four times before making the final move.

The chamber is hoping to help seal the deal. Bodenweiser said the Kingsport Convention and Visitors Bureau is working on a project in which prospective new residents would be invited to visit Kingsport for a familiarization tour. The event would introduce them to life in the Model City.

"It would be like a convention, except in this case, the common thread is their interest in moving to Kingsport," Bodenweiser said.

The Kingsport Chamber of Commerce has helped local employers recruit job candidates to the city for years. Bodenweiser said the chamber produced a 45-minute PowerPoint presentation to showcase the city and its offerings. Chamber staff and volunteers meet with job recruits and their families one on one to answer their questions and address any concerns.

She said the chamber has a 100 percent success rate from those presentations.

NETWORKS – Sullivan Partnership is also working to attract new residents. The organization has formed a Relocation Committee that's targeting two groups: employees to fill available jobs and high-income households. Many of those folks may be retiring elsewhere and looking to locate to a new community.

Sullivan County is one of 10 communities in a pilot program called Retire Tennessee to help reach out to retirees.

Bodenweiser said statistics show that for every baby boomer who locates in a community, more than two jobs are created as a result, primarily in the health care field.

"We need to brace ourselves for being prepared for all of this," Bodenweiser said.

Richard Venable, executive director of NETWORKS – Sullivan Partnership, said his office is particularly looking to recruit retiring military personnel. Many of those folks are looking for job opportunities, and many of them have acquired the skills needed by local employers.

"Those are the folks who've completed their enlistment. It might be a helicopter mechanic, a machinist, something like that. We think that's really a place we can mine and go to the Fort Jacksons and Fort Bennings where people are coming out of the service," Venable said.

Other communities in Northeast Tennessee have jumped on the "Move to" Web site effort. For more information visit www.movetokingsport.com or www.movetonortheasttn.com. Other sites, including www.movetobristol.com, www.movetosullivancounty.com and www.movetobluffcity.com are expected to come online soon.

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