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Kingsport BMA hopefuls address attracting new residents

Matthew Lane • Apr 30, 2019 at 1:16 PM

KINGSPORT — Kingsport has a population of more than 53,000 and on any given day of the week more than 20,000 people — who live outside the city limits — come into the Model City to work, shop and eat.

However, these people also leave at the end of the day and do not call Kingsport their home. This has long been an issue among city and elected leaders, with efforts taken over the years to change this trend, to somehow convince these people to consider relocating to Kingsport permanently.

In the fifth of a five-part series, the Times News asked the candidates running for mayor and alderman in the upcoming city election their thoughts on what Kingsport should be doing to attract and retain people and what type of people the city should be targeting. Here are their replies:

CHRIS BULLE

We need to focus on retaining the people our city educates, as well as bringing in new young professionals and entrepreneurs. To do this, we need to highlight the great educational facilities we have here and provide places for their graduates to work. At the end of the day I think people move for jobs more than anything else. This is where a regional partnership can help us. We need to attract businesses to get those workers who move for work to live in our city which will in turn help in developing our arts and entertainment options. With an influx of people comes diversity and growth.

JOE CARR

While it’s wonderful that more seniors are moving here, Kingsport shouldn’t just be looked at as just a retirement community. We can’t punt the ball on attracting young people and expect to compete with Johnson City and Bristol economically. You have to cater to both ends of the spectrum to truly grow our community and get us back to being great. Specifically, we need to do more to market Kingsport and attract young couples with families to this region. The beauty of this region and the warmhearted people here in our city speak for themselves; we just need to get people here to experience Kingsport. Fixing our infrastructure, preserving the Level 1 Trauma Center and NICU, attracting a big-name company (Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, etc.) to create more jobs, addressing the needs of our growing homelessness problem, and creative more activities for both the young and old in our community will all be essential going forward.

DARRELL DUNCAN

As Chairperson of Move to Kingsport for the past two years, the team and I have worked diligently to build relationships with employers across the region to help bring more people to Kingsport. When young professionals come to the area, we showcase our top-rated educational system, our affordable housing, and our award-winning city services as reasons to choose Kingsport as their new home. We also feature the great leisure offerings we have from Bays Mountain and the Greenbelt to the Kingsport Theater Guild and Symphony of the Mountains. Our city has a whole lot to offer — we have small town hospitality with large city amenities. Retirees are attracted to the state of Tennessee due to the low cost of living, climate, quality of life assets, and lack of state income tax, and we indeed promote those benefits with everyone we meet at Move to Kingsport. Over the past year, the Move to Kingsport website has been redeveloped to be more user-friendly and make it much easier to request relocation guides for our city. Every month we send out many of these guides that help make the transition to becoming a Kingsport citizen easier. From young professionals to retirees to families, I think there’s room for everyone in Kingsport.

CHARLES HONAKER

We need more mid-priced homes in Kingsport with quality of life projects attached, walking areas, playgrounds, even areas for picnics. We have a lot of stay at home moms and dads that would benefit from having a playground, picnic areas and such at their home. Concerts and festival venues. More jobs at good pay. We must retain people as their lives evolve. We need to overlap each generation’s wish list. We need to ask and listen to all our residents more. I would even go as far to say, have open public meetings, town hall type for suggestions.

Our people who represent this great city need and want to be heard. I truly believe if we get the residents more involved and listen and do some of the ideas, they will help, they will stand up and show up. My wife met a D-B leadership class recently, she was invited to speak about what makes great leaders. She asks 30 D-B juniors and seniors how many were going to college, all 30 hands went up. When asked how many will be returning home to start their career only five hands stayed up. They said they have nothing to come back to and it’s boring here. We have a serious problem. It’s not showing its ugly self yet but will in the very near future. Let’s make Kingsport number one again. I’m excited. Let’s get it.

DENNIS MABB

Family fun spots, working class families and people with small businesses.

MIKE MCINTIRE

People will move to Kingsport for good jobs, good schools, a good quality of life and a low cost of living. City government must continually provide the best environment for the existing private sector to create jobs, must cooperate with our economic development partners to attract new businesses and industries, must maintain excellent schools, and must support efforts to reach retirees and other potential new residents. We also need to understand why people move here, or leave, so that our marketing can be better focused and negatives can be addressed. We must continue to promote Kingsport to a broad demographic as a good place to live, work and play.

CHRIS MILLS

The attraction of people goes hand in hand with the attraction of new employers. We need to figure out what businesses/industries we can entice, thus focus our efforts on bringing in the people to fill those careers. It is difficult to lay out a definitive plan when there are many known and unknown variables with which to contend.

TOMMY OLTERMAN

Kingsport’s officials should be on a first name basis with all companies within its corporate boundaries. By doing so, we would be knowledgeable regarding the job skills required for each business and industry and therefore we would be able to attract and retain those individuals needed for the jobs in Kingsport.

JAMES PHILLIPS

When someone or something stops growing, it begins the process of dying. We have no choice but to grow. Staying the same is not an option. We must have an educated and drug-free workforce. We must make sure that the RCAM facility remains one of the top trade schools in the Southeast. We must not only maintain; we must continuously be promoting excellence in our K-12 school system. We must do our best to develop an excellent quality of life for our citizens. We must continue to address housing and yes, homelessness. When people are looking for a place to raise their children, Kingsport must be at the top of their list.

When we embrace who we are, we will be better at being who we are. Self-realization is as essential to a community as it is an individual. We will never be Nashville or Charlotte or Asheville, etc. We must be the best Kingsport. We do not have to be ashamed of who we are. I'm proud of Kingsport. I've returned to raise my family here. That is why I am running for Kingsport alderman and why I need your vote.

PAT SHULL

While I am well-known as a “fiscal conservative,” I’ve never advocated “cutting our way to growth.” One area where increased spending would be both principled and practical is in revitalizing the “Move to Kingsport” program. Kingsport should be aggressively marketed as an ideal retirement area based on our low cost of living, outstanding health care, attractive quality of life amenities, and pleasant year-round weather. Active recent retirees do not strain the education system, bring outside money into town, and demand services which create innovative jobs for the vibrant younger workers we want to keep here after they graduate from our vocational and technical programs. I envision that Kingsport will one day be named a MONEY Magazine Top 25 city for retirees. Priorities are a prerequisite for progress.

NATHAN VAUGHN

Kingsport must first establish an identity by defining who we are and what makes our community special. We cannot be all things to all people and by understanding our strengths/weaknesses this will allow us to target our recruitment to a broad variety of people. Diversity is imperative in order to create a dynamic community that attracts newcomers. The best recruiter is a satisfied citizen.

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