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Promoting tourism and growth in Johnson County

By Meg Dickens
Staff Writer

Tourism is not the word many would think of when thinking about Johnson County, but it seems the area has more potential than many realize. Local government officials are working to promote this area at what could be the ideal time. Small towns have been increasing in popularity in recent years, and, if the real estate boom and rising number of new residents mean anything, Johnson County is part of that trend.

According to County Clerk Tammie Fenner, “there has definitely been an increase in the number of people moving to the county.” Some new residents listed the distinct seasons, lower property taxes, and quieter atmosphere as reasons to move to the area. The area may have also gotten a slight boost thanks to Johnson County being one of several counties featured in national magazine Medium’s move-to destination list in August.

As recently as this December, the local government has been working on potential changes and updates to the area. The city and county joined forces with a survey asking the community what they would like added and what resources they regularly use in a Parks and Recreation survey. Alderman Dustin Shearin explained that “it could really grow our community and open up grants for the future,” and City Recorder Sheila Shaw pointed out that this includes the grant the city applied for to restore local tennis courts. The survey is open until January 15.

To increase tourism capital, County Mayor Mike Taylor pursued making Doe Mountain Recreation Area (DMRA) an adventure tourism district and succeeded in January 2020. This classification allows financial breaks to qualifying businesses within the district limits, which promotes growth. These new businesses also encourage more tourism.

The county government is taking a more direct approach to tourism. County Mayor Mike Taylor announced a series of short promotional videos filmed by Kelley St. Germain as part of a social media campaign. These six videos are to promote local assets and encourage tourism. Some of the featured materials include local trails, DMRA, the Johnson County Center for the Arts, and Heritage Hall Theatre.

On a similar note, the Johnson County Arts Council asked permission to refurbish an old city kiosk and use it for informational brochures. This kiosk could be a way to promote local culture and history. For example, G.B.Grayson, who settled in Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee, is one of several musicians responsible for well-known music. Some original music contributed to him include “Train 45,” “Handsome Molly,” “Banks of the Ohio,” “Little Maggie,” “Short Life of Trouble,” “Going Down the Lee Highway,” “Rose Conley,” and “Tom Dooley.”