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Calkins believes the county has enormous tourism potential

To the Editor:
I would like to respond to Dennis Shekinah’s recent letter proposing a public dialogue on ways to generate greater tax revenues for the benefit of our community.  Having spent the past 45 years working on projects in developing countries, I have seen first-hand the considerable economic benefits possible through tourism development.  These include increased revenues for local businesses – from restaurants and accommodations to craft and antique stores, to recreation and entertainment facilities, to local farmers, vineyards, and apiaries.  These same revenues generate local employment, as well as sales and other taxes for local governments.  By drawing more people to visit the area, property sales also increase, strengthening the local real estate market.
Johnson County, in my humble opinion, has enormous tourism potential, much of it as yet un-tapped:  (i) the incredible natural beauty of our mountains, lakes and streams; (ii) the opportunities for outdoor recreation – from Doe Mountain, to Watauga Lake, to the Appalachian Trail and beyond; (iii) the absolutely fascinating history of the people of this area – from the original inhabitants, to the early European settlers, to more recent generations; and (iv) last but not least, the rich heritage of mountain music that originated in these parts.  (While the first recordings of mountain music were made in Bristol, the musicians themselves were from the mountain hollows of northeast Tennessee, northwest North Carolina, and southwest Virginia.)
Creating a destination’s “brand image” is one of the first elements of successful tourism development.  Jonesboro, for example is, known as “The Oldest City in Tennessee.”  Nashville is “Music City”.  We used to be “The Green Bean Capitol of the World”, until the mechanical bean picker put an end to that.  Building on the “Long Journey Home” initiative, and the wonderfully successful “JAM” program designed to sustain that heritage through music education for our youth, I wonder if, going forward, we might become known as “The Mountain Music City”.  Your thoughts?
Richard A. Calkins