Economic Development Supports Business Recruitment

More than a decade in the making, Erwin’s redevelopment efforts have seen historic progress. The annual Apple Festival in October draws more than 100,000 visitors to downtown each year.

City officials began discussions of a major redevelopment project to modernize Erwin’s downtown as early as 2010. More than a dozen years later Erwin’s downtown facelift has entrepreneurs investing in new the downtown and surrounding area. There is even more support for not only thinking about opening a business and making the investment now with new incentives.

The support for Erwin’s unique collection of merchants help to drive traffic to Erwin merchants.

The redevelopment of downtown was aided by multiple grants from the State of Tennessee and the Appalachian Regional Commission. The Unicoi County Joint Economic and Community Development Board and Erwin Utilities kicked in gigabyte fiber optic service to the Central Business Zone to incentivize entrepreneurs to locate there and offer co-working spaces. A group of successful entrepreneurs, known as RISE, united to drive home the message of Unicoi County being the right place for like-minded new investors to make the county their new home for a new business.

Safe streets for families or great friends mean Erwin’s downtown us ready for merchants and restauranters alike.

There is positive momentum and new interest in the county and Erwin’s downtown by investors,” says Austin Finch, Executive Director of the Unicoi County Joint Economic and Community Development Board.

A monthly First Friday, and weekly farmers market and the Nolichucky Opry are driving more attention to downtown Erwin merchants.

In July, our economic development board announced its support designed to existing businesses in the downtown by investing in paid advertising to drive consumer traffic existing merchants with television commercials and paid social advertising. The focus is around our Friday night Nolichucky Opry and farmers market and our First Friday’s where merchants and restaurants stay open late of the first Friday of each month,” says Finch. “We are also developing new ideas for visitors to spend the day visiting multiple locations in the county as part of a day trips strategy that can drive traffic to merchants. That will be launching later this year. Our leadership in outdoor adventures, history, Southern Pottery, and other day trips that leads to merchant and restaurant visits are ingredients to success.”

The latest support follows an earlier paid social media campaign that reached more than 640,000 consumers in November 2022 through January 2023 to drive traffic to merchants and restaurants during the holiday season.

Steel Rails Coffee House on Main Street recently upgraded its façade and the owner added new rental condo on the upper floor of his downtown building.

If you are considering a new business to be in the region, be sure to contact Austin Finch to discuss your vision and opportunities available to you in Unicoi County. He can be reached at (423) 735-4578‬‬ or via e-mail at

Want to see an interesting time lapse video of work underway during the downtown revitalization work from several years ago, click here.



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