15 Nov Record Turnout by Grassroots Economic Development Organization
From Washington DC to Coffee Ridge, Promoting Unicoi County Is The Mission
A celebration of success and a look at the road ahead were central themes at a social event of an organization calling itself R.I.S.E. (Rejuvenate. Invest. Support. Energize.) Erwin. Unicoi County at Blue Ridge Paddling, a new company that points to the opportunities behind the group.
Many of the of the founding members of R.I.S.E. Erwin were on hand not only to celebrate their successes in promoting tourism and small business since the pandemic but to enthusiastically talk about what’s next.
Ben McNabb is a Unicoi County native who purchased a legendary furniture store in downtown Erwin. Over more than a decade, Ben has transitioned the store into the cornerstone of a successful enterprise. “I purchased Keesecker Furniture and Appliance because of its existing brand awareness,” McNabb explains. “I’ve since expanded into flooring sales, a busy coffee shop, a home renovation business, and I’m now constructing three apartments upstairs for Airbnb rentals. These are exciting times in our county and excited about what’s ahead.”
Ben was one of several pioneer businessmen and women on hand to welcome other entrepreneurs, government officials, and tourism leaders gathered to pledge their support for continued tourist and economic growth in the county.
“Unicoi County has a special opportunity in adventure tourism and so much more,” says U.S. Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger to the group. “I love this county, and I will do my part in your success for years ahead.” Harshbarger owns a family retreat in the south side of the county, and says she and her husband are frequent visitors to the county.
Unicoi County’s Tara Baker dreamt of creating a mobile hospitality bar and her dream came true. She renovated an old camper into Ginseng Girl Mobile Bar. As she served guests during the celebration, she had time to say, “I’m so busy at events across the region because we had a unique offering that everyone loves. Today, I park by business in my driveway and go when opportunity calls. I’ve been able to quit my job and build my business right here in Unicoi County.”
Rachelle Shurtz is President of R.I.S.E. Erwub and invited those who have yet to join the organization to their monthly meetings on the third Thursday of each month at the Union Street Tap Room. “We are here to find common ground on promoting Unicoi County and supporting the image of the county, new businesses coming here and in welcoming visitors to Real. Wild. Unicoi County.
Austin Finch, Unicoi County Economic Development Director, helped organize the event and says that interest in the county continues to grow. “There is newfound interest in the entire region, and we are very much a part of that interest due to our beautiful position between Asheville and the Tri-Cities,” Finch says. “Our quality of life, natural beauty, great education system, and lower cost of living than other states are making Unicoi County a new destination for economic development.”
Regional economic development and tourism leaders were on hand for the celebration. Alicia Phelps, is Executive Director of the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association. “Unicoi County earns its positive recognition for outdoor adventure. It’s perfectly positioned along a world-class whitewater river, the Appalachian Trail, Lamar Alexander Rocky Fork State Park and much more. All are within easy reach of I-26 between Charleston SC and the Northeast Tennessee region. I see the economic benefits to the county growing at an even faster pace in years to come.”
Will Barrett, CEO of Bank of Tennessee who sponsored the celebration, also serves as the Treasurer of a new private partnership for promoting the Northeast Tennessee Region, was another local leader adding his support. “I love your marketing effort here, and we are out to partner with you to support you in your growth.”