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April 22, 2021

Tourism Pivot Makes Johnson City a Hot Spot for Positive Migration

Teresa Treadway

Image of Johnson City, TN, on of the fastest growing regions in the U.S.

Marc Anthony said, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”  Take that quote a step further by saying, “and if you live in a place you love, life can be almost perfect”.

We’re all looking back at 2020 and early 2021, many times in a blur and other times in disbelief. 

Thankfully, I am blessed to live in a beautiful home, in a neighborhood I adore with plenty of space to move around that helped me keep my sanity.  I personally can’t imagine if I had been in a much larger city, living in a very small apartment, adapting to remote work, while trying to take care and teach my kids.  Top that off with colder temperatures, forcing you to stay indoors for days with no end in sight and you have a recipe for serious cabin fever.  It’s obvious now that many individuals of all ages were thinking if they could just make it through the winter, they were ready to make a change. The rest of this story is how Creative Energy helped to coax a stampede.

By the spring of 2020, Americans were facing the realities of a pandemic.  Tourism had waned and Creative Energy saw an opportunity to pivot its hometown client, the Johnson City Convention and Visitors Bureau (JCCVB), to shift focus to recruiting those who were ready to make a move for a fresh start in a better place to live. Finding additional funds through a partnership with the local utility (BrightRidge), a “Move and Retire Here” message was launched with an aggressive social media and digital campaign. Insights from monitoring traffic to the client’s website led to smart geo-targeting of media dollars.

Through age, geographic and behavioral targeting, JCCVB was able to provide video messaging allowing these potential residents to see first-hand what living or retiring in Johnson City could be like for them.  In March alone, JCCVB received 178 inquiries for more information. 

Results from this initial campaign reached over 245,000 individuals with ads being viewed over 850,000 times.  They received 212,000 total engagements with over 600 shares and 6,000 link clicks.  Even after the completion of the first campaign, we continued to see residual traffic directly tied to our target cities.  Quickly those insights and smart targeting began to pay off.

This was evidenced by a study released by U-Haul on January 4, 2021, that saw Tennessee claimed the No. 1 spot for one-way migration of its moving vehicles to the state with Johnson City ranking #12 as a moving destination in the survey.  With the pandemic continuing to keep larger states in lockdown, it was the final push that forced “dreamers of different lifestyles” to take the plunge.  These do-it-yourself movers, some first-time home buyers had done their research and in many cases were buying homes sight unseen and offering thousands of dollars over the asking price to make this move a reality. As the momentum of the JCCVB campaign continued to build in the winter, a new proof of success made headlines. 

On April 13, 2021, PODS rentals ranked Johnson City as #2 in the nation for the highest net gain in one-way moves by residents for the entire nation! Stories like these will continue to evolve and expand throughout 2021, so stay tuned as the second wave of the campaign is underway and will wrap up in early June of this year!

Top 10 growth cities in the US

PODS 2021 Net Gain Migration Study found Johnson City to land at #2 in the U.S.

But there is an opportunity to double down on the economic opportunities of capturing a piece of the great American migration.  With many companies and employees discovering they can maintain a remote workforce that is engaged and productive, thousands of individuals, couples, and families are moving from larger cities and flocking to smaller towns and rural communities in the south to start a new chapter in their lives and careers.

JCCVB, in partnership with the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association (NETTA) and Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership (NETREP), a newly approved campaign, “Cash into the Appalachians” will launch in mid-May to incentivize remote workers to choose Johnson City as their new “home base”.   Based on a one-year commitment tied to the worker’s annual salary, potential residents could earn up to $5,000 to live, work and play in this hidden gem of a region.  If you desire a small office environment, incubator, or collaborative space, you’ll find it readily available.  Johnson City, positioned as a 10Gig city, will afford many in the tech space fast internet to keep their work running smoothly.  A growing and thriving downtown, with great food, music, and culture will win over the hearts of new residents in no time with the welcoming spirit of our beautiful city.  Now more than ever, people from across the country want to embrace a different lifestyle.  Many are choosing early retirement and they want to move to a warmer climate, enjoy lower taxes and quality of life.  It may be couples wanting to purchase their first home, start a family that also includes dogs, cats and raise a garden.  Many are just looking for solitude and the feeling of freedom by stepping outside from their home office and into the beauty of their own backyard nestled in the Appalachian Mountains. Smart destination marketing can pay off in many ways. If you would like to discuss your opportunity, let’s talk.