Last week, the governments of Johnson City; Kingsport; Bristol, Tennessee; Bristol, Virginia; Washington County, Virginia; Washington County, Tennessee; and Sullivan County issued a joint press release explaining the need for a regional identity and how the process of creating one would unfold.
Six quasi-governmental organizations are also involved in the endeavor, including Johnson City, Kingsport and Bristol’s Convention and Visitors Bureaus; the Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership; the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Association and the NETWORKS — Sullivan Partnership.
“What do you think of, when you think of home? Our mountains, our history, all our people with unique stories — all of that’s home,” the press release states.
“It’s hard to put a name to, but that’s why we’re here. We want to create a name for our region that evokes all that pride and common experience — that sense of home — not just for the people that live here, but for people who might want to visit, start a business in or move to our region. We want a name that honors what we have and invites others to come share and help grow it.”
While some might think the region already has de facto identity in “Tri-Cities,” Johnson City Vice Mayor Joe Wise said there are 14 states with cities that use the term “Tri-Cities” to designate themselves, according to a post on his government Facebook page.
Johnson City Commissioner John Hunter added a comment stating there are more than 420 counties that are tied to or associated with Appalachia, an indirect dig at the proposed “Appalachian Highlands” name.
The effort to rebrand the region officially began April 4 when Johnson City commissioners voted unanimously to execute a $48,000 contract with Nashville-based North Star Destination Strategies to research, study and recommend a name brand, which will occur over eight weeks.
The joint press release said North Star was contracted to bring outside objectivity to the initiative. North Star recently worked on a rebranding effort with Johnson City and has developed community names and brands for more than 200 communities in 45 states.
All 13 governments and quasi-governments urge everyone in the region to submit input, as the process works best when communities, religious groups, organizations all unite to share their thoughts, feelings and ideas about our identity.
“The next step will be our community survey. Anyone can join our process by participating in this survey, which will be released in the next few weeks. Citizen and stakeholder input is critical to the success of the research effort,” the press release stated.
“The statistically significant body of qualitative and quantitative data we’ll get from this research and opinion gathering will ensure our new name recommendation is informed by the reality of all perceptions — from residents, consumers and stakeholders alike. The more research we do, the more valid the final recommendation will be.”
Including the community survey, the “Name Our Region” website lays out a four-step process: Research process for naming initiative, key stakeholder interviews, the community survey and sharing the research results.
“Giving our home a name takes time and effort, and it should — because it’s home, and it’s important. Our hope is that this process will be another strong point for continued partnership and growth in our region that benefits residents, visitors, businesses, and beyond.”