KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Business owners and economic leaders said breweries and distilleries are helping to boost Northeast Tennessee’s economy and that’s partially thanks to the people they are drawing to our region.

A couple of Tri-Cities business owners spoke Thursday morning to a room of economic leaders at the MeadowView Convention Center in Kingsport for the Tennessee Economic Development Council Fall Conference.

The owners of Gypsy Circus Cidery and Tennessee Hills Distillery & Brewery said they offer unique experiences in Northeast Tennessee and its attracting people from far and wide.

While local economic leaders say there haven’t been studies on the impacts of alcohol production on Northeast Tennessee’s economy, the apparent growth of businesses makes it easier to attract other businesses and tourists.

“It’s all part of what we sell to all industries to attract residents,” said Clay Walker, CEO NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership.

The businesses are boasting growth individually. Gypsy Cider employs about 40 people.

“Tennessee Hills went from five to almost 50 employees in the last year and a half,” said Scott Andrew, CEO of Rugged American Spirits. “When we open the distillery in Bristol here in about 12 months, we’ll probably have another 40 or 50.”

While locals are hired the businesses are creating a buzz across state lines.

“I would say around 30% of our customers that come in every weekend are out of state,” said Aaron Carson, owner and founder of Gypsy Circus Cider Company.

That creates a domino effect with and for other businesses.

“We’ve met with the Hard Rock Casino people just across the line in Virginia,” Andrew said. “They say they’re going to bring a certain number of people – 2 to 3 million a year is what they expect. They need for those people to then be able to go do other more experiential things than just going to that resort.”

Each hopes to put Northeast Tennessee on tourists’ maps.

“It’s the birthplace of country music is NASCAR,” said Stephen Callahan, owner and founder of Tennessee Hills. “Now it needs to be the trailhead for Tennessee whiskey.”

Walker said putting the owners of Gypsy Circus and Tennessee Hills on a panel Thursday morning gains them the attention of statewide leaders.

“We call it in economic development, OPM, other people’s money,” said Walker. “They make that money here, it’s going to end up at the headquarters. So it’s going to be great for our economy.”

Andrew said he’d like to see Tennessee start conducting research on the economic impacts of distilling and breweries on the state economy to see where they’re lacking and how they can capitalize on the industry.