Johnson City commissioners approve study of new name for Tri-Cities region

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Johnson City commissioners voted unanimously Thursday night to spend $48,000 to research a new name for the region.

Commissioners approved paying marketing research firm North Star to study a new name for the Tri-Cities region. The city already is under contract with the company to refine its marketing brand.

Click HERE to read a previous report on the study.

“I don’t know what it is going to be.  I just know that we need to agree to it and get behind it,” said Dr. Todd Fowler, commission member.

The name could be used by governments and groups that previously have worked separately and at times directly competed for jobs and tourism.

“We spend a tremendous amount of money sending conflicting messages about our region,” said Commissioner Joe Wise.  “We say we’re the Tri-Cities. You know what that tells people? You have three cities and none of them are significant enough to remember.”

The vote by the Johnson City Commission comes amid a growing push by business leaders for better regional cooperation in marketing the area to tourists, new employees, and new businesses around the world.

Last fall, chambers of commerce presidents from Bristol, Kingsport, and Johnson City advanced the idea in numerous meetings to local groups and even rolled out a video campaign using the name “Appalachian Highlands.”

Several Johnson City commissioners said Thursday their vote to research a name was not a rejection of the “Appalachian Highlands” concept.

“I want to make sure everyone understands our support for regionalism, but we want to get the name right,” said Commissioner Larry Calhoun.

Mayor Jenny Brock said a committee already is working on a new regional marketing model.

“We just need some kind of identification that is ownable and distinct that we can rally around and feel like it speaks to who we are,” Brock said.

More than one commissioner indicated a sense of urgency in the re-branding process.

“Folks, we’re in sales,” said Commissioner Wise.  “And we need to make sure we’re ringing the bell right or we’re going to be left behind.”

News Channel 11 has learned a decision on a new regional brand could happen after June 1st, the target completion of the Johnson City name study.   

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