‘We are caught up in this great reshuffling of America’ | Kingsport leaders urge residents to complete community survey

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KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — City leaders are seeking the community’s input so that leaders can best serve Kingsport residents.

According to Kingsport City Manager Chris McCart, the city teamed with a firm to create a survey that measures residents’ perception of their community, which includes its livability, quality of life, local policies and more.

“This is all part of our strategic planning process,” McCart told News Channel 11.

In February of 2021, as with any other year, the Kingsport Board of Mayor and Aldermen met with city staff to go over recommendations to update and modernize the city’s current strategic plan.

“That led to the conversation about ‘how do we make, how do we know and how do we ensure that our strategic plan and thus our capital and operating budgets are in alignment with what the citizens of Kingsport are looking for us to do?’ And so that kind of began a long conversation about conducting a citizen survey. It’s really been quite some time since the last one was done probably well over a decade if not two or three decades,” he said.

The pandemic created some communication barriers, McCart said.

“When you kind of step back and you look at the last year and a half, the ability for us to have the dialogue that we would with our citizens – primarily due to the pandemic – has been limited, so many things have been canceled or modified and so this gave that opportunity for us to be able to reach out to the citizens allow them to provide us input on the things that we do,” he said.

Another thing that changed during the pandemic was Kingsport’s population.

According to data from the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce’s “Move to Kingsport” initiative, in September, 72 families moved to Kingsport from 27 states. Since the beginning of the pandemic – around March of 2020 – nearly 2,000 families moved to the city from 49 states, D-C and Puerto Rico.

“We are caught up in this great reshuffling of America that has incurred since the pandemic,” McCart said.

With that in mind, the city hopes to repeat the survey process every three to five years.

“We’re looking at a scenario going forward where every three to five years we would go back out and conduct this survey, utilize that data to then build off what we have. So, when you look at the reshuffling that is occurring and you look at the new residents that are moving in here. Their input that data will be part of what we see moving forward.”

The city not only hopes to learn how to better serve its citizens but also to attract business.

“We also hope to be able to use some of that data as we sell the city so as we talk to potential businesses that might be interested in moving here, to be able to take a subsection of that data and say, in our recent citizen survey, we asked the following question, and it really ties into what your business offers and so try to then make that connection for them to land here,” McCart explained.

Kingsport leaders said they hope to also learn how they match up with peer communities.

“We’re excited to engage with our residents and hear their feedback on the services the city provides and any additional wants or needs we could work on for our community,” said Jessica Harmon, assistant to the city manager. “From this survey, we’ll have the ability to see where Kingsport stacks up by benchmarking ourselves against over 600 communities across the country that have administered the National Community Survey.”

A random 2,700 households will receive the survey in the mail. For those who wish to complete the survey, it will be available online and promoted by the City of Kingsport within the next five to six weeks.

City leaders told News Channel 11 they hope to make the survey results available by January, and hope to use the data to influence decision-making when devising the city’s annual strategic plan next February.

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