(WJHL) – According to a study from online moving platform Hire A Helper, retirees looking for a change of scenery came to the Volunteer State more than any other state in the country.

Tennessee beat out Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, among other states, attracting 13.1% of retired people looking to move from their home state. Among the top destinations to settle – Kingsport-Bristol, Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro and Johnson City.

Blue Ridge Properties managing broker Colette George has seen this trend play out firsthand.

“I think, within the last couple of years, especially after the pandemic, we had a lot of people that have selected Tennessee as a state to retire in – or as you said to purchase a home now for future retirement,” she said.

The numbers from the study didn’t surprise Visit Johnson City Director of Sales and Public Relations Jenna Lafever, either.

“We’ve been a part of the Retire Tennessee program since 2015 and through that program we get about 6,000 leads a year with people inquiring about moving here to retire, specifically,” Lafever said.

But, Visit Kingsport’s Jeff Fleming believes these numbers are just part of a much larger population trend, particularly in the Kingsport area.

“So we’ve seen more than 1,400 families from 49 states that have moved here in the past two years,” Fleming said.

George believes the COVID-19 pandemic has more than played a part in the population increase.

“Instead of having to follow a job, you can choose where you live and work a job,” George said.

“People want to have more room to live and to get outdoors, so we offer that,” Lafever said. “Now, people can work remotely a lot of times and they’re choosing cities where they can live more comfortably.”

“And if you can choose to live anywhere in the United States, why would you not choose Northeast Tennessee?” George asked.

“We have a lot of the amenities that big cities have, but we have the small city feel,” she said.

Fleming said the communities of the Tri-Cities continue to benefit financially from this trend.

“It creates an economic churn,” Fleming said. “So, when people move into an area, they buy things, they consume. They use doctors, they use lawyers, they use banks, and so, they have mortgages.”

“That money turns over in the economy and it’s really critically important because the Appalachian Highlands, in general, is declining in population,” Fleming continued. “So, we need to have that infusion of folks to beef up our economic development initiative, just by bringing that wealth with them and transferring that wealth.”

But, for all three, there is a simple joy in seeing new residents fall in love with Northeast Tennessee.

“It’s wonderful to grow our communities and it’s wonderful for the people that are choosing to come here,” George said. “When you have a choice and you want to come to our community, that means you’re going to appreciate the things we have.”

“It’s very exciting for us,” Lafever said. “I think it shows that what we’re doing is working.”

“People are coming to this area because they are choosing our lifestyle and that’s very gratifying to me,” Fleming said.