Bill to boost economic development and tourism in Jonesborough meets approval in Senate State and Local Government Committee

Contact:  Darlene Schlicher (615) 741-6336 or email:  [email protected]

(NASHVILLE, TN), March 24, 2010 — Legislation that would significantly boost the city of Jonesborough’s tourism and economic development efforts has overcome it first hurdle with passage by the Senate State and Local Government Committee and is now headed to the Senate Finance Committee for its toughest test.  The bill, sponsored by Senator Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City), Representative Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) and Representative Dale Ford (R-Jonesborough), would establish a “Courthouse Square Revitalization and Tourism Zone” within 700 feet of the square in which sales and use tax revenue would be returned to help the city to improve infrastructure and marketing to bring more tourists to the area.

“This bill would represent an investment in the future of Jonesborough by providing the funds needed for infrastructure and marketing to attract more visitors to our area and put the city on the map as a international destination for our Storytelling Festival,” said Senator Crowe.  “It has the potential to create up to 30 new businesses with 124 new full-time, year-round jobs, and could increase retail sales to local businesses by 140 percent by 2014.  It is truly an economic development bill for this county and its surrounding area and would provide much more revenue back to the state to make up for any temporary loss.”

“I was very pleased with the reception we got with the Senate State and Local Government Committee, who approved this bill unanimously,” said Jimmy Neal Smith.  “I appreciate our legislative delegation taking this bill to the legislature for consideration.”

Smith, Mayor Kelly Wolfe and City Manage Bob Browning are working with the local legislative delegation in support of the legislation.

The bill would allow the city to capture $1.5 million in state tax revenues.  The funds would help the town collect the $10 million needed to install storytelling-related programming, services and marketing; boost economic development in the Revitalization Zone, and assist with marketing for the city to draw more visitors to Jonesborough.  That investment would be matched by $7 million in supplemental funds from private gifts, loans, foundation grants and government corporation money to:

  • Design and install a full range of additional community improvements including the purchase and renovation of the Old Jackson Theatre as a 300-seat venue for storytelling performances and mini-conferences
  • Provide renovation and equipment updates for the McKinney Center in the old Booker T. Washington School and home for the Mary B. Martin Program for the arts
  • Construct a proposed Jonesborough Visitors and History Center
  • Revitalize and landscape the downtown business districts 

“We have data to show the state that this project will provide great financial viability as we expect to make up for any loss in money within the first five years of implementation,” added Crowe.  “Jonesborough is one of the most charming towns in America, and is rich in history and tradition.  We can utilize the success of the Storytelling Festival to expand it and draw other markets associated with tourism like small corporate retreats, mini-conferences, educational forums, weeding and reunions and other meetings and events.  Hopefully, our Finance Committee will also see the economic development value of this Revitalization Zone and approve this legislation.”


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