Kingsport has marshaled its efforts for a new growth goal.
The Model City is turning up the heat under efforts to make it a destination city as a growth model. If the truth is known, Bristol and Johnson City likely have or soon will have similar efforts underway, but Kingsport is a lot more transparent about its efforts.
During his State of the City comments earlier this month, Mayor John Clark said the city’s goal is to grow Kingsport’s population by 1% per year. That works out to a little more than 500 new residents a year, and that’s a heavy lift considering local population growth patterns.
Kingsport did have the best Tri-Cities 2010-2015 growth. It was up 10% compared to 4.6% in Johnson City and a 0.1% loss in Bristol. But now that the state Legislature has driven a stake through the heart of annexation as a growth model it’s time for something new.
It will be a couple of weeks before the city-level Census population data is available, but the county-level data doesn’t offer an encouraging pattern for Kingsport’s efforts because most of the new residents are locating in Washington and Carter counties. That’s what Kingsport is focused on changing.
According to the American Community Survey data Washington and Carter, counties saw all the Tri-Cities growth in 2015. Together they saw an estimated population increase of 568. Sullivan and Hawkins lost population. Between the two they were down 97 people.
The basic regional problem is the local death rate is higher than the birth rate. The latest data shows Sullivan County has a rate of 10 births per 1,000 population and a death rate of 12.9 per 1,000.
Washington County’s numbers are not much better. There were 10.3 live births and 10.7 deaths per 1,000 population.
That means the only population growth is attracting new comers. It’s important because Kingsport’s research shows each new resident means about $25,000 a year in retail sales and service consumption. That number is in the ballpark of some larger academic studies.
That’s a big deal because sales tax collections are a major factor in paying for city services, so it’s no wonder local city and county governments are beginning to ramp up attracting and retaining their human capital.
Watch this space for next month’s city-level Census numbers to see how they compare with the county-level population tracking.