Kingport’s goal is to grow its population by 500 people a year

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.



3 replies

  1. It’s about time the region recognize and provide the marketing capital to attract new human capital and their $25,000 per head economy to support local businesses to generate sales so it can be taxed to generate funds for local governments to use for city and county services.

    • The model has changed from what made Move to Kingsport such a success when it was first launched. There’s a growing position that population retention and attraction is as important – if not more important in some cases – that yesteryear’s model of economic development. Aside from the sales tax and consumption issues the economic multipliers in the service and support industry are becoming increasingly important and lucrative.

      • The Move To Kingsport model is alive and well and stronger today than it was 8 years ago when the housing market crashed. The retirees like everyone else where a captive in their old home not being able to sell and move. Time has changed with many retirees cashing out of the old home and cashing in on a new home that serves their senior needs in a new location like Kingsport that serves their aging in place needs while becoming a vibrant citizen of the city. Some even starting a new business and creating jobs. This huge upward trend has 15 years of solid sustainable growth ahead.

        Another huge opportunity for Kingsport is the recruitment of young professional and technicians to fill 200 jobs per year for the next 10 years of senior employees at the Eastman who are retiring. They too are opting for more suitable senior housing and need the influx of new residents to sell their home to and remodel to begin their new career and families in Kingsport.

        We also must invest our belief in President Elect Trump to influence the rebirth of industrialization and manufacturing the lifeblood of Kingsport economy. With the anticipation of reigniting demand for clean coal and the demand pressures for chemicals to manufacture products all over the world, the light of economy building can again shine bright on Kingsport economy if we are prepared with eyes wide open to capitalize on the changing economy climate. 500 new residents may we’ll be underestimating Kingsport’s true potential.

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