Thousands in tax dollars spent on re-branding campaigns in the Tri-Cities

TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL) – People in the Tri-Cities are sharing their thoughts about major re-branding efforts in several cities in the region. At least two of these big “branding” projects have already been launched.

One is in Kingsport and the other is in Bristol, Tennessee. Similar projects in Johnson City, and Greeneville are in the planning stages. The epicenter of development and branding in Johnson City is currently the old Uhaul sign. It has now been turned into a focal point for the center of the city.

While this sign was created as a result of private donations, the area surrounding was re-developed using tax payer dollars.

City leaders here and across the Tri-Cities say the hundreds of thousands dollars spent helps attract visitors to the area. Those vistors then spend money that is pumped back into the local economy.

Take Porter for instance, he’s a stick figure character created for Visit Kingsport. The overall goal with for “KingsPorter” is to inspire those locally and abroad to visit and spend money in the Model city.

Kingsport native Billie Barker says, “Porter is cute.” Another Kingsport resident said, “Its alright, yea its pretty cool.

Those are responses people in the community gave before they knew just how much Porter cost. According to Visit Kingsport “KingsPorter” cost them a little less than $1,000.

News Channel 11 Reporter Curtis McCloud asked Kingsport resident Ryan Porter, “If I told you that the city spend several hundred dollars possible upwards a thousand dollars on this initiative, what do you think about that?

Brown said, “That’s probably a little bit too much money for that.”

Amy Margaret McColl with Visit Kingsport says that money comes from retail and hotel tax dollars combined with grant money from the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development.

“We really experienced a minimal cost. we already had our logo. its just a matter of communicating it to the media, to the community our stakeholders,” McColl said.

Plans are already in the works to make giant sized porter printings to be placed around Kingsport. Over in Bristol, Tennessee the new branding and city logo “Bristol Is” is already on display with flags lining State street.

City leaders say that is the whole point of the branding to give vistors and people living in the area the opportunity to fill in the blank so to speak, giving their own take on what Bristol is to them.

“Its up to the individual person who visits bristol, who lives in Bristol, who may have a business in bristol. bristol is can be anything,” Terrie Talbert said.

The entire campaign cost the city more than $70,000.

In response, one Bristol, Tennessee resident told News Channel 11, now that’s a little too much but you know, if we got it to spend might as well spend it.”

City leaders say they are spending the money on branding in area cities with hopes of getting a hefty return on investment.

In Johnson City the branding put together by the Johnson City Development Authority cost under $10,000.A recent request for proposal bid recently closed in Johnson City to hire a research firm for the city funded branding project

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