In the September issue of Business View Magazine, a publication that reaches from coast to coast, you will find a story highlighting the ongoing economic development in Watauga County.
“People are moving here as fast as they can to get out of cities, and I don’t see any end in sight to that,” says Joe Furman, Watauga County’s Director of Economic Development. “Property sales are through the roof. New home construction is back to levels we haven’t seen since before the Great Recession. The pandemic has actually caused growth.”
Rob Hudspeth, Senior Vice President of the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System adds, “These people are wanting to get away, they want to feel safe.”
Watauga County’s location within the Appalachian Mountain range offers outstanding views, fresh mountain air, and plenty of recreational opportunities thanks to a four-season climate. Tourists and residents alike have plenty of activities nearby, including long hikes along scenic trails, kayaking along the county’s two rivers (the New River and the Watauga River), cruising down ski slopes in the winter, and taking in a game of tennis or golf in the summer. These are among the many benefits that have drawn attention to the county throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We actually fared very well during COVID and I think that comes back to a couple of factors,” says Wright Tilley, Executive Director of Watauga County Tourism Authority. “One, there’s this perception of clean mountain air – we are not a large city-type destination, so we had this perception in the travelling public as being a safe destination. We also saw an uptick in regional travel. Pre-COVID, a large percentage of our visitors were in-state, and so we saw that footprint expand a bit more into a four-to-six-hour radius. There was also a huge increase in the amount of visitation and web traffic from the Atlanta market, for example.”
With the increase in tourism came a record ski season this year. “I think that comes from people who were still reluctant to get on airplanes and go out west or go further up north,” Tilley says. “We were literally the closest ski destination for people in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina, and so our ski resorts certainly reaped the benefit of that during this last year.”
In addition to tourists, Watauga County is also home to many seasonal residents who are looking for an escape from the summer heat of their home states. “They come here for the cool, clean air in the summer, the low humidity,” Hudspeth notes. “They arrive here on Memorial Day and stay until the leaves fall off the trees – and then they leave and go back to those warmer climates. They were really grateful during COVID to get away from those urban areas, to feel safer, and socially distance. It was a tremendous benefit for our communities.”
About Business View
With corporate offices in southwest Florida and Toronto, Business View Magazine is North America’s best source of news for executives, entrepreneurs, small business owners, franchisees, and anyone interested in current industry trends and best practices. Every issue of this informative digital platform covers the latest developments in manufacturing, construction, infrastructure, supply chain and logistics, health care, food and beverage, aviation, and energy. The public sector also receives in-depth coverage, reporting on the latest advances in municipal public works, green initiatives, and college sustainability programs.