County 1 of 4 new Retire Tennessee partners

Published 8:41 am Monday, July 20, 2015

The Elizabethton/Carter County Chamber of Commerce has secured a slot on board a statewide program called Retire Tennessee.

Carter County will be one of four new counties to join the program as of July 1, said Chamber Director Tonya Stevens.

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“Out of the 95 counties, we will become more visible,” Stevens said. “Sullivan County is already a part of this as well as Chattanooga. There are now 19 total. This is a great opportunity for us.”

Stevens was quick to point out that the chamber is not looking to label the county as a retirement community. Their goal is to bring in more active and diverse people into the community.

“We know that it takes various age groups to make a community successful and well-rounded,” she said. “It’s just an aspect that we have seen continue to grow.”

After attending some informational meetings about the program, Stevens said she began noticing the local trends Retire Tennessee representatives mentioned.

“We knew we were already there,” she said. “We just needed that extra push and that extra resource to get our community out there. We will be on the forefront when people look into retiring here.”

Another resource the chamber gains through the program is the fact that they attend trade shows in other states.

“These trade shows are geared specifically for the retiree community,” she said. “They are targeting people who have the income to relocate. Most of these people are looking to relocate within the year. They are seriously looking to move. Of course, we want them to move to Tennessee, but more importantly we want them to move to Carter County.”

One of the many trade shows the program partners with is called Ideal Living.

“We will now be attending trade shows like this,” Stevens said. “We have one coming up in Virginia and the week after that we will be in New Jersey.”

Ideal Living collects all of their own data regarding retiree preferences. The chamber will now be invited to attend and promote the county at those trade shows.

“Ideal Living has determined that 1,385 people have relocated to Tennessee just through the trade show,” she said. “Out of the states of interest, we are just behind North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida. Just behind coastal living, people are looking for lakes and mountains. We have the mountains, the lakes, the rivers and we’re close to the beach. We are in a great location.”

Currently, people looking for more information often reach out to the chamber through their website, Stevens said.

“The majority of those people are retirees,” she said. “We have people who also walk in who say they are visiting and are thinking about moving here within the year.”

Stevens has been providing packets of information to those people, but this new state resource will broaden their reach.

“We always tell people that we would love to have them move here,” Stevens said.

There are many aspects retirees are looking for in potential communities.

“The target market for Retire Tennessee are those people who want to move, but still want to be involved in their community,” Stevens said. “Maybe they want to further their education by being close to an institution. Volunteer opportunities are also very important to these individuals. They also want to be a part of civic organizations. They want to go somewhere that allows them to make an impact.”

The program targets individuals from the boomer generation and on average people at the age of 56 years old.

“They are at a place where they have had a career and family and now we are looking for something new,” she said.

As of July 1, the program began operating under the Tennessee Department of Tourism from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

Stevens was working on the initiative before the change at the state level happened.

“We had been in communication with Retire Tennessee for a couple of years,” Stevens said. “We were researching whether it was something we wanted to be a part of and how it would benefit us here in Carter County. We wanted to make sure it was a right fit for our community.”

While Carter County is not currently listed on the program’s website, Stevens looks for that to happen within the next month.

“You’ll be able to click on the communities button and view pictures from our area,” she said. “We will be able to detail all of the information that makes us unique.”

The website features a cost of living calculator, a survey that will match people to the perfect community, a map highlighting all the Retire Tennessee communities available and a climate chart.

For more information about the statewide program, visit To view the Carter County Retire Tennessee webpage, visit