Claiborne County may be well on its way to having an official welcome center.
At a luncheon hosted by the Claiborne County Tourism Commission last week, tourism director Carl Nichols announced to a room full of business men and women, elected officials and others in the community that tourism has the potential to bring a lot of money into the area.
“We need your help,” he said.
The tourism commission has been working on the project for four months. After a presentation highlighting the numerous tourism attractions in the area, Nichols gave the crowd what they were waiting to hear.
“We want to open a welcome center and gift shop on approximately two acres of land with U.S. Hwy. 25E frontage where a mobile home lot used to be,” he said.
The lot is just north of Dogwood Heights.
The welcome center would have a paved area for arts and craft vendors to set up, a dog walking trail, commercial restrooms, an open-air covered stage, a visiting area around a fireplace and picnic tables, Nichols continued.
The commission proposes to keep the center open from March 1 to Dec. 24, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. daily. The building, which already exists but would need renovation, would contain the tourism director’s office and a gift shop with work from local artists and crafters.
“We could have music festivals and other special events there,” he added.
The key to effective tourism is to influence people to stop in the county instead of just driving through, he told the crowd. The Tennessee Department of Transportation estimates that 19,000 vehicles travel between Cumberland Gap and Tazewell daily, he said. A welcome center would help increase spending by encouraging visitors to stay and visit local attractions.
The center will be self-sustaining, he said, and managed by the tourism director and governed by the board of directors.
It will take $40,000 to get it open, he said, which should be provided by supporters in the county. In-kind donations are needed as well. Supporters will be permanently recognized in the center.
“Promoting Claiborne County is promoting everyone in the county,” he said.
Dave Jones, East Tennessee regional manager for the Department of Tourism Development, said that a welcome center can have a great economic impact on the community.
“You should be proud of what’s here in Claiborne County,” he said. “This will be a great opportunity for you as a community to showcase yourselves.”
For more information on how you can help make the welcome center a reality, contact Nichols at 865-585-7386 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reach Marisa Anders at email@example.com or 423-626-3222.