Cumberland Gap gets tourism grant funds

Published 11:09 am Thursday, August 13, 2020

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The historic town of Cumberland Gap is one of 17 state communities to divide over $1 million in Tourism Enhancement Grants. The funds are the result of a joint initiative between the TN Dept. of Tourist Development and the TN Dept. of Economic & Community Development.

The two agencies partnered in an effort to help cities and counties improve local tourism assets in the hope that it will draw more visitors to their respective areas.

The Tourism Enhancement Grants are designed to address needs in 8 at-risk and 6 distressed communities.

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Some $22 billion in tourism generated money went to boost the state’s economy during 2018. The two agencies are working towards refreshing sagging tourism with funding that will go toward eligible projects that include stages and signage. The money will also help improvements to existing parks while enhancing special attractions and venues that are designed to target expanding local tourism.

Tennessee governor Bill Lee recently said that tourism is a vital necessity in fueling economic development statewide.

“These grants are especially important this year as we look to rebuild and restore our state’s tourism, particularly in Tennessee’s rural communities,” said Lee.

Mark Ezell, commissioner for the Tennessee Dept. of Tourist Development, recently spoke of the importance of the grants.

“Tennessee has unparalleled outdoor beauty, waterways, fishing boating and rural destinations rich with history, hidden gems and hospitality. Our partnership with TNECD allows us to invest in unique projects that drive tourism and visitation, ultimately bringing more funds back into communities,” said Ezell.

Bob Rolfe, commissioner of the Tennessee Dept. of Economic & Community Development, agreed with the assessment.

“This partnership helps rural communities across the state bring their tremendous tourism assets into the spotlight and will help boost the state’s overall economic prosperity,” said Rolfe.

The Tourism Enhancement Grant program, in its fifth round, is funded through the Rural Economic Opportunity Act, which is designed to improve the economic indicators in rural communities across Tennessee.

Each application was supported by the senator of each community and the representative in the Tennessee General Assembly.

The $1 million plus grant monies are to be divided between the town of Cumberland Gap, the counties of Union, Anderson, Hamblen, Greene, Decatur, Benton, Grundy, Morgan, Fentress and DeKalb and the cities of Smithville, Lobelville, Martin, Wartburg, Celina and Sweetwater.

For more information about the TN Dept. of Tourist Development, go to: and join other Tennessee travelers by following “tnvacation” on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube or “Tennessee” on Snapchat.

The mission of the Tennessee Dept. of Economic & Community Development is to develop strategies that help make Tennessee the No. 1 location in the Southeast for high quality jobs.

The department seeks to attract new corporate investment to the state to grow and strengthen Tennessee. The agency works with Tennessee companies to facilitate expansion and economic growth.

For more information, log onto: or follow the department on Twitter and Instagram: @tnecd.