Unicoi Business Alliance reorganizing, calling all business owners to the table

Sue Guinn Legg • Aug 15, 2019 at 6:30 PM

UNICOI — The Unicoi Business Alliance is stepping up its efforts to strengthen and support the town’s business community.

The alliance held the first of two reorganizational meetings in late July is inviting owners and representatives of all of the town’s more than 50 businesses to come to the table at its next meeting set for 11 a.m. Monday, Aug. 19, at the Unicoi Tourist Information Center at Exit 32.

“We’ll be talking about what we want the alliance to do differently, what their businesses need and what support they want the alliance to provide,” Ashley Shelton, communications and programs director for the town of Unicoi and the new UBA secretary, said.

“We’re encouraging all Unicoi business owners to come or to give us their ideas and their input.”

Shelton said the alliance currently hosts two independent events annually to bring more people to Unicoi and would like to do more.

“We do the Pinnacle Trail Challenge in the fall and the Fiddlers and Fiddleheads Festival in the spring. Both of those stimulate business in town. We hope we can do some smaller initiatives to draw in people to shop and eat,” she said.

Coming up on its 25th anniversary next year, the Fiddlers and Fiddleheads Festival is a daylong celebration with live bluegrass, old-time country and gospel music played on stages and in informal jam sessions across the grounds of Farmhouse Gallery and Gardens. The well-attended festival also features an antique car show and a handcrafted arts fair.

The Pinnacle Trail Challenge, a 4.8-mile timed run to the Pinnacle Fire Tower at the top of Buffalo Mountain to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee, is set for Sept. 28.

While the run requires a registration fee and offers prizes to the top finishers in several age divisions, it is complemented by a family-friendly Hunger Hike up the Pinnacle Trail for which the admission is a donation of canned goods for the food bank.

“We all know people who come to those events then go straight over to Maple Grove Restaurant and eat. So we want to do more of that sort of thing,” Shelton said.

As part of the alliance’s re-organization, she said, the group will be focusing on more ways for businesses to get involved in economic development activities and brainstorming strategies on ways to enhance the local business environment.

Jeff Linville, treasurer of the alliance, said the group was very pleased with the feedback it received at its first meeting and is very interested in hearing more of what the town’s business leaders have to say.

Unicoi Mayor Johnny Lynch said the town is also a member of the alliance and eager to support its corporate citizens.

“We want to open the lines of communication with our businesses,” Lynch said. “Since we operate without a property tax, they truly are the backbone of our community. We want to make sure we’re supporting them anyway we can.”

Shelton said the town is working on a website redesign with new features to directly benefit the business community, including a shopping and dining directory as well as local job-postings.

“We need strong partnerships with our business leaders,” Shelton said. “Making sure they have a voice, especially when it comes to projects that directly affect them, is a key component in economic growth.”

More information about the Unicoi Business Alliance may be obtained by contacting Shelton at 423-470-0204 or email communicationsandprograms@unicoitn.net.

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