Dayton is fishing for dollars and catches CBS’s Eye

ON A COOL THURSDAY MORNING — BEFORE SUNRISE — NEARLY 200 BASS FISHING BOATS LAUNCH FROM A SMALL DOCK IN DAYTON, TENNESSEE.

WHILE THE ANGLERS COMPETE TO HOOK THE BIGGEST BASS IN CHICKAMAUGA LAKE, THE TOWN IS CASHING IN. SO SAYS DENNIS TUMLIN, THE HEAD OF THE COUNTY’S ECONOMIC AND TOURISM COUNCIL.

How much money has fishing brought to your community of Dayton?

DENNIS TUMLIN: “The– our statistics show us that about $14 million new dollars came into town last year.”

14-MILLION DOLLARS IN THINGS LIKE FOOD, LODGING, AND NEW TAX REVENUE. THAT’S A BIG DEAL FOR THIS SMALL TOWN OF 72-HUNDRED IN SOUTH EAST TENNESSEE.

Mayor: “We now have a tournament that comes in here with 400 boats.”

MAYOR GARY LOUALLEN WAS RAISED IN DAYTON.

DANA JACOBSON:
“Tell me what Dayton was like when you were growin’ up here?”

GARY LOUALLEN:
“It’s– it was just a small country town, had a little country stores–”

IT’S ALSO A TOWN THAT’S BEEN STRUGGLING SINCE THE RECESSION.

DAYTON IS IN THE HEART OF RHEA COUNTY — ONE OF THE MORE DEPRESSED AREAS OF TENNESSEE, BASED ON STATISTICS THAT INCLUDE POVERTY RATE, HOUSEHOLD INCOME, AND UNEMPLOYMENT.

BUT WHEN MAYOR LOUALLEN WAS ELECTED FOUR YEARS AGO, HE HAD A PLAN TO TURN AROUND DAYTON’S ECONOMY.

GARY LOUALLEN SAYS “It started out with the council.//I fished and I went to them with an idea and said, “Guys, if you’ll trust me and run with me– on this and– and go along with this,” I said, “fishin’ could really make it good for us. ”

URNS OUT DAYTON WAS SITTING ON A SECRET:

nats boat in lake

CHICKAMAUGA LAKE IS MORE THAN 50 MILES LONGA, AND BOASTS SOME OF THE BEST BASS FISHING IN THE SOUTH.

IN 2014, THE TOWN BEGAN SHARING THEIR LOCAL TREASURE, USING IT TO REEL IN SOME BIG TIME FISHING COMPETITIONS.

DENNIS TUMLIN: “And we began to think of this lake as– as an opportunity.

TUMLIN WAS LURED BACK HOME FROM HIS JOB AT COCA-COLA BY THE OPPORTUNITY TO HELP HIS BOYHOOD TOWN.

“we went after tourism, which– tourism comes in many shapes, forms and fashions. For us, it happens to be fishing. For other communities, it may be something else. It may be horseback riding, but for us it was fishing.”

DANA JACOBSON:
“You have a number even that– one– one angler will bring into your community?”
DENNIS TUMLIN:
“Absolutely– industry sp– industry statistics will tell you that the average angler spends $1,100 in a week. That they will spend $1,100 in your community.”
DANA JACOBSON:
“And how many anglers might you have on a weekend here?”
DENNIS TUMLIN:
“This particularly tournament has 400 anglers.”
DANA JACOBSON:
“I can’t do that kind of math.”
DENNIS TUMLIN:
“So, you know, it– it’s impactful. You know, one event by itself is powerful, but we’ve been averaging 30 events per year for the last three years.”

WITH FISHERMEN, THEIR FAMILIES AND FANS COMING INTO DAYTON, THE LOCAL SERVICE INDUSTRY HAS BEEN BOOMING —

NATHANIEL EASTWOOD:
” Yeah, fishing was obviously awesome. ”

NATHANIEL EASTWOOD IS THE GENERAL MANAGER OF THE SLEEP INN — ONE OF TWO NEW LODGING FACILITIES THAT HAVE OPENED RECENTLY.

EASTWOOD CONTINUES “three or four years ago, none of this stuff would have been as aggressive in– in its growth. And so it’s– like I said, it’s a major catalyst for what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

AND THERE ARE FIVE NEW RESTAURANTS AS WELL.

DAYTON ISN’T THE ONLY TOWN IN THE GAME.

“You do not need to host the Olympics to be a sports destination.”

MARY HELEN SPRECHER IS MANAGING EDITOR A MAGAZINE DEDICATED TO SPORTS TOURISM. SHE POINTS TO EVENTS LIKE THE FAT TIRE BIKE RACE IN CABLE, WISCONSIN, (NAT POP) THE AMERICAN BIRKEBEINER SKI RACE IN NEARBY HAYWARD, WISCONSIN (NAT POP) AND ESPECIALLY THE PICKELBALL TOURNAMENT IN NAPLES, FLORIDA AS SUCCESS STORIES.

MARY HELEN: They were planning on maybe a $500,000 economic impact, they had $1.5-million economic impact.
DJ: In one year?
MHS: In one event!

FOR ALL THE MONEY THAT SPORTS CAN BRING IN, DENNIS TUMLIN SAYS THE TOURNAMENTS ARE JUST A FIRST STEP TOWARD A LARGER GOAL.

DANA JACOBSON says “Right. What about the idea of industry growing from this? Might you see that, too? Is that the goal?
DENNIS TUMLIN says “Absolutely. So, industry– we’re chasing industry as hard as we– as we’re chasing tourism. If you’re an industry– CEO, you’re looking for quality of life. So, we– we want, when you come here, we want you to feel energy, and– and– and– and feel a great community. And– we believe it will yield great results.

Categories: Business, Local News, Rhea County

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