Although the original development that convinced the city to take a chance on Rocky Top is yet to happen, the mayor says the change has been worthwhile.
Post office in Rocky Top, TN.
"As far as changing the name, I think it has been a positive thing since day one. Even with the litigation," said Lovely. “I know this was never going to happen overnight. I remember talking to a businessman when we made the change. He said it was a great thing, but not to expect it to really be visible for five to six years. We were all excited at the time, so I was doubting him. Now I know this kind of change does not happen overnight. But we are in a much better position today than before we changed the name.”
The mayor says the name change has brought additional attention to a city that is in a great location for business, no matter the name.
“I don’t think there are many cities our size that have two exits on the interstate. We are right between Norris Lake and Windrock Mountain and we are a short drive on the interstate from I-40,” said Lovely.
Rocky Top city manager Michael Foster shows the new zoning in the city.
Beyond highlighting the positive attributes that already existed in Lake City, the mayor says the name change forced Rocky Top to get organized and do the work necessary to seriously compete for business.
“We changed our system of government. We hired a city manager. We’ve set all of the zoning so development and retail can come in,” said Lovely.
Michael Foster was hired as Rocky Top’s city manager. He said the new zoning sets the table for businesses to move in quickly.
Rocky Top city hall.
“When somebody does come to us, we're ready for you instead of saying, ‘Oh, man, we’ve got to make some changes before you can come in.’ If we do have to make changes, we know exactly what needs to be done instead of everything being under one broad ‘commercial’ zone,” said Foster.
Foster said people clearly notice the Rocky Top name. He hopes they also notice a potential site to set up shop. Foster said the economy has improved during the last couple of years.
“Am I going to say that’s all because of the name change? No. I think you’re seeing growth across the board in the state. But I think some of it is because they notice the name,” said Foster. “It creates a buzz. I still get people who come through town and I see them out in the parking lot. I’m like, ‘What are they doing?' They're taking a picture of city hall because of the name change.”
The city’s leaders and Tim Isbel say they have not given up on the original plans that were presented in 2013 and led to the name change.
Coal Creek Miners Museum in Rocky Top, TN.
“We’re going to try to bring other people to the table, that it is their cup of tea to build resorts and water parks and sports complexes and things of that sort," said Isbel.
“Did we see the big development overnight? It was never going to happen overnight. But we think it was a positive thing and we’re moving forward,” said Foster. "We also have some other positive things happening in town with allowing ATVs on the road for tourists at Windrock Mountain and also the Coal Creek Miners Museum."
Ultimately, the city’s leadership insists there is still a chance for all the grand plans that convinced a town born Coal Creek to bury the name Lake City for new life as Rocky Top.
"We needed a boost. And everybody knows Rocky Top,” said Lovely.