Movies, TV bring bucks for Newton

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce President Hunter Hall said the Chamber is now approaching tourism in the area as an existing industry. During his presentations to the Newton County Board of Commissioners and Covington City Council this week, he said television and film tourism has had a major impact on the area's economic development.

Citing statistics from a study out of the University of Tennessee, Hall said tourists spent $72.75 million in Newton County in 2009. Nine hundred jobs -- generally in the areas of service industry, food services, off-duty police officers -- were created, generating $16 million in payroll. Local taxes as a result of tourism came in around $2.27 million in that year, he said.

Hall pointed out that this data was compiled before the television series, "Vampire Diaries" began filming here.

"These numbers are off the chart since they started filming," he said. "Tourism has only increased in the last two years."

As a point of reference, Hall said the annual payroll of C.R. Bard, one of Newton County's largest industries, is $70 million.

He said large numbers of tourists come to Covington expressly to visit sites where television shows, like "Dukes of Hazzard" and "In the Heat of the Night" and now, "Vampire Diaries" were filmed. The Chamber is looking at ways to capitalize on Newton County's appeal to filmmakers.

One idea that has been kicked around has been for the Chamber, Main Street Covington and other organizations to team up and open a storefront on the Square where tourists could find maps, purchase television and film memorabilia and learn about other locations in Newton County.

"There are a lot of hoops, but as a concept, I love it," Hall said.