By Ben Lawson
With winter long gone and the summer season here, businesses in the area are looking forward to a better year than last. And there are signs they may be right.
David Weir with the Sevier County Economic Council said as the economic slump stabilizes, the area is beginning to see some turnaround. This is good news for businesses preparing for the summer rush.
“There could be businesses still struggling out there, but for Pigeon Forge at least, we’re predicting business to be up,” Weir said.
At ZORB, which offers a unique experience only found in Pigeon Forge out of the entire United States, the staff is preparing for a busy summer by hiring more help.
“We usually hire around three or four, but maybe more this year,” said manager Shane Marks.
The outdoor adventure, where people tumble down an incline in a massive, water-filled ball, draws between 50 and 90 people during peak hours. Marks said they’ll be offering various in house specials during the summer.
Staffing is also a priority at NASCAR SpeedPark, according to assistant general manager Ben Hess. He said they will have a total of 150 employees on hand for the summer months, when their hours change to 9 a.m. to midnight everyday.
With so many activities to take in, visitors to the area will need a place to eat, and the Collier Restaurant Group is prepared to offer them 15 different choices.
“The summer rush is old hat for us since we do it every year,” said Diana Fuller, director of sales and marketing.
The group just opened a new restaurant, the Melting Pot, in Gatlinburg with a full staff of 55 new employees. Across their various enterprises, the group employs 700 people. Fuller said they would be focusing on marketing to let people know what’s available.
“We’re seeing really strong numbers again,” said Amanda Marr with the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce. “And we expect that trend to continue.”
She indicated that inquiries into what’s available in the county have been huge thanks to affordable lodging, attractions with reasonable prices, and a variety of outlet shopping, all of which helps offset the price of gas.
Although the next few months are expected to be strong, Weir cautions that business was unlikely to break the huge records set in 2007. In fact, they may never reach that point again. Nevertheless, he maintains a positive outlook.
“Anytime you’re not going backwards is a good thing,” he said.
Summer Business Looks Hot
By Ben Lawson