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Dennis Tumlin

This story was updated Tuesday, July 29, 2019, at 11:15 p.m. with more information.

Rhea County's chief economic recruiter who helped bring the biggest foreign investment to Dayton is shifting his focus from recruiting business in Dayton to trying to bring more visitors to Tennessee.

Dennis Tumlin, executive director of economic and community development in Rhea County since 2013, is joining the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development as key customer officer. In his new role, Tumlin will be responsible for creating customer-centric strategies to increase partner connectivity and grow tourism among the state's largest destinations and attractions.

"This role is critical as we look to better serve partners and increase tourism growth throughout Tennessee," said Mark Ezell, the state's tourism commissioner. "Dennis is widely regarded throughout our industry, and his knowledge and passion for tourism will be a tremendous asset as we expand the reach of our business. He is the perfect addition to bolster and align partner opportunities across the state."

Tumlin said he "has thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to serve Rhea County" where Tumlin helped recruit the biggest foreign investment ever to the county two years ago — the $360 million Nokian Tire plant in Dayton — along with a new factory by Stulz Air Technology Systems, a new headquarters and factory by Coil Design Corp. and a $26 million expansion by La-Z-Boy.

Tumlin also worked to expand Rhea County's tourism industry, landing such prestigious fishing tournaments as the three-day Fishing League Worldwide Bass Fishing League Regional Championship and the inaugural season of the Bass Pro Tour by Major League Fishing.

"We have a great leadership team in place locally and Rhea County is a bright spot across our state," Tumlin said. "We will all work together to ensure the momentum continues."

Despite the new investments and tourism events however, Rhea County still had the third highest jobless rate among Tennessee's 95 counties last month with an unemployment rate of 6.7% in June.

Tumlin said he is "excited for the new opportunity to join Team Tennessee" in pitching the state to visitors around the globe.

He joins the Department of Tourist Development at a time of unprecedented growth in tourism for Tennessee. Last year, the state announced that Tennessee tourism's direct domestic and international travel expenditures reached an all-time record high of $20.7 billion in 2017, up 6.3% over the prior year according to U.S. Travel.

The state anticipates another record-breaking year when 2018 economic impact numbers are released in August.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.

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