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TDA names new director

Michelle Owens Michelle Owens

Michelle Owens, a veteran tourism marketer with long-standing ties to Western North Carolina, has been named executive director of the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority.

Owens brings nearly two decades of marketing and tourism experience to her new role, including six years as executive director of the Rutherford County TDA from 2009 to 2015. She emerged from a field of 40 applicants to fill the opening created by the retirement of Beth Carden on March 31.

Owens takes the helm at a time of robust tourism activity in Hendersonville and Henderson County. New hotels and attractions are opening, and the county ranks 14th out of 100 counties in North Carolina with annual visitor spending of nearly $325 million.

A visit to Hendersonville’s Camp Tekoa as a teenager sparked Owens' lifelong love of the area. She returned as camp counselor during her undergraduate years at Greensboro College and later made Henderson County the go-to destination for mini-vacations with her children.

“Now, I’m excited to turn the page and be on this side of tourism,” Owens says. “On the level of a place to be, Hendersonville is among the best. It has a Main Street to die for and is surrounded by scenic beauty. There’s also a casual and comforting lifestyle that’s attractive to people now more than ever.”

One of five finalists for the position, Owens impressed the TDA board with a combination of past experience and vision for the future.

“Michelle is quite familiar with midsized destinations and how to promote them,” TDA Chair Debi Smith said. “She has a history of strong community involvement and developing multiyear strategic plans, which will be invaluable as we chart our future course.”

A top priority for Owens is immersing herself in the community and engaging with all stakeholders in the tourism industry.

“I’m honored and extremely grateful to be entrusted with this role. It’s wonderful to inherit a situation where the stage is set for more growth, and our team will be focused on smart growth that works for this community,” Owens says. “You want all partners to be as happy as possible with everything going on, including residents. I’m a big believer in win-win.”

For information on Hendersonville tourism, go to www.VisitHendersonvilleNC.org.