article by: Joe Morris
Tyler is fast becoming a retirement destination of choice‚ but don’t look for rocking chairs and shuffleboard.
With its “10 Reasons to Retire in Tyler” campaign‚ the city is taking the idea of the quiet‚ sleepy retirement community and turning it on its head. Promoting everything from the area’s many recreational opportunities to its houses of worship and outstanding medical facilities‚ the campaign is heightening awareness of Tyler as a great place to live‚ no matter what your age.
And‚ based on the amount of new residential properties geared toward older Americans popping up all over town‚ it’s working.
“In 2001‚ we started doing some strategic planning‚” says Henry Bell‚ chief operating officer of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce‚ of the organization’s run-up to the current campaign. “We tracked our inquiries‚ and for several years‚ six out of every 10 were people asking about retiring here. So we started brainstorming on how we could tap into that market.”
There was plenty to work with. Tyler’s proximity to the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex‚ as well as Houston and Shreveport‚ were obvious pluses. And then there’s the area’s natural beauty‚ showcased in multiple city and state parks. Cost of living‚ several top-notch medical facilities round out the package.
Tyler now is a certified retirement city in the state of Texas based on the criteria that make up the “Top 10” list‚ which can be found atretiretyler.com.
“We seem to be attracting a little younger age group‚ people that are either anticipating or preparing for retirement‚” he says. “But we’re also getting people who have already retired but are still very active and are looking to live somewhere where there’s a lot for them to do.”
It was Tyler’s natural beauty that first appealed to Tom and Melba Harken‚ but the medical facilities in the area also were a draw. Founder of Harken and Associates and Harken Partnership for Literacy‚ Tom Harken is also the author of the autobiographical The Millionaire’s Secret‚ published by Thomas Nelson. As an in-demand motivational speaker‚ Harken often traveled through the area‚ and one day‚ he says‚ the couple just decided to stay. “We could have gone anywhere in the world‚ but decided on Tyler‚” Harken says. “Going back and forth from Dallas to Beaumont‚ we stayed in a hotel here. We saw all this development‚ nice homes‚ pretty hill country‚ folks out walking‚ playing tennis‚ and of course at our age‚ we looked at the excellent medical facilities‚ local government and law-enforcement‚ and decided it would be a good move.”
Former owner of 13 successful Mexican restaurants‚ Harken always attracted customers with unique enhancements. “That’s what Tyler has – pizzazz – and we felt at home right away‚” he adds. “I tell people we have found a ‘Leave It to Beaver’ street. We definitely made the right move.”
That kind of advertising can’t be bought‚ and it’s music to Henry Bell’s ears. “We’re a boom area‚” he says. “The retirees are just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to our growth‚ but they bring so much to town. The monthly Social Security paycheck to the area is $32 million‚ which is significant‚ but it’s not just their disposable income. They bring experience‚ volunteerism‚ intangible assets that benefit the community as well.”