Knoxville Chamber: Knoxville’s economy needs to change for the ‘Imagination Age’

Knoxville’s economy needs to change in major ways, according to the Knoxville Chamber.
Knoxville’s economy needs to change in major ways, according to the Knoxville Chamber.
Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 9:01 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 30, 2022 at 12:26 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - The Knoxville Chamber thinks Knoxville’s economy needs to change in big ways to keep up with other cities across the country. The group released an economic briefing Wednesday, which outlined the ways the chamber thinks the city needs to adapt.

The chamber’s main concern was Knoxville’s ability to adapt to what it is calling the “Imagination Age,” the next economic phase after the “Information Age” that has ruled the country’s economy for decades. The briefing outlined the next stage in the economy, highlighting the city’s need for high-growth companies, high-wage talent, innovation and civic investments.

“A simplistic definition of this next era is that it will be a period of the futuristic creations of the imagination becoming reality,” the briefing said. “Fully autonomous vehicles, individualized medications, and wholly 3D-printed buildings could all become normal parts of our everyday experience within current lifetimes.”

While Knoxville’s economy is good, the briefing said, it could be better. The chamber compared wage growth between Knoxville and Raleigh, North Carolina and found that Raleigh citizens were making, on average, much more than Knoxvillians.

In 2011, the briefing found, someone living in Raleigh was making an average of $47,272. That number in Knoxville was $40,862. Eleven years later, workers in Raleigh are making $69,235 on average, compared to $57,255 in Knoxville. According to the briefing, Knoxville is trailer further and further behind other cities in the country, a problem that could be fixed by increasing average annual pay (AAP).

“The chamber estimates that for every $1,000 increase in AAP, $1.8 million in local economic impact is generated,” the briefing said.

Additionally, the chamber outlined Knoxville’s need for growth in the work sector. The chamber instituted a policy in 2020 where it would support local businesses regardless of whether or not they were a chamber investor. Now, the chamber said it is going to focus even more on businesses with the potential to add more employees.

The chamber also thinks Knoxville needs to be, in its own words, “cooler.” The chamber’s solution to this problem is to invest in community resources. One positive example the briefing outlined was the upcoming multi-use stadium planned for downtown. The chamber advised that the city continue to attract workers to the city by investing in community resources.

The theme of the briefing: “There simply needs to be a willingness to forego good in the pursuit of great.”

The briefing in full can be found below: