From IT to entertainment, here are five industries that are poised for growth and job creation in Knoxville’s thriving economy.
Knoxville, Tennessee’s robust economy and entrepreneurial culture make it a destination for innovative businesses and professionals looking for opportunities to launch or advance their careers.
The region’s talent pipeline includes 19,000 graduates of the University of Tennessee, Pellissippi State and other post-secondary schools each year. And the city is actively recruiting talent in other locations.
“We have initiated specific talent attraction efforts in a couple of key geographies across the U.S. — Chicago and Atlanta — and have launched liferedefined.com, a website that we’ll push across various platforms to encourage talent to learn more about Knoxville and the many assets we hold,” says Doug Lawyer, vice president of economic development for the Knoxville Chamber.
Low taxes, including no state income tax, stretch salaries in a city where residents enjoy a lifestyle combining sports, arts and food scenes with unlimited outdoor recreation at the doorstep of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Here are five industries that are poised for growth and job creation in Knoxville’s thriving economy.
Companies launched by alumni of the University of Tennessee, the state’s premier research university, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) place the region on the cutting edge of scientific discovery.
NellOne Therapeutics is commercializing research conducted by Dr. Cymbeline (Bem) Culiat as a senior scientist at ORNL. She is the inventor named on 21 patents for the application of the Nell1 protein for tissue regeneration. Those patents are exclusively licensed worldwide to NellOne, which Dr. Culiat co-founded in 2008.
“You have technology and talent coming out of both those places,” NellOne CEO Bill Malkes says of UT and ORNL.
“Plus, we sit within 500 miles of most of the population east of the Mississippi. We can punch above our weight in Knoxville because of these resources and the vibrant entrepreneurial community.”
tmCMF, co-founded by UT biomedical engineers Dr. Gary To and Dr. Emam ElHak Abdel Fatah, combines patient-focused healthcare and artificial intelligence to deliver customized 3D-printed implants and trauma plates to surgeons and patients.
President and CEO Dr. Mohamed Mahfouz is a professor of biomedical engineering and entrepreneur in residence at UT.
Lirio combines behavioral science and artificial intelligence to personalize healthcare experiences. The result is what the company calls Precision Nudging. Personalized communications are tailored to each patient. Time for your next wellness visit? Lirio will send you a reminder with a message designed to connect with your motivations and barriers.
Smart phones, tablets and laptops, oh my. Getting hacked or simply not properly managing your data can bring business to a halt. It’s no surprise that IT is one of Knoxville’s high-growth industries. The city is an attractive location for IT companies as well as remote workers free to work anywhere they have high-speed internet service.
“It’s a beautiful place to live, we have all the tech amenities that other cities have, it’s a tight-knit community, and it’s much less expensive than cities like New York or San Francisco and you can do the same work,” says Alexander Holcomb, marketing specialist at TenHats. “The realization of remote work has made Knoxville a more viable city.”
The company provides technology services including a carrier-neutral, purpose-built colocation data center, the region’s first in over 20 years. Covenant Health, East Tennessee’s largest employer, is TenHats’ parent company, although TenHats is operationally independent.
Avertium, a leading provider of managed cybersecurity services, employs about 200 people at its Knoxville office. Its dual security operations centers serve more than 1,200 customers in the retail, health care, hospitality, financial services, manufacturing and public sectors.
With one of its eight offices located in the heart of Knoxville’s downtown, CGI is an IT company with a global reach providing support and services. Since opening in 2021, the company has heavily recruited from the University of Tennessee.
Elastic Pictures is an award-winning studio specializing in 2-D and 3-D animation, motion graphics, visual effects, editing and color grading. With offices in London, it’s chosen Knoxville for its stateside headquarters. It has created content for broadcast and advertising agencies, working with names like the Tennessee Lottery and McDonald’s.
RIVR Media is the Southeast’s leading television production company, creating shows like “Fatal Frontier” and HGTV’s “Fixer to Fabulous.” The RIVR Studios property includes 1,500- and 6,000-square-foot soundproof studios. With a staff of about 20, over the past two decades, they’ve produced shows like “Trading Spaces” and “Vintage Rehab.”
“We’ve produced thousands of television shows for over 18 different cable networks in several genres,” says Lori Stryer, RIVR Media CEO. “We’ve done docu-soap, reality competition, documentaries, true crime, makeover, travel, game show and sports entertainment.”
Knoxville is also home to global operations headquarters and in-house production studios for Warner Brothers Discovery. Discovery owns brands and creates content for channels including Travel Channel, HGTV, TLC, Food Network, Animal Planet, and more.
Local production professionals also can network with others in the industry via KnoxMedia, a creative community designed to promote collaboration within the growing production industry.
It makes sense that sustainability is on Knoxville’s target list of growth industries. The city was the first to be named a Platinum Valley Sustainable Community by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The program recognizes the importance of sustainability efforts to economic development.
The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), which has an office in Knoxville, is the world’s top nonprofit energy research and development organization. With offices around the globe, EPRI collaborates with more than 450 companies in 45 countries to ensure that the public has clean, safe, reliable energy that is affordable and equitable.
In Georgia, for example, EPRI successfully demonstrated how to blend non-polluting hydrogen with natural gas to produce electrical power.
Hitachi Zosen Inova is a Switzerland-based company whose North American Headquarters are located Knoxville. The company recovers renewable energy from waste materials and develops plants and system solutions for thermal and biological energy from waste recovery, gas upgrading and power to gas.
With roots in Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Sparkz was founded in 2019 and has completed the transfer of six patents. As a start-up commercializing a cobalt-free, American-made lithium-ion battery, it continues its groundbreaking research and development focused on re-engineering the battery supply chain and challenging China’s dominance of next generation energy storage technologies.
Founded by engineers and scientists that value their relationships with East Tennessee industry partners and research institutions, Carbon Rivers develops innovative products, ideas and solutions for the automotive, energy, safety, and security industries in both the private and public sectors. (Creating everything from body armor to nuclear industry materials using recycled glass fiber.)
Finance and Investing
PYA, Knoxville’s largest accounting and advisory firm, has offices in seven cities and serves 3,500 clients in all 50 states. It’s been listed as one of America’s best accounting and tax firms by Forbes and is a top 15 auditor of the nation’s largest health systems.
In 2015, Knoxville-based Greater Sum Ventures (GSV) was created by the entrepreneurs behind Ministry Brands ministry-focused software solutions. GSV works alongside independent partners and institutions to build technology platforms that radically transform the industries they serve. Their portfolio includes software like Inhabit, which helps vacation rental owners manage their properties, and Petvisor, helping veterinary practices to better manage their clients.
SmartRIA is a cloud-based software solution designed to meet the specialized compliance management needs of investment advisors, compliance teams, operations teams, consultants and attorneys.
“Certainly health, IT, sustainability and finance fall within the strategic platforms of the types of companies we are trying to expand and locate in our ecosystem,” says Lawyer.
“We like these sectors because they tend to provide higher wages, and higher wages help fuel our economy further. Entertainment is super important as well from a civic furniture perspective. It helps to attract and retain talent, especially young talent, to Knoxville.”
This article was sponsored by the Knoxville Chamber. Learn more about the amazing quality of life Knoxville offers at LifeRedfined.com.