This Southeastern state offers the perfect mix of affordability, quality of life, and more.
During the pandemic, and with the newfound freedom to work remotely, Sukriti Chadha moved from New York City to Lookout Mountain, just minutes from downtown Chattanooga.
For Chadha, a mobile and accessibility product manager at Spotify, this Tennessee city checks all the boxes she was looking for in a new city â€” fast internet, plenty of hiking trails, an impressive food scene and an airport (she’s a private pilot!).
“I’ve also found a great community here and discovered the entrepreneurial spirit of Chattanooga, which has been the cherry on top,” says Chadha, 28.
Those, like Chadha, who are relocating to Tennessee quickly discover that the state offers an abundance of attributes that make it a great place to live and work. A low cost of living, no state income taxes, a wealth of career opportunities, bountiful natural features, plus diverse and distinctive communities are just some of the reasons why people move to Tennessee.
In a nutshell, the cost of living is low while the quality of life is high, making Tennessee an ideal location for those who are looking to launch a business, start a new career or work remotely.
1. Tennessee Offers a Breathtaking Backyard
From the banks of the Mississippi River to the peaks and valleys of the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee has a diverse landscape that’s well suited for outdoor lovers.
For Chadha, a perfect day in and around Chattanooga could involve a trip to Sunset Rock, a scenic trail with an overlook, or a stroll on the Tennessee Riverwalk. She also enjoys hiking on the trails around Lookout Mountain. (A tour of nearby Ruby Falls, an impressive underground waterfall, is a worthy weekend adventure for Chattanooga newbies.)
In all, Tennessee has over 130 state parks and natural areas and is home to the Great Smoky Mountains, which is the most visited national park in the country.
Its diverse landscapes range from verdant forests to rolling hills to picturesque mountain vistas. With distinct seasons to enjoy year-round, residents in Tennessee can enjoy an active, outdoor lifestyle. Hikers, cyclers, skiers, boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts are able to easily fill up their weekends, enjoying the state’s many natural features.
Jeff Pizzino, a public relations consultant, and his wife recently traded Arizona for Johnson City. His wife is pursuing a master’s degree in communication and storytelling studies at East Tennessee State University.
“I jumped at the opportunity to escape the hostile desert for an area that’s green and has four seasons,” says Pizzino, who lives not far from the Appalachian Trail.
2. Houses are Affordable in Tennessee
Becoming a homeowner in the Bay Area was out of reach for Jenni Ng, so when the San Francisco-based tech company she worked for announced that the switch to remote work would be an ongoing option, she began test driving more affordable midsize cities around the U.S. and eventually settled on Nashville.
Several of her friends live in the Music City, and she likes the energy of the community as well as the locally owned boutiques and the restaurant scene.
The move also fast-tracked her timeline for becoming a homeowner, and she plans to begin looking for homes in the coming months while interest rates are still low.
“I love that Nashville offers big-city perks, and that young professionals aren’t priced out of the housing market,” Ng says.
The median home price in Tennessee in 2020 was just over $207,000, putting the house of your dreams much closer to reality than in places like California ($700,000), New York City ($632,000) or Massachusetts ($457,000).
Tennessee is also one of the nation’s more affordable locations, with overall living costs at around 90% of the U.S. average and housing costs at just 81% of the U.S. average in 2020.
3. A Great Place to Raise a Family
Young people and those with young families are attracted to Tennessee because their dollar goes further, and they have a full range of safe, hassle-free communities that offer quality schools and ample recreation opportunities.
Whether you are at the start of a career or taking it to the next level, Tennessee offers a diverse economy and leading-edge industry sectors. It’s also welcoming of new startups.
At the start of 2021, children’s book author Stephanie Campisi and her husband moved from Palm Desert, California, to Athens, a community of around 14,000 residents in southeast Tennessee.
“We chose Athens as it’s on a growth corridor between two quickly growing cities â€“ Knoxville and Chattanooga â€“ and has a university,” Campisi says. “It’s also still affordable, which was a factor after 2020.”
The greenery, mountains and forest are a perk, too, she says. Now, she and her husband are currently shopping for a commercial building and looking to open a coffee shop. The idea is to partner with local purveyors and provide a community gathering space.
“There’s a very strong craft coffee culture in Chattanooga and Knoxville, so we’ll be able to source locally roasted beans until we start roasting our own,” Campisi says.
4. Enjoy Dozens of Revitalized Downtowns
A hallmark of Tennessee’s quality of life is the strength and vibrancy of its communities.
The Tennessee Main Street Program has helped dozens of Tennessee communities revitalize their downtowns. In August 2020, Livingston in Overton County and Mount Pleasant in Maury County became the 38th and 39th communities to receive a Tennessee Main Street certification.
To become certified, a city or town embarks upon a lengthy application process, listing all its community accomplishments as well as suggesting how to make their downtown district an even better destination for residents and visitors.
Once the certification occurs, the Tennessee Main Street Program helps communities revitalize their downtowns, draw new investment and help with infrastructure to create appealing gathering spaces to attract additional retail, restaurant, entertainment, residential and office space enterprises.
The program is run by the Tennessee Department of Economic & Community Development (TNECD) and accredited through Main Street America and the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
The Main Street Program provides training, support and grant opportunities to assist in downtown revitalization efforts. Livingston and Mount Pleasant selected areas of their downtown cores where the program will focus on historic preservation, community events and economic revitalization. Both communities successfully completed TNECD’s Tennessee Downtowns program prior to achieving Main Street accreditation.
“Our Tennessee Main Streets are part of what makes our state so unique, with communities growing their own distinct downtown districts,” says Bob Rolfe, TNECD commissioner.
Mount Pleasant successfully participated in the first round of the Tennessee Downtowns program and is now embarking on new projects to improve infrastructure and foster entrepreneurship in its downtown.
Livingston, on the Upper Cumberland, successfully completed the Tennessee Downtowns program in 2018 and is focusing on improvements to its historic commercial buildings and branding the unique character of the downtown.