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Knox County Trends

June 9, 2020 | More News

"Plan for the future, because that is where you are going to spend the rest of your life." - Mark Twain

As Knox County continues to grow and change, trends are emerging that help us predict what the future may look like.

The county has seen strong, steady population growth over the past several decades, up from 178,000 in 1940 to 465,000 today. And the trend of gains is expected to continue into the near future, according to projections prepared by The University of Tennessee.

By 2040, total Knox County population could reach 550,000, with numbers in all age groups higher as more people live longer, and children of the sizable Millennial cohort emerge as a mini-boom.

We expect local population to grow through 2070, reaching as much as 670,000. However, we are already seeing signs that the rate of growth will slow as changes in underlying growth factors occur: slower net migration, lower birth rates, and dying Baby Boomers.

Like population trends, expect changes in the local economy in the coming decades. Knox County is the economic engine of our region and is expected to remain so. Currently 55 percent of all jobs are found here, and the pattern of workers commuting into Knox from surrounding counties each day lends further evidence. Like much of the nation, we have seen a dramatic change in our strongest economic segments over the past few decades, as services and healthcare sectors have replaced manufacturing as dominant employers.

Though development is currently strong, Knox County has witnessed volatility in residential and commercial investment activity over the past 15 years. Recovery from 2008 has been evident, though investment has only recently returned to levels seen before the recession. In residential construction, the mix of housing unit types varies widely between the City of Knoxville and unincorporated Knox County.

In the city, multi-family dwellings (apartments) outpace single-family dwellings by a 3:1 margin, whereas in the county only a quarter of new construction is multi-family.

With local population growth expected to continue over the next few decades, housing demand will continue. Of concern on that front, though, is the shortage of affordable housing, a significant concern today. Will future supply be able to support all income levels?

In non-residential construction, commercial development has grown significantly along major transportation corridors and at interstate interchanges. We have also seen retail and other commercial investments chasing rooftops, particularly in the Hardin Valley area. We see no indication that the interconnections between population growth and economic investment growth should change in the future.

Planning Executive Director Gerald Green will gave a presentation to Knox County Commission in June about these trends and some of the challenges that local residents and decision-makers will have to address in the coming years. The presentation and a video recording are available on our Community Growth Data and Resources webpage.