Economic Development: Why Morristown
The city of Morristown is strategically located at the crossroads of upper east Tennessee. Halfway between Knoxville and the Tri-Cities, the 3rd and 5th largest metropolitan areas in the state, Morristown is easily accessible via I-81, I-40 and US 25-E, the East Tennessee Crossing National Scenic Byway. It is within a 10-hour drive of 76% of the United States population and 19% of the Canadian population placing our community at the “center of the nation’s marketplace”.
With a metropolitan population exceeding 130,000, Morristown is the county seat of Hamblen County and enjoys both a beautiful and strategic geographic location. Here you will find a rare combination of natural beauty surrounding a regional hub for education, healthcare, retail sales and manufacturing.
As Tennessee’s 6th largest industrialized area, Morristown manufacturers export a wide range of products across the country and around the world. The city is served by three major industrial parks and is home to companies like Mahle, Colgate Palmolive, JTEKT Automotive, Val-Timet, Tuff Torq, Otics USA, Lear, PFG Hale, Vifan and Wallace Hardware. These industries are served by an outstanding network of air, land and rail transportation options.
The main campus of Walters State Community College is located in Morristown with almost 10,000 credit and non-credit students enrolled. The college has been ranked one of the most tech-savvy community colleges in America as well as the safest campus in Tennessee. In addition to Walters State, the region is served by many highly regarded colleges and universities including Carson-Newman College, Lincoln Memorial University, Milligan College, Tusculum College, East Tennessee State University and the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus, all located within a 15-50 minute drive. Vocational education and training is provided by the Tennessee Technology Center at Morristown which offers a range of programs that include industrial electricity and maintenance, machine tool technology and aviation mechanics. The Hamblen County school system provides quality K-12 education for over 10,000 students. In fact, Morristown-Hamblen High School East was the first school in Tennessee to be awarded a Blue Ribbon of Excellence (2005) and both East and West high schools have been recognized with bronze status in U.S. News and World Report Best High Schools ranking.
Morristown is served by two hospitals, Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System and Lakeway Regional Hospital. As a regional center for health care we are home to many fine physicians within a broad range of specialties. There are also nursing home facilities, retirement communities, children and senior services working to improve the quality of care for our citizens. In 2009, Morristown was one of only 16 cities across the U.S. to participate in the Million Pound Challenge Walk-Off.
A retail hub, Morristown is home to College Square Mall which serves a trade area of over 300,000 people. Major retailers in the community include Belk, Home Depot, JC Penny, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Sears and Wal-Mart. Locally owned specialty shops thrive in our unique downtown and throughout the city. There is an excellent mix of both national restaurant chains and homegrown establishments.
Cultural opportunities abound here with two theatrical companies, dance and ballet schools, and local art, herb and photography associations. Performance venues include the Walters State Humanities Theater, a 12-screen cinema, the Great Smoky Mountains Expo Center, and the Cherokee Park Amphitheater. The historic Rose Center features an art gallery, local history museum, children’s touch museum and is home to the annual Mountain Makin’s event, recognized as one of the premier Fall events in the southeast.
Outdoor enthusiasts appreciate the city’s close proximity to the Cumberland Mountains, Cherokee National Forest and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cherokee Lake, the 1,900 acre Panther Creek State Park and over 286 acres of public parks featuring excellent softball, soccer and tennis facilities combine to offer plenty of outdoor activity options. Children love the splash pad at Fred Miller Park and the disc golf course at Wayne Hansard Park attracts enthusiasts from well beyond Morristown.
Attractive and diverse residential areas can be found throughout Morristown and Hamblen County ranging from upscale gated communities to traditional historic neighborhoods. Residents enjoy one of the lowest tax rates in the state and benefit from such services as curbside garbage, recycling and rubbish pick-up and Morristown Utility Systems state-of-the-art fiber optics service. Professional police and fire protection, stable local government and a mild climate provide a quality standard of living. Hamblen County meets all national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS), including the 8-hour ozone standard.
City of Morristown population: 29,137 (up 16.7% from 2000)
Hamblen County population: 62,544 (up 7.6% from 2000)
Metropolitan Area Population (2009 est.): 137,612
Median Household Income for Hamblen County (2006-2010): $39,807
|Bachelor’s Degree or Higher, Hamblen County (% of persons age 25+; 2006-2010): 15.6%|
Total Number of Firms (2007): 5,080
Manufacturer’s Shipments (2007): $3,214,013,000
Retail Sales (2007): $1,055,016,000
Retail Sales Per Capita (2007): $17,030
Property Taxes: City/County – $2.69 per $1000 assessed
Sales Tax – $0.0975%
More US Census data on Morristown, TN can be found here
More US Census data on Hamblen County can be found here
It became official on April 28, 1855 – Morristown was a City; having grown from two important early travel routes which intersected here. One was The Big Road, a major east-west stagecoach route connecting Baltimore to Knoxville. The other was known early on as the Buffalo Trail, leading north-south through the Cumberland Gap. Later, this road became a branch of the famous Dixie Highway and was an important link between Detroit and Miami. With the arrival of the railroad in 1856, the city began to grow rapidly, but was split between Jefferson and Grainger Counties with Main Street as the dividing line. Legend has it that a group of gentlemen sitting under a tree across from today’s First Baptist Church decided it was too difficult dealing with a split town and far off county seats. If you lived south of Main Street, your county seat was Dandridge, but if you lived north of Main Street your county seat was Rutledge, both more than two hours away by horse. The citizens demanded a more localized government which resulted in the creation of Hamblen County on May 31, 1870.
Over the years, Morristown has developed a rich and interesting history. Union and Confederate troops, parades, circuses, famous preachers and popular entertainers such as Archie Campbell, Minnie Pearl, and Tex Ritter all passed through town at some point. Coffee lovers know the JFG brand got its start here. From 1957-1960, Morristown was voted Cleanest City in America for a town its size.
During the 1960’s the city embarked on a major urban renewal project that cleared slums, added a new boulevard south of downtown and created the Downtown SkyMart second-level sidewalk system. SkyMart was inspired by the Chester Rows in England and this extraordinary undertaking brought international attention to the city.
Some famous residents have left their mark on our city. Davy Crockett, a frontiersman, politician and warrior who won acclaim during the battle at the Alamo, grew up in Morristown. Davy’s father established a successful tavern here. Less than a mile east of downtown on Morningside Drive is the Davy Crockett Tavern Museum. This reproduction of the original tavern is open May-October for tours.
Another interesting character is Melville M. Murrell, a local Methodist preacher who developed his own ornithopter, a bird-like flying machine with wings that flapped, while Wilber and Orville Wright were just kids. Melville patented his Great American Flying Machine in 1877. The Wright Brothers, who began glider experiments in 1900, did not accomplish their successful Army test flight until 1908, 31 years after Murrell’s flying machine defied gravity. A permanent exhibit is on display at the Rose Center. That flying tradition continued into the 20th century with Evelyn Bryan Johnson, AKA “Mama Bird”, who is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as having the most flying hours of any living person. As of early 2011, Evelyn was still officially recognized as the general manager of the Morristown Regional Airport.
During World War I, Hamblen County was the only county in the United States to produce two Congressional Medal of Honor winners, Calvin C. Ward and Edward R. Talley. Other notable residents include theater and film book editor John A. Willis, Playwright and actress Jane Wagner, and NFL player James “Little Man” Stewart.