Consider how many things make Knoxville a great place to live today

By DAVID MOON, Moon Capital Management
August 5, 2001

Knoxville is a great place to live. Knoxville is a great place to live. Everyone repeat after me: Knoxville is a great place to live.

Why is that so hard for some people to say?

While having lunch with a group of friends recently, someone noted that some of the most interesting, well-traveled and sophisticated people ever attracted to this community were originally employees of Whittle Communications. (I suspect HGTV now attracts the same type of employee, and probably by now, a greater number of them.) The former Whittle employees refuse to leave. These people are from New York, California and other more sophisticated parts, and when their employer closed, they stayed. They started businesses, went to work for others, spawned a creative community and hung out with us rednecks. We couldn't make many of these people leave if we tried.

Why? Because Knoxville is a great place to live. When TVA director-nominee, Bill Baxter, was the state's Commissioner of Economic and Community Development, he traveled the state, visiting with business people, media types and politicians. He often commented that we Knoxvillians are our own harshest critics. Too many people are focused on the quarter of our glass that is empty.

More Knoxvillians are working than ever before. The level of general prosperity in the community has never been greater. Our new construction surprises infrequent visitors to the area, who usually react as if the area is growing and vibrant. Well, it is. But if you live in the midst of it and hear folks complaining all the time, it can be a bit tough to see. It is easy to see the things that need work and improvement; that's how we improve those areas. But in our hurry to condemn the condemnable, we ignore the laudable.

You may not like some of the types of development we have in the area, but apparently someone does. Someone is buying those new houses and shopping in new stores. Other people are buying old stores and old houses to breathe life anew. Cedar Bluff Road may not be your particular vision of beautiful city design, but a Knoxville visitor from ten years ago is amazed at the vibrant growth in the Cedar Bluff/Pellissippi Parkway corridor. And it is not just West Knoxville. Following a recent trip to the Knoxville Center (forgive me if I continue calling it East Town Mall) I drove past new apartments on my way to stumbling into a neighborhood of $300,000 houses. New housing for both ends of the economic spectrum ' in east Knoxville.

We have better communication about our entire region than ever before. The Nine Counties One Vision process is the most visible, but certainly not the only effort underway to cooperate among the region's resources, rather than practice traditional east Tennessee isolationism.

Mt. LeConte dominates the southern skyline, only an hour away from almost any place in the city. (The base of the mountain, that is. The time to the peak depends on your trail selection and aerobic capacity.) From the summit, a tired hiker sees lakes and rivers all around - the type of natural beauty that rich, big-city dwellers buy second homes to enjoy. Our first homes are right in the middle of it.

My wife and I enjoy an almost weekly walk along Volunteer Landing, with choices of entertainment and places to eat - or we just sit and feed the monster carp. My kids love to play in the fountains along river walk, as do the hundreds of other children we see playing in that park. Afterwards, I can take a train ride or a dinner cruise. We can leave the waterfront and within five minutes be in the best zoo (and still improving) within hundreds of miles. When I was a kid in rural Alabama, a trip to the zoo was a huge logistics exercise, involving a day's travel and hundreds of miles in the station wagon. This summer, we go to the zoo a couple of times a month, often on a last-minute whim.

This partial list of our strengths and resources is not intended to provoke a review of our shortcomings. We have plenty of that already.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management, a Knoxville-based investment management firm. This article originally appeared in the News Sentinel (Knoxville, TN).

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