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Subjective Research Findings

Interview and survey respondents said they were generally more optimistic today than five years ago that our community is moving in the right direction toward achieving its full potential (an average of 7.41 out of 10 today, compared to 6.6 five years ago). Fifty-seven percent of respondents were more optimistic today, 28% were less optimistic, and 15% were unchanged. A higher percentage of young adults were more optimistic today than established leaders (62% to 50%). The greatest obstacles to reaching our full potential were seen as the need for alignment of leadership with community resources; attitudes that hold us back, such as “good is good enough”; the local impact of national economic and educational challenges and political polarization; and specific issues mentioned by some of the respondents, such as crime, derelict areas, sprawl, obesity, need for quality jobs, and poverty and homelessness.

The greatest strengths to build on, according to the research, are that in numerous ways we have a “foot in two worlds:” our history (a place that retains its authenticity but is welcoming to outsiders), our people (a great place to raise a family with a growing embrace of creative young adults and diversity), our geography and size (centrally located, river valley, “little big city” in a beautiful mountainous region), our culture and activities (folk art to fine art; biking, hiking, rafting, and boating to downtown festivals, farmers’ markets, fountains, and football), and our economy (tourism to technology).

The theme that emerged from the subjective phase of the project was that Greater Knoxville’s full potential is to be the best of both worlds—both a great place to build a career and a great place to raise a family.

Objective Research Findings

This subjective input was tested during the next phase of the project by comparing the Knoxville area on objective criteria to cities that rank highly on both of those goals. It was found that Knoxville compares favorably with the successful cities studied as both a great place for building a career and a great place to raise a family. Therefore, balancing these two goals became the organizing elements for determining the most strategic priorities and actions. The recommended priorities and actions must simultaneously advance being both a great place to build a career and a great place to raise a family (“jobs + quality of life”), as well as minimizing obstacles, building on our greatest strengths, and being timely.