Tennessee continues to fascinate me. On the surface, the state appears to be very well run. Its Republican Governor, Bill Haslam, was instrumental in quick disaster response and aid to families affected by The Great Tennessee Snowpocalypse of 2015. Additionally, its roads are in impeccable shape, despite their high traffic content. Take I-40, for example. This east-west interstate highway is the third-longest in the country and passes through eight states. The 455-mile Tennessee stretch of highway receives more vehicle traffic per mile than any of the other seven states, including California. Yet Tennessee’s I-40 is in outstanding shape, its rest stops spotlessly clean.
Look deeper, though, and you find cracks in the veneer. Meth addiction spiraled following the financial crisis of 2008, and it’s not uncommon to encounter one or more toothless, recovering addicts on a daily basis. And while the state’s Appalachian Mountain culture is fabled as a place of folk music and simple living, the reality is closer to the movie Winter’s Bone than one might want to believe. Additionally, the state’s job growth rate is one of the lowest in the nation. Tennessee is a place of $10/hour factory and warehouse jobs; “white collar” jobs are especially hard to find once you leave the “Big Three” of Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville.
Still, a diverse number of companies have chosen Tennessee for their corporate or manufacturing headquarters. Let’s take a look at some of them!
Things that Come from Tennessee:
- Jack Daniel’s Whiskey is aged and bottled in Lynchburg, TN.
- Although Mountain Dew is today bottled by PepsiCo, the original recipe was concocted by Tennessee brothers Ally and Barney Hartman in 1940.
- Saturn cars were manufactured in Spring Hill, TN until 2009.
- The Gibson Guitar Factory is located near historic Beale Street in Memphis, TN. Gibson’s corporate HQ is in Nashville, three hours to the east.
- Ruby Tuesday, with 500 casual dining restaurants across the country, is headquartered in Alcoa, TN, an upscale suburb of Knoxville.
- Bush’s Best products, including the company’s world famous baked beans, are manufactured in Eastern Tennessee.
- For-profit hospital and health care firm Vanguard Health Systems recorded fiscal year 2011 revenues of $4.9 billion. Vanguard was headquartered in Nashville until its 2013 merger with Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare.
- Long-running HGTV (Home and Garden Television) runs its biggest sales office in NYC but is actually headquartered in Knoxville.
- Do you have a Regal Cinemas theater complex in your city? Regal is another Knoxville-based company, and is the largest movie theater chain in the world!
- Sun Studios, at which several early classics by Roy Orbison and the “Million Dollar Quartet” of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis, is located near downtown Memphis, TN…as is Stax Records (originally called Satellite Records), where Southern Soul, Funk, and Gospel greats like Booker T. and the M.G.’s and Otis Redding recorded.
- FedEx is headquartered in Memphis, and Memphis International Airport (MEM) is the #1 cargo airport in the world.
- Original Footwear – boots produced primarily for the U.S. military – recently moved its manufacturing facilities to Eastern Tennessee.
- Jude Children’s Research Hospital – free of charge to the families of all sick children – is located in Memphis.
- Finally, Pilot Flying J, that ubiquitous chain of highway travel centers, truck stops, and convenience stores in the U.S. and Canada, is based in Knoxville. The company’s CEO, Jim Haslam, is the billionaire brother of the state’s aforementioned Governor Haslam, and is currently being investigated by the FBI for fraud.
Do you use any of these products or support any of these companies?