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Tennessee Colleges

Tennessee Colleges


Tennessee is divided into three geographically diverse sections: East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and West Tennessee. In East Tennessee the Great Smoky Mountains, the narrow river valleys and heavily forested foothills generally restrict farming in the area.   What characterizes this region economically is two of the state's most industrialized cities, Chattanooga (fourth largest) and Knoxville (third largest).


Middle Tennessee is defined by the Tennessee River, which flows southwest through East Tennessee into Alabama, looping back up into West Tennessee on its winding path to the Ohio. Here is the rolling, fertile bluegrass country that is ideal for livestock raising and dairy farming. Middle Tennessee is still noted for its fine horses and mules, in particular the “Tennessee walker,” a horse with a remarkable strut.


West Tennessee lies between the Tennessee and the Mississippi rivers.  This part of the state is river bottom land, with fertile soil that supports the state’s cotton crop.  Here the state remains agrarian to some degree; otherwise, it is one of the most heavily industrialized southern states.  The state gets between forty and forty five inches of rain annually and the weather can be characterized as “humid continental” in the north to “humid subtropical” in the southern districts.  The rainfall is no doubt distributed throughout the year; the term ‘subtropical’ leads one to believe that this is a true southern environment.


Tennessee sent the first (non-Virginian) southern president to the White House when Andrew Jackson was elected.  The state played a pivotal role in the civil war.  Originally pro-Union, it elected to join the Confederacy when a second referendum was held after the firing on Fort Sumter.  After Virginia, Tennessee was the biggest battleground of the war.  The rivers were important transport and supply routes for both armies, and both armies had Tennessee regiments in uniform.


Tennessee’s early attempts at industrialization included steel mills and textiles.  The steel mills were supplanted by Alabama’s steel production but textiles remain a factor in the state’s economy today.  In 1933, the Tennessee Valley Authority was formed to develop hydroelectric power in the region and did so successfully, bringing electrical power and modernization to a multi-state area around the Tennessee River.


Tennessee has been very aggressive in its pursuit of industrial growth and has met with a great deal of success, attracting businesses from the northern states and from overseas.  Who among us has not seen the auto commercials for Saturn emanating from Spring Hill Tennessee?  The notion of an auto plant in a southern town with a sylvan name has probably sold thousands of cars before the buyers got to the showroom.  The whole concept is about as un-Detroit as you can get.


Memphis is the biggest city in the state and its financial and industrial powerhouse.  Nashville is a city of a half million people, known for its music business but driven by more mundane industries such as health care and publishing.  The metro area is 1.3 million, slightly larger than that surrounding Memphis.


The University of Tennessee is a major southern school – undergraduate tuition begins at about $16,000.  Vanderbilt is a respected private school; other institutions include the University of Memphis and a network of state schools.  If this state interests you it would be worth checking with the state Department if Economic Development about incoming industries.  Their pursuit of new businesses continues apace.

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