Knoxville enjoys a unique opportunity to capitalize on a pandemic-accelerated trend of working-age adults seeking the lifestyle, amenities and affordability smaller-size cities can offer. This opportunity comes as Knoxville’s lack of growth among 25- to 54-year-olds – an all-important talent demographic for economic growth – is at near crisis level.

The Knoxville Chamber has released Talent Redefined, a multi-year strategy to retain and recruit more skilled and educated talent to the region. The white paper details the region’s lack of growth among individuals ages 25 to 54 – a key demographic for driving regional economic prosperity – particularly when benchmarked against other Southeastern cities.

This Talent Redefined strategy is one of the six Path to Prosperity priorities.

Between 2010 and 2019, the Knoxville region grew the 25- to 54-year-old age group by less than ½ percent (i.e., 163 individuals). During the same time, the region witnessed a growth of 6.9 percent in the 15- to 24-year-old age group.

The Knoxville region had the second-highest negative variation between 15- to 24-year-old growth and 25- to 54-year-old growth. (Lexington was first.) That means while Knoxville attracts significant numbers of undergraduate and graduate students to the University of Tennessee and other post-secondary institutions, they quickly move on after graduation. (As they presumably do at the University of Kentucky).

About 37 percent of the Knoxville region’s population is between the ages of 25-54, while regions successful in retaining/attracting this demographic are between 40 and 45 percent. Growing this group by 5 percent would equate to ~16,000 more people.

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Knoxville Chamber analysis



Talent Redefined prioritizes retaining young adults earning post-secondary degrees and interning in the Knoxville area as well as attracting the type of talented individuals that regional employers are seeking.

The strategy’s recommendations are listed below.



  • Increasing the talent pipeline between Knoxville-area employers and local post-secondary education institutions
  • Growing the impact of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at regional employers to the wider community
  • Positioning the Knoxville region as a long-term destination for 25 to 54-year-old professionals
  • Assisting with the recruitment and engagement of professional-level talent

Talent Retention & Attraction

Similar to the recently developed Workforce Redefined, the regional workforce development strategy, each recommendation includes a set of supporting components. The Chamber will work with its community’s partners to create and implement tactics in support of the recommendations.

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