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Polco News & Knowledge

How Morristown Built for an Economic Boom

-By Brian Smith-

Morristown, Tennessee improves resident satisfaction through expanded recreation opportunities and a focus on property maintenance.

The economy is not the only thing that’s improving in Morristown, Tennessee.

With an already established low cost of living, the City has experienced a boom that has changed much of how the city has had to respond to increases in demand for service. Some cities could have buckled under the pressure of keeping up. But, Morristown has exceeded expectations.

“In recent years, Morristown has seen unprecedented economic growth,” said Joey Barnard, Morristown Assistant City Administrator. “With an increase in job opportunities has come the addition of other services in our community including more retail, restaurants, and service related businesses. All of these additions add to the overall quality of life in our community.”

These additional services and a focus on cleaning up run-down properties has led to a transformation in Morristown.

The City of Morristown regularly conducts The National Community Survey (The NCS) to gather feedback from community members. From 2016 to 2018, residents have become much more satisfied with development, services, and public spaces in Morristown. 

“Morristown has done a great job responding quickly to what residents are asking for,” said Damema Mann, Director of National Engagement for Polco / National Research Center (NRC).

Morristown’s leadership has been recognized with a 2019 Voice of the People Award for Transformation in Built Environment. This is the only national award that honors local governments based on feedback from residents. The award is presented by Polco / National Research Center (NRC) and the International City & County Management Association (ICMA). This award acknowledges local governments that have significantly improved their ratings on The NCS and that take the best actions on behalf of their communities. 

Farmers Markets, Concerts, and Festivals

“Residents have long been asking for more entertainment and recreation opportunities in Morristown,” said Barnard. 

With that in mind, the City expanded a disc golf course and a greenway system, and enhanced Parks and Recreation events and programs. Leaders also adopted new policies to allow for events such as an upcoming beer festival, farmers market, and concerts.

Cleaning Up Eyesores

In addition to expanding recreation options, the City has focused on rehabbing dilapidated properties.

“Areas that at one time were an eyesore are now cleared, usable properties,” said Joey Barnard, Morristown Assistant City Administrator.

To promote well-maintained properties, the City has also expanded enforcement on community codes. It plans to use various grant programs to provide remediation opportunities to local people and businesses, too.

Economy and Built Environment Hand-In-Hand

During the same time period that residents have become more satisfied with Morristown’s built environment, they also believe the economy has improved.

The City wrote that this change was wrought from changes at city hall, including a department restructure, and the emphasis on business creation in the City’s industrial parks.

Community members reported a 15 percent increase in satisfaction related to employment opportunities between 2016 and 2018.

Not Stopping There

But Morristown is not stopping there. It has a robust plan for continued improvement in its economy and built environment.

Improvements slated for the future include construction of a community center with over 100,000-square-feet of recreation and wellness space. In addition, the City plans to open a new 50-acre park.

“A community center has long been a request of our citizens and this state of the art facility will more than adequately fit those needs,” Barnard said.

Along with a booming economy and focus on built environment, the City also recognizes the need for workforce development. 

“The City is currently in the process of relocating their public works facility, which will allow the Tennessee College of Applied Technology to expand their campus and offer training programs that will directly feed our workforce with qualified candidates,” Barnard said.

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