By DON FENLEY
The Tri-Cities wasn’t the top U-Haul destination in Tennessee last year, but it remains among the “notable net-gain” markets.
Tennessee’s top growth city is Nashville. Other notable net-gain markets include Maryville, Brentwood, Cleveland, Old Hickory, Jackson, Hendersonville, La Vergne, Sparta, Ooltewah, Manchester, Hermitage, Mt. Juliet, Greeneville, Cookeville and Germantown.
The Index is good news because since there is no regional effort to promote the Tri-Cities as a destination, the U-Haul Index and WSJ’s Emerging Markets Index have picked up the slack and boosted the region’s status and recognition outside the 100-mile radius. That’s important because, from a demographic perspective, the Tri-Cities must attract about 30 new residents a day to balance our population losses from the death rate and outmigration. So far population growth is bumping along at 0.4% from the previous year. That is enough to sustain the population losses and give some slow growth.
Tennessee is the No. 6 growth state in America, according to the U-Haul® Growth Index analyzing customer moves during 2022.
The 2021 Index reported East and Central Tennessee had the biggest gains in U-Haul arrivals. The top growth cities include Knoxville, the Tri-Cities, Cookeville, Clarksville, Cleveland, Murfreesboro and Maryville.
People arriving in Tennessee in one-way U-Haul trucks dropped 7% over 2021, while departures fell 6% as overall traffic slowed, according to a U-Haul press release.
Despite a slightly greater year-over-year drop in arrivals, do-it-yourself movers arriving in Tennessee still accounted for 50.3% of all one-way U-Haul truck traffic in and out of Tennessee (49.7% departures) to keep it a top-10 growth state for the third consecutive year. The Volunteer State ranked No. 3 in 2021 and was the nation’s No. 1 growth state in 2020.
“Ultimately, I think Tennessee continues to be popular because the cost of living is cheaper and we have no state income tax,” said Chris Hardin, U-Haul Company of South Nashville president.
“I think Tennessee dropped slightly in the U-Haul Growth Index because of the huge increase in tech jobs that became remote during the pandemic, and some of those people being called back to their California and New York offices in 2022. But we continue to have a beautiful state that a lot of people want to make their home.”
Texas is the No. 1 growth state for the second consecutive year and the fifth time since 2016. Florida, which ranks second, has been a top-three growth state seven years in a row.
Demand for equipment out of California, Illinois, and New York remained strong in 2022, as more people opted to leave areas of the West Coast, Northeast and Midwest. California and Illinois ranked 50th and 49th, respectively, on the U-Haul Growth Index for the third consecutive year, meaning those states saw the greatest net losses of one-way U-Haul trucks, according to U-Haul.
The U-Haul Growth Index is compiled according to the net gain of one-way U-Haul trucks arriving in a city or state, versus departing from that city or state, in a calendar year. Migration trends data is compiled from more than 2 million one-way U-Haul truck transactions that occur annually across the U.S. and Canada.
Texas is the leading growth state for the fifth time since 2016, while Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia round out the top five. California ranks 50th and Illinois 49th for the third year in a row, indicating those states saw the largest net losses of one-way U-Haul trucks.
While U-Haul migration trends do not correlate directly to population or economic growth, the U-Haul Growth Index is an effective gauge of how well states and cities are both attracting and maintaining residents.