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225 Years of Commerce and Industry (Part 4)

Jessica Karsten
Thursday, October 6, 2016

225 Years of Commerce and Industry (Part 4)
A History of Knoxville’s Diverse Business Community
















Photo: Buick in front of Farragut Hotel, ca. 1960s, Knox County Two Centuries Photograph Project
(Photo courtesy of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection – Digital Collection. Click photo to visit collection.)

1950 – 1990s: Attracting Corporate Headquarters

Still recovering from the national depression, Knoxville’s growth throughout this period was modest, but not completely suspended. It was during this time America’s mid-sized cities were especially attractive to relocating businesses and families, and Knoxville benefitted from this trend.

A number of successful business headquarters in Knoxville made their start during this time. Although many companies were created in the city, others relocated to the area given its established business climate. James Haslam II founded Pilot Corporation, now Pilot Flying J, in Virginia in 1958. Now headquartered in Knoxville, the company is the largest operator of travel centers in North America.

Jim Clayton founded Clayton Homes in 1966 with $25,000 at an old drive-in movie theatre in north Knoxville. Today, Clayton homes is the nation’s largest manufacturer of manufactured housing and modular homes and is headquartered in Maryville and owned by Berkshire Hathaway.

In 1989 Regal Cinemas was established in Knoxville by local businessman Mike Campbell and quickly began expanding throughout the next decade. Today Regal Entertainment Group is the largest theatre circuit in the U.S. and plans to expand its corporate headquarters on Knoxville’s South Waterfront, creating new jobs and driving the local economy. 

Photo (right): Clayton Homes, 1968
(Photo courtesy of the Clayton Homes online multimedia library. Click photo to visit site.)

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