‚ÄčAs we enter into a new decade together, this is an exciting time for Knoxvillians and our surrounding neighbors. I’ve even heard it recently referred to as “The Roaring 20s Part Deux.”

Due to our ever-expanding metropolitan statistical area, we are now at the doorway of a regional population approaching 1 million. With this landmark comes a solemn and great responsibility for our community leaders, both private and public.

New national businesses, restaurants and retailers take note when an area reaches this important watermark and will now consider our marketplace for the first time.

The ramifications of what we collaboratively do now will directly impact the trends of our positive growth patterns for years to come. Paying close attention to issues such as infrastructure, zoning, public and private partnerships, development aesthetics and how we properly market ourselves collectively to those interested in East Tennessee will be imperative if we want to succeed.

Quality of life attributes drive value and interest in a community, and luckily we are blessed with both natural and development-driven amenities. How these are carefully merged and molded together to create a proper balance is key.

This harmony is difficult to obtain without individuals and leaders being actively involved in a strategy that remains cognizant of our greater regional landscape and shared goals.

The current political climate is always changing; nonetheless, the common theme of quality over quantity should forever be at the forefront of our leadership goals, regardless of who is in office. Size and continued growth are important if we plan to remain healthy and competitive as a regional marketplace; however, adherence to an interesting and unique identity takes precedence for the long game.

The distinctiveness of our appearance and the diversity of our region’s offerings cannot be underestimated. Commercial enterprises and their associated families alike search for strong supportive communities that are both vibrant and attractive.

Working hand-in-hand is crucial if we want to be their final choice of a location and a home. We are not alone in this pursuit, and it is critical that we continue to refine who and what we are both in Knoxville and our neighboring cities and counties if we want to remain a top desirable destination in the Southeast United States.

As for future real estate trends, urban growth and mixed-use developments, containing blended residential and commercial components, will continue to gain momentum both in our area as well as nationally. We will see stronger concentrations in the restaurant and medical services industries as well as senior housing.

Boutique and specialized retail will begin to outpace the larger box users that have been so prevalent in the past. Ethnic restaurant and grocery choices and product-specific retail will expand with our ever-changing demographic profiles, offering a wider array of options that we haven’t had available before due to our size.

Manufacturing and industrial properties re-emerge with strength due to the expanding economy we are now experiencing.

Residential growth will be more dense in the suburbs as demand incorporates mixed housing with commercial retail services; and current pocket neighborhoods will desire closer proximity to new retail and restaurants to serve their needs, rather than travel to the traditional commercial corridors as we have done in the past.

Flexibility of use zoning will be required to meet these demands for newer types of development that are emerging in larger communities. Our central business districts will continue to grow as the urban areas are revitalized with the assistance of our cities and specialized funding opportunities that are required due to ever rising construction and development costs.

This new growth will require constant communication with our business and community leaders, if we are to be effective for the citizenry.

Finally, our public and private educational systems must continue to expand and improve. Desirable companies and individuals looking at our region highly prize a quality standard of living, with this particular attribute being at the top of the list. Together with our wonderful cost of living, low state taxes and being lucky enough to have the University of Tennessee as part of our community fabric, Knoxville is now on numerous radar screens for emerging companies and location opportunities.

Although we admire Nashville, our area is unique and special in its own right. We are perceived quite differently than Middle Tennessee by the national marketplace, and this is a good thing.

Hopefully as a strong community, we can continue to offer new and exciting perspectives through thoughtful leadership and individual involvement. In other words, our future looks great.