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(Originally published on Knoxville Business Journal)
Dave Miller, his wife Sarah and their nine-month-old son Roman spent their first month and a half in Knoxville living in the basement of their new house.
The family moved here in 2017 after Miller accepted his position as East Tennessee region president of First Tennessee.
“(Roman) learned to walk while we were living in our basement,” he said. “It was pretty cool.”
While relocating doesn’t always involve living beneath ground level, it “turns the family’s life upside down” in one way or another, clinical social worker Barbara Stephens said.
Thousands of people are moving to Knoxville each year. The number of people who moved to Knox County from another Tennessee county increased from nearly 12,000 in 2013 to approximately 17,000 in 2016. Nearly 11,000 people moved to Knoxville from out of state in 2013, which increased to 12,633 in 2016. Those that moved from abroad increased from 877 in 2013 to more than 2,200 in 2016.
For a couple’s or a family’s life to flip right side up as quickly as possible, human interaction is key, Stephens said.
Meeting the neighbors
Dave Miller had visited Knoxville a few times before the family moved from Memphis. But a visit doesn’t give any indication of what rebuilding a support network will be like.
Establishing initial connections can be the toughest part of a move, Stephens said.
“It was concerning for me,” Sarah Miller said. “How am I going to find a Mother’s Day Out and this and that and events for the kids? And it has been a lot easier than I ever imagined.”
The Millers had a network of folks at First Tennessee, with the added bonus of welcoming neighbors.
“There’s great data available online, but by far, most of what we found was via other references,” Dave Miller said. “If you meet one or two key people who are good at connecting you with others, it’s off to the races.”
The couple estimated that they met more neighbors within the first 30 days in their West Knoxville neighborhood than the two years they spent in their previous neighborhood.
But what if the neighbors aren’t eager to meet? For Stephens, who moved to Knoxville from Cincinnati eight years ago, that was the case.
“We lived there for two weeks and hadn’t said hello to one neighbor,” she said.
So she made the first move. It’s not enough to wait around for others to knock on the door, she said. She baked all her neighbors muffins and made connections, some of which turned into lasting friendships.
Utilizing existing hobbies
After connecting with the neighbors, Stephens dipped into her own hobbies. She took piano lessons, joined a gym and found a church to build her network.
Tricia and Brandon Bruce moved to Maryville in 2007 from Washington D.C. when Tricia accepted a position as a professor of sociology at Maryville College. The couple made the move from Maryville to Knoxville in 2015.
Tricia connected with her colleagues, while Brandon became part of Maryville and Knoxville cycling communities.
“If you want to get involved, you can get involved pretty fast,” Brandon Bruce said. “You can meet a lot of people by expressing interest in certain things.”
Brandon worked as a consultant for a year and worked at Maryville College in fundraising for three years before he decided he was in the right place to start a company.
Finding business support
Brandon started Cirrus Insight software technology company in 2011 with co-founder Ryan Huff. The company was ranked No. 41 on the Inc. 500 list in 2016 and has grown from zero to $12 million in annual revenue.
“Knoxville has benefited enormously from our partnership in the sense that they recruited me to come here, and now he has built all of this,” Tricia said.
Cirrus started around the same time the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center began. Brandon worked with KEC’s team, Tech 2020 in Oak Ridge (now shut down), Innov865 Alliance, E-tech in Oak Ridge to gain support for his venture.