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Weekend edition March 01, 2024 | Katelyn Keenehan

Weekend roundup: Housing, economic development, events, and applications

The Weekend News Roundup features stories related to local business, technology, entrepreneurship, economy, events, and innovation.

Housing market update

In 2023, East Tennessee’s real estate market witnessed notable shifts, reflecting both challenges and opportunities for homeowners and renters.

Home sales across the region declined sharply by 15.2 percent, contrasting with a resilient price growth of 5.3 percent. This divergence underscores a market where demand softened but prices remained sturdy. In the Knoxville metro area, apartment rent growth moderated to 3.7 percent, outpacing the national average of 0.25 percent in January. Home prices surged by 11.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2023, positioning Knoxville 8th nationwide for price growth, as per the FHFA House Price Index.

Looking ahead to 2024, East Tennessee Realtors forecast an 11.1 percent increase in home sales and a 3.6 percent rise in prices, signaling cautious optimism amid evolving market dynamics.

Read more from East Tennessee Realtor’s Market Pulse Report.

Development in Morristown

Rich Products (Rich’s) has announced a $27 million investment to expand production at its Morristown, Tennessee, manufacturing facility, in collaboration with Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter. The expansion will create 51 new manufacturing jobs in Hamblen County, bringing Rich’s total workforce in Tennessee to nearly 1,400.

The project involves adding 2,400 square feet to the Morristown facility, supporting increased production for Rich’s bakery business, and catering to national and regional grocery and club retailers. Scheduled for completion in September 2024, hiring for the expansion is set to commence in June. Rich’s, a global family-owned food company founded in 1945, operates in over 100 countries, employing around 13,000 individuals worldwide. With a strong presence in Tennessee, Rich’s currently operates two plants in Morristown, employing 650 associates.

“We continue to invest heavily in our U.S. manufacturing footprint to create unparalleled value for our customers and opportunities for our people. As a proud member of the Tennessee community for nearly 50 years, we’re excited about what this expansion project will do for our business and the region,” said Kevin Spratt, the President of the U.S. Canada Region of Rich Products.

Museum of Art Special Events

The Knoxville Museum of Art’s biannual Family Day returns on Saturday, March 16, bringing food, artmaking, music, and fun to area families. The free event will be held 11 a.m.-3 p.m. and feature free, hands-on art activities inspired by the KMA’s permanent collection and visiting exhibitions. Visitors can also expect to enjoy:

Also free in March:

Sunday, March 9: Second Sunday Art Activity; Free

Children in grades K-6 are invited to drop in between 1-4 p.m. for a hands-on art activity taught by a certified art teacher.

Mardi Growl

Young-Williams Animal Center presents the 17th annual Mardi Growl pet parade and festival, sponsored by Merchants of Beer, happening on March 2, 2024. The parade, a beloved Knoxville tradition, starts at 11 a.m. in the Old City and heads to World’s Fair Park. Pet registration, required for participation, ends on Feb. 29, with a $15 fee per animal, or $20 on the day of the event. T-shirts are available for purchase until Feb. 27 and can be picked up on Feb. 28 or 29. After the parade, enjoy a pet festival with vendors, food trucks, music, games, and more. Join in the fun and support Young-Williams Animal Center’s mission to care for over 11,000 pets annually.

PYA Ballard Innovation Award application open!

Applications are open for the 2024 PYA Ballard Innovation Award. The application will close a midnight on March 15.

Each year, the pitch competition opens to any early-stage East Tennessee area company that has established a “proof of concept” with accompanying revenue. Applicants must present a business plan, demonstrate clear innovations, and show how they will empower the consumer. PYA will select five companies from the pool of applicants to pitch at the Ballard Innovation Award Ceremony on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 10 at Jewelry Television.

The first-place winner will receive the largest gift of cash and in-kind services available to East Tennessee entrepreneurs and startups: a $50,000 package of capital and in-kind services; $10,000 in monetary capital; and $40,000 in advisory, accounting, marketing, consulting, and video development support.

Apply today!

Cleantech Entrepreneurs should Apply for Spark!

The University of Tennessee Research Park announced that applications are open for the fall Spark Cleantech Accelerator program. The 12-week program is designed to propel early-stage cleantech entrepreneurs to the forefront of their industry. It offers a unique opportunity for startups to refine their business strategies, develop crucial connections, and access invaluable resources. Read article about the program here.

The program is scheduled to kick off on August 19, 2024, and run until mid-November.

Cleantech entrepreneurs can find more information here. Please email questions to

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