TVA continues to be a driving force for Tennessee’s economy

Recently, there have been lots of discussion around the mission of the Tennessee Valley Authority and some of its operations and decisions. Holding our institutions and their decisions accountable is an important activity. 

It also presents an opportunity to fully explain the tremendous importance of TVA for business and industry, our citizens and their public safety, and the economic development of our state. 

Over the past few years, some have called for nothing short of dismantling TVA, including the sale of its transmission lines, arguing that TVA would provide a better service if it were sold to the private sector. Any suggestion to drastically change TVA or challenge its established mission would fundamentally undermine Tennessee’s economy. TVA’s mission of service to Tennessee is still as relevant today as it was nearly 90 years ago when it was created. 

Over the past seven months, as the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire U.S. economy, TVA has proven to be a stabilizing force to the economy of the Tennessee Valley, continuing to serve its core mission. 

The largest public power supplier in the nation

As a fully self-funded quasi-governmental entity, TVA is the largest public power supplier in the United States, serving 10 million people across 80,000 square miles in seven Southeastern states. Throughout its 90-year history, TVA has provided reliable, low-cost electricity to the people of the Tennessee Valley and fundamentally altered the economic trajectory of the region. 

It has also been a driving force in making Tennessee the economic powerhouse it is today. With no TVA, instead of Tennessee ranking as a top state for business, who knows where we would be?  

TVA faced an unprecedented and, at the time, controversial challenge when it was created by Congress in 1933. The Tennessee Valley was a largely rural area defined by the ebb and flow of the Tennessee River, where the private sector did not have the capacity to invest in large-scale infrastructure. 

TVA electrified the region, implemented flood control and river navigation through the creation and maintenance of 49 dams along the 652-mile Tennessee River, helped enhance agricultural production in the region and created opportunities for cities like Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis to invest in downtown infrastructure and attract corporate economic development, setting the stage for the vibrant state economy we know today.

TVA’s economic benefits are not solely in the past. TVA has continued to be a key reason why companies invest in the Tennessee Valley. In the past five years alone, that includes $44 billion in new capital investment, 350,000 new jobs and a $9 billion annual economic impact. TVA has even facilitated a robust recreation industry that relies on the steady regulation of Tennessee’s waterways, bringing in billions of dollars to communities throughout the valley. 

Help during the pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, TVA has proved to be more important than ever. When Middle Tennessee, Southeast Tennessee, Mississippi and North Georgia experienced devastating natural disasters ranging from tornadoes to derechos to flooding, TVA partnered with other local power companies to repair the system and restore service to the tune of $10 million. 

Since people were told to begin working from home and attend school virtually to slow the spread of COVID-19, TVA has provided economic development assistance for rural and economically distressed communities to enhance technology capabilities that supported telework. As entire industries experienced devastating layoffs and reductions in service because of the economic fallout from the pandemic, TVA supported local power companies in providing regulatory flexibility, suspending disconnection of electric service so customers wouldn’t be overwhelmed by bills. 

As lifelong Tennesseans we are proud of the work that TVA does for our state and our region. TVA is a key part of not only Tennessee’s economy, but our community and our culture. To consider undermining this institution in pursuit of a quick buck would be to ignore over 90 years of dedicated service, reliable electric power and low costs that have laid the foundation for the great state we all are proud to call home. We look forward to what TVA will bring to the Tennessee Valley for the next 90 years.

Bradley Jackson is president of the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Bryan Daniels is president of the Tennessee Economic Development Council.

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Bradley Jackson and Bryan Daniels

The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit


Published October 9, 2020