Above: Assembly line at Nissan's Smyrna plant. Photo Credit: Alan Poizner/ The Tennesseean
Tennessee’s competitive labor costs, solid infrastructure and favorable business environment continue to draw manufacturers to the state. The state was recently ranked fifth in the nation for its business climate by the International Economic Development Council (IDEC), and with major strongholds in the transportation equipment, food processing and machinery industries, Tennessee remains a top destination to do business.
Today, we’re focusing on the latest trends in Tennessee’s diverse manufacturing sector and exploring the ten largest manufacturing companies in the Volunteer State.
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According to data collected by MNI, compiler of the industrial information that powers IndustrySelect, Tennessee is currently home to 5,653 manufacturers employing 399,030 workers. These include some leading companies in the automotive, food processing and industrial machinery industries, which we’ll dive into in a moment. But first, here are some key statistics on the Tennessee’s manufacturing sector based on data collected by MNI.
According to MNI, Nashville is Tennessee’s largest city based on industrial employment, home to 32,155 workers. This is followed by Memphis with 31,723 and Chattanooga with 23,067. workers.
Read more: Top Manufacturing Cities in the U.S.
Other top cities in Tennessee include
• Knoxville (14,741 jobs)
• Smyrna (11,336 jobs)
• Jackson (10,181 jobs)
• Kingsport (9,046 jobs)
Shelby County is Tennessee’s largest in terms of industrial jobs, home to 54,220 workers. This is followed by Davidson County (42,558), Hamilton (30,381), Rutherford (26,288) and Knox (20,299).
Taking a look at the state’s top industries, transportation equipment manufacturing ranks as the state’s largest industrial sector based on number of jobs, accounting for 14% of the state's manufacturing employment. Second-ranked fabricated metal products accounts for 11%, while third-ranked food processing accounts for 10%.
IndustrySelect’s database of 460,000 U.S. industrial companies, contains 24,399 executive contacts amongst Tennessee manufacturers. These include 2,659 presidents, 2,322 owners and partners; 1,581 vice-presidents and 1,822 sales, marketing and purchasing executives.
Other facts to know about Tennessee manufacturers, based on IndustrySelect’s advanced criteria available to subscribers, include ownership, distribution and other trend. Let’s take a look:
• 2% of Tennessee manufacturers are women-owned
• 1% are minority-owned
• 12% are publicly-owned companies
• 12% import raw materials
• 23% distribute their products internationally
Tennessee is home to a number of major companies in the food processing, pharmaceutical and transportation equipment industries. Next, we’ll take a look at the state’s top companies.
|Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LLC||8,200||Nashville||TN|
|Consolidated Nuclear Security||8,000||Oak Ridge||TN|
|Nissan North America, Inc.||8,000||Smyrna||TN|
|Eastman Chemical Co.||7,000||Kingsport||TN|
|DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, Inc.||4,428||Maryville||TN|
|Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations, LLC||4,000||Chattanooga||TN|
|McKee Foods Corp.||3,500||Collegedale||TN|
|Nissan North America, Inc.||3,000||Decherd||TN|
|Electrolux Major Appliances||2,800||Springfield||TN|
|Carrier Global Corp.||2,500||Collierville||TN|
1. Bridgestone Americas Tire Operation (Nashville, TN)
Founded in 1931, Bridgestone is a Japan-based multinational auto supplier. The Nashville location serves as the company’s U.S. headquarters and produces commercial & industrial automotive tires & rubber inner tubes. Employing 8,200, Bridgestone is Tennessee’s largest industrial employer.
2. Consolidated Nuclear Security (Oak Ridge, TN)
Consolidated Nuclear Security produces nuclear weapons & components at this 8,000-employee facility in Oak Ridge.
3. Nissan North America (Smyrna, TN)
Another major player in the automotive industry, Nissan’s Smyrna plant ranks among the largest and most productive in the U.S with 8,000 employees. Founded in 1983, Nissan produces 640,000 vehicles per year, manufacturing well-known brands such as the Nissan Pathfinder, Nissan Rogue and Nissan LEAF.
4. Eastman Chemical Co. (Kingsport, TN)
Founded in 1920 by George Eastman, Eastman Chemical’s Kingsport plant is a major producer of industrial chemicals and plastic resins, including materials such as Durastar, Collolyn and Plastolyn. Eastman Chemical is Tennessee’s fourth-largest industrial employer, home to 7,000 workers.
5. DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee (Maryville, TN)
Ranking sixth in our list of top industrial employers, DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee’s Maryville location is one of two in the state. This 4,428-employee facility produces automotive electronics, including automotive starters, alternators, electronic parts, instrument clusters and body electronics for Toyota and other automakers.
6. Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operation (Chattanooga, TN)
Further demonstrating Tennessee’s stronghold in the transportation equipment industry, Germany-based automaker Volkswagen secured this major operation in Chattanooga in 2011, where the company has recently produced its one-millionth vehicle. 4,000 employees work at this facility, making Volkswagen Passats, Atlas and more recently the Atlas Cross Sport.
7. McKee Foods Corp. (Collegedale, TN)
McKee Foods is a food processing company that produces well known treats such as Little Debbie snack cakes and Drake’s Devil Dogs. McKee’s Tennessee facility made the news in March 2020, when it announced plans to expand its Collegedale facility and add 482 jobs. Mckee ranks as the state’s seventh-largest industrial employer, home to 3,500 jobs.
8. Nissan North America (Franklin, TN)
Nissan’s Franklin location operates as its North American headquarters, home to 3,000 employees. The Franklin site produces cars, trucks, forklifts and automotive parts.
9. Electrolux Major Appliances (Springfield, TN)
Electrolux is a world producer of home goods and appliances, selling roughly 60 million household products in 120 different markets globally every year. The company’s Tennessee plant focuses on electric and gas ranges and employs 2,800.
10. Carrier Global Corp. (Collierville, TN)
Another major appliance producer, Carrier Global Corp makes heating and air conditioning units at this 2,500-employee facility. The company was founded by Willis Carrier in 1915, following his invention of modern air conditioning in 1902.
Interested in other states? Browse all of our state news here.
For those looking to do business with manufacturers, IndustrySelect’s database of 460,000 U.S. manufacturers is a top resource for both developing and researching sales leads in the manufacturing sector. An IndustrySelect subscription can put you on a first-name basis with Tennessee’s 7,600 industrial companies and 24,000 executives. Subscribers can select up to 30 data points on any manufacturing company in the U.S. to help identify or pre-qualify leads. Company profiles also include the contact information for hard-to-find executive decision-makers. Try a free demo today!
Note: This article was originally published in January 2021. It is updated annually to include fresh statistics on Tennessee based on new data collected by MNI.