With the rich history that Bradley County, Cleveland and Charleston have in common, and the diverse economic development opportunities that are becoming available, the future truly is something that our citizens just 50 years ago would have only dreamed about. The responsibility of encouraging growth while preserving the “hometown feel” is a delicate balance that we are all involved with daily as we preserve, protect and promote our community each and every day.
Bradley County was incorporated in 1836. Our county lies between the Cumberland Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains and we are approximately 26 miles northeast of Chattanooga and 89 miles south of Knoxville. Our approximate land mass covers 210,406 acres or 328.76 square miles and as of 2013 our population was found to be approximately 101,146 amazing citizens. Approximately 80 percent of our county’s land area is devoted to farming, with income derived from dairy, beef, cotton, poultry, tobacco and various other fruits and vegetables.
Bradley County continues to exemplify Three Star Community standards and is a proven leader in preserving existing employment, fostering development while creating new employment opportunities, improving family income and creating a strong leadership base for economic development. We are also home to four industrial parks presently holding approximately 148 industrial concerns. Twelve of them are “Fortune 500” manufacturing companies.
A few examples of this diversification would reveal household cooking equipment, water purification chemicals, distribution centers, alkaline batteries, hosiery, candy, cakes, dairy products, photo finishing, clothing manufacturing and polysilicon used for manufacturing solar cells as well as many others.
Tourism has been another area that has been a valuable resource for our economy. With our vast and rich Cherokee heritage and our close proximity to the mountains, whitewater rafting, hiking, biking, camping and fishing enthusiasts have been eager to visit and enjoy the environment that some may take for granted as it is in a place we call home. In 2013, Bradley County had the largest increase of tourism dollars of any county in Tennessee.
Transportation of many different varieties is also able to serve our county, industry and citizens. Interstate 75, U.S. Highways 11 and 64, along with state routes 60 and 74 provide, a rich network to encourage more than 100 motor freight carriers to import and export supplies and goods.
Norfolk-Southern’s Crescent Corridor is a $2.5 billion rail infrastructure project spanning 11 states from Louisiana to New Jersey, and is located less than 30 miles from Cleveland. Barge traffic is also accessible less than 10 miles north of Cleveland on the Hiwassee River, providing manufacturing concerns direct access to a major barge traffic artery. And then we also have the addition of our Cleveland Regional Jetport located on Dry Valley Road with a 5,500-foot long, 35-foot wide concrete runway complete with an 8,000-square-foot building housing the terminal. There is additional commercial airline service available approximately 15 miles away, at Lovell field.
Two school systems in the county exist to not only educate our children but to also inspire them to greatness in a worldwide arena. The Bradley County Schools system operates 11 elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools with an enrollment of about 12,207 students. The Cleveland City Schools system operates six elementary schools, one middle school, one high school and one alternative school with an enrollment of about 4,700 students.
Cleveland State Community College is a comprehensive two-year community college accredited by the Commissions on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and schools. It is also under Tennessee Board of Regents oversight and approved by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission that serves a student population of approximately 3,500.
Lee University also calls Bradley County and Cleveland home. This private, comprehensive Christian college operated by the Church of God also is the second largest of Tennessee’s 35 accredited private colleges and universities. About 4,400 students currently attend this fully accredited liberal arts institution while pursuing bachelor degrees in 49 majors in 80 programs of study and 15 master’s degree programs.
With all of this rich history, abundant resources and an eager, educated and productive workforce, the future is indeed bright. The ability to capitalize on the future, while trying to help every citizen and their family, is one priority that I share with others in our county, community and region.
We can and will see this future come to pass with God’s help and our working together to continue to make Bradley County and the cities of Cleveland and Charleston great places to live, work and raise a family.
Bradley County is Tennessee at its best!