KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – A new report reinforces something you likely already know, especially if you call East Tennessee home: federal investment in operations in Oak Ridge comes with a massive economic impact on the region and state.

The East Tennessee Economic Council (ETEC) released an impact report Friday, completed by the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. The report found the U.S. Department of Energy’s investment in the Oak Ridge Reservation resulted in $7.2 billion in economic impact in 2020.

Lt. Governor Randy McNally isn’t surprised. “We always knew that the economic engine of DOE and the Oak Ridge Reservation was a very powerful driver, not only for Anderson, Knox, and Roane counties, but for a number of surrounding counties,” he said.

State Sen. Ken Yager (R-District 12) agrees. He noted the largest employer in Morgan County is DOE and its contractors. “I don’t think most people realize that,” he said. “That point illustrates how significant the work is here to the economy and the payroll.”

The report shows 14,667 jobs were directly supported by DOE and its contractors. 28,239 jobs were supported indirectly, in 2020, by the DOE funding in the state. The report also shows $108 million in state and local taxes collected from DOE-related spending.

U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN District 2) believes the true financial impact from DOE operations may be even greater. “Over 6,000 folks that work out here at those two facilities, live in the second congressional district. But, it’s actually, probably, double that if you consider all the other economic impact, from the restaurants in the area, the hotels, the motels, the machinists, the welders, people that work in industry that surround it, that feed the plant, or feed off the plant. It’s a huge impact for our area,” he said.

While Sen. Yager noted he has constituents commuting to Oak Ridge from five counties in his district, and expressed gratitude for those job opportunities, he also expressed a desire for more job creation in more rural counties in East Tennessee. It’s something he believes ORNL and the federal government can play a role in achieving.