Tennessee Natural Resources and Economy

About a third of Tennessee's forests are used for wood by the manufacturing industry.
About a third of Tennessee's forests are used for wood by the manufacturing industry. (Image: Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Tennessee has a variety of natural resources that help support its economy. The state has a rich soil that contributes to the large amount of forest and the various crops that are grown in the region. Tennessee's economy is mainly based on industry ever since farming started to decline in the 1930s. The most productive cities for industry are Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga, Knoxville and Kingsport-Bristol.

Rocks and Minerals

Tennessee's mining industry is dependent on its natural mineral resources in the earth. The state mainly produces crushed limestone which is used for building roads and making cement. Limestone is considered a rock because it's composed of one or more minerals that have formed together naturally. Other rocks found in Tennessee include clay, coal, phosphate, sand, gravel and sandstone. Minerals are inorganic compounds of multiple elements which occur naturally. Some of the state's mineral resources are barite, chalcopyrite (copper), iron, fluorite, hematite, saltpeter and sphalerite (zinc).


At 14,404,000 acres in 2004, over 50 percent of Tennessee's land is covered in forests. The trees are the source of lumber, which is one of the state's largest industries. Most of the wood comes from hardwood trees with the majority of the softwood coming from pine trees. The wood is used for a variety of products but mostly for paper products, lumber and furniture.


The top five agricultural products in Tennessee are beef cattle and calves, young chickens, soybeans, greenhouse and nursery products and cotton. Some of the other traditional crops grown in the state include corn, tobacco, wheat, hay, sorghum grain, tomatoes, snap beans, apples and peaches. Other livestock and livestock products produced include hogs, sheep and lambs, wool and honey.

Other Industries

In addition to natural and farmed resources, Tennessee also relies heavily on manufactured products and service sectors for its economy. Industry has become the biggest source of revenue for the state. The most important manufacturing industries are transportation equipment, computer and electronic equipment, food, chemicals and machinery. During the turn of the 21st century, services sectors grew dramatically. These include financial services, insurance, private healthcare, motels, tourism, restaurants, grocery stores and community services.

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