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Moving trucks rolling out of California, into Tennessee

Increase font size  Decrease font size Date:2021-01-21   Views:23

  You might say they're voting with their feet—on the gas pedal.

  The site of U-Haul trucks crisscrossing the nation amid the COVID-19 pandemic reveals a lot about the places Americans are leaving and where they're going.

  U-Haul releases annual rankings each year that are determined simply by the states and cities where its moving trucks are first rented and where they end up.

  And in 2020 for the first time, the Southeastern state of Tennessee was No. 1 for most inbound traffic.

  It also was the first time since 2015 that Florida or Texas didn't top the list. That year, North Carolina had the most inbound moves.

  Texas, which was second for inbound moves in 2020, was in the top two for a fifth straight year. Florida was third for inbound moves in 2020.

  Migration-trends data are compiled from more than 2 million one-way customer transactions that occur annually, the Phoenix-based self-moving and storage company founded in 1945 said in a release earlier this month.

  Ohio (4th), Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina and Georgia rounded out the top 10 states for 2020 growth as self-movers continue to head to the Southeast, as well as the Southwest, Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions.

  California ranked last, replacing Illinois as the state with the greatest net loss of U-Haul trucks. The Golden State has ranked 48th or lower on the list since 2016.

  Illinois has been 49th or 50th since 2015, when U-Haul began ranking states based on annual net gain.

  After California, rounding out the bottom 10 in inbound trips were Illinois (49th), New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, Louisiana, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan (40th).

  The data provide a window on how Americans feel about their states' costs and lately, probably their pandemic politics. High-tax states with lofty housing costs tend to be at a disadvantage when it comes to maintaining their longtime residents, particularly after they retire.

  But in 2020, there was a new, ominous wrinkle—the COVID-19 pandemic, which though a nationwide scourge, has resulted in different responses by individual states. Some states such as California have gone to strict lockdowns while others such as Florida have opted for hardly any restrictions.

  California has become the epicenter of the virus in the US, and over the weekend, Los Angeles County surpassed 1 million positive coronavirus cases.

  "I'm seeing a lot of people from California move (to Tennessee) because they're attracted to our lifestyle," noted Jeff Porter, U-Haul Co of Nashville president. "Tennessee has no income tax and is very business-friendly. There are plenty of jobs.

  "People and companies are taking note.…Nashville is ever-growing, and even the era of COVID-19 isn't slowing that," he said. "We were seeing movement before the virus hit, but I think the situation has pushed a lot more people away from the West Coast to our state."

  The top growth city was Knoxville, home to the University of Tennessee.

  "The best thing about Tennessee is the southern hospitality. People are decent to one another," said Clay McQuade, U-Haul Co of Knoxville president. "I believe the draw to Tennessee is the rural atmosphere. The government is still not so oppressive on zoning and regulation, so people are able to build, and cities are friendly to business.

  "Tourism is a big draw in this region, mostly for the Great Smoky Mountains. There's plenty to do outdoors," he said.

  Elsewhere on the metro-area front, New York and the San Francisco Bay Area topped the list of most outbound U-Haul trips.

  Bay Area arrivals from March-December 2020 dropped 31 percent year-over-year.

  In New York, "from March to June, arrivals to the five boroughs plummeted 58 percent year-over-year, while departures were curbed only by limited fleet inventory as trucks left the city", U-Haul said.

  Both cities had seen net inbound traffic in 2019.

  New York City has been severely affected by COVID-19, mainly because the international destination has closed most of its world-famous attractions and events, with a concomitant plunge in its tourism industry.

  It wasn't all bad news for established cities in 2020, though. Madison, Wisconsin, was fifth in inbound traffic, and Sacramento, California, was 11th.

  Three small Florida cities—North Port, Kissimmee and Port St. Lucie—led the inbound-cities list.

  Tennessee, coincidentally, has conducted a lot of business with China. In 2019, 6.8 percent of the state's exports went to China, while 24.6 percent of the Volunteer State's imports came from China. Both numbers were higher in previous years before the trade conflict between the two countries unfolded.

  More than 40 Chinese companies do business in Tennessee, employing 5,300 people and investing roughly $600 million in the state, according to the state's Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD). One of the latest to arrive from China was Global Track Manufacturing, which created 250 jobs and made a $2 million capital investment in 2019, according to the ECD.

  "The great news is we recruit companies, not countries," Economic Development Commissioner Bob Rolfe said in an interview in the Nashville Tennessean in September when asked about doing business with Chinese companies amid the trade dispute and other contentious political issues.

  Governor Bill Lee, a Republican, appeared in a video at the North America Investment Summit in Beijing in September and welcomed Chinese businesses to his state.

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