Tennessee Valley Corridor summit returns to Chattanooga

Tennessee Valley Corridor summit returns to Chattanooga

May 22nd, 2014 by Dave Flessner in Business Around the Region

Steve Angle

Steve Angle

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

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The Tennessee Valley Corridor summit this year will be in Chattanooga June 4-5 at UTC. Participants must register by Friday at www.tennvalleycorridor.org

To drive from the Pacific coast in Monterey to Berkeley in California takes about three hours, but the entire trip is within the famed Silicon Valley - arguably America's most fertile territory for tech startup businesses.

Within the same three hours, you can also drive from Huntsville, Ala., through Chattanooga to Oak Ridge, Tenn., along what backers of the Tennessee Valley Corridor see as one of America's most promising regions for new technology businesses.

"We don't always consider the area from Huntsville to Oak Ridge as one region, but we have tremendous opportunities along this corridor to work with one another and capitalize on the tremendous research and development being done by the military, by NASA and by the Department of Energy," John Morris, president of Tech 20/20 in Oak Ridge and a member of the board for the Tennessee Valley Corridor Inc., said Tuesday.

Next month, more than 300 leaders from the region will gather in Chattanooga to encourage greater interaction and development along the Tennessee Valley Corridor. The 2014 summit is set at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga on June4-5, the first time the Corridor's annual meeting will be on a college campus in the Corridor's 19-year history.

The federal government pumps more than $25 billion a year into the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 weapons facility in Oak Ridge, the Marshal Space Flight Center Institute and Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala.., and the Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tullahoma, Tenn.

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., said his hometown of Chattanooga is poised to benefit from these nearby government-funded research facilities, both in doing business at the federal complexes and in creating businesses from their R&D.

It's a vision first touted by then Gov. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., in the 1980s and championed in the 1990s by then U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., who worked to create the Tennessee Valley Corridor as a nonprofit regional development agency with a series of summit meetings.

In 2004, the Tennessee Valley Corridor and the Research Triangle Partnership in Raleigh, N.C. were both selected and honored by the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration as the top regional economic development organizations in the country for enhancing regional competitiveness.

For this year's summit, Fleischmann and UTC Chancellor Steve Angle invited leaders of the Corridor to UTC.

"In many ways Chattanooga is the heart of the TVC (Tennessee Valley Corridor) and it's our goal at UTC to become the heartbeat that helps drive our community to even greater partnerships in the Valley region," Angle said.

This year's annual gathering will focus upon a new community college consortium to upgrade worker skills in the region and a new venture development consortium, including entrepreneur-assistance programs such as Tech 20/20 in Oak Ridge, the CoLab in Chattanooga and BizTech in Huntsville.

The event will also feature one of the first appearances in the region by Frank G. Klotz, who was sworn into office last month as the Department of Energy's new Undersecretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator. He oversees much of the military and nuclear research done in Oak Ridge.

"The corridor summit is really an opportunity for people from each of these markets to come together, to learn from one another and maybe to jointly do projects together that benefit the entire region," Morris said.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 757-6340.