Innovation grant helps return 'some manufacturing back to Chattanooga' from Asia

Zack Pendergrass applies labels to a completed American Bicycle Group bike in this file photo. / Staff file photo

A pair of Chattanooga-based companies on Monday were awarded innovation grants, including one that has brought work and jobs from Asia to the Scenic City.

American Bicycle Group, which makes the popular Litespeed and Quintana Roo bikes, has returned manufacturing from Asia and created 14 more jobs at its location just off Amnicola Highway, said Chris Pascarella, a company vice president.

"We're growing and continuing to add jobs," he told the Chattanooga Industrial Development Board, which approved a $14,000 grant for the company.

Also, Branch Technology, the 3-D printing company that makes custom building facades, received a $16,000 grant as it continues to build out its new Riverside Drive facility.

Dan Wykoff, the company's chief financial officer, said Branch's product is slated to be used on a new Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union branch at Market and 20th streets.

Pascarella said that American Bicycle, which now employs 37 people, changed three years ago to a consumer-direct sales model which gives buyers more choices. He said the company can now fill online orders within two weeks.

But the company found that its distribution channel out of Asia was too long, he said.

"We needed to bring some manufacturing back to Chattanooga," Pascarella said, including sanding, painting, finishing and assembly.

In addition, American Bicycle has created a unique "wedge box" for delivery to buyers' front doors that reduces assembly.

Wykoff said that Branch Technology, which employs 25 people, ships finished facades to construction sites. Currently, the facades, which he termed lighter and stronger than typical units, can go up to four stories.

He said the company is working on units which can be 20 stories high. Long-range, Wykoff said, plans are to produce facades which can go up to 100 stories. He termed the company's vision "imminently doable."

The board also approved a $4,381 small business grant to Shiny Penny Child Care.

Jermaine Freeman, economic development officer for the city, said the aim of the grants is to show support to small businesses.

"We don't want to be investors," he said about the grant programs which boost small businesses in the city.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.