EPB and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are working on a new and expanded partnership, officials said Tuesday in Chattanooga.
"It's going to be as large or larger in magnitude than the first endeavor," said U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., at a planning session for the Tennessee Valley Corridor national summit set for May 29-30 in Chattanooga.
Tennessee Valley Corridor
Organized in the mid-1990s, the corridor represents 12 congressional districts in Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky. It holds an annual summit focusing on science and technology and on May 29-30, some 300 people will gather in Chattanooga.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry has been invited as the keynote speaker for the summit that will focus on innovation and entrepreneurship.
EPB Chairman Joe Ferguson said the proposed new partnership with ORNL would be "very groundbreaking and allow it to be very far-reaching."
No specifics of the expanded collaboration were given, but both Fleischmann and Ferguson were optimistic.
"They're working out all the details and the agreements now," said Fleischmann.
Ferguson said he's "comfortable it will take place."
"The resources available at the lab are absolutely mind-boggling," he said.
In 2016, ORNL opened its first-ever office outside its Oak Ridge, Tennessee, reservation in Chattanooga at the urging of Fleischmann. With EPB, ORNL is working in areas such as the smart grid, cyber-security, sensor technology, and electric grid integration and modernization.
Jeff Cornett, the head of the ORNL office located in EPB's downtown Chattanooga headquarters in the Innovation District, also is working to promote technology transfer and help startups and other area businesses.
He said Tuesday that the idea of the corridor, which now covers a dozen congressional districts ranging from Alabama to Virginia along with 82 federal agencies and $67.8 billion in spending at federal facilities, is "to grow jobs and grow the economy."
"How can we pull all those assets together and collaborate?" Cornett asked.
Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke said the city is trying to exploit the ORNL connection.
He cited the recent creation of the Chattanooga Smart Community Collaborative between the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, EPB, Erlanger hospital, the city, Hamilton County and a pair of business accelerator groups. The new collaborative has outlined plans to focus on research projects in energy, transportation and health care.
Darrell Akins, executive manager of the corridor, said one of the aims is to attract more federal missions.
"How do we leverage this for economic development?" he asked.
Marcus Shaw, chief executive of The Company Lab business accelerator program in Chattanooga, termed the corridor summit "a collective opportunity."
"We're striking while the iron is hot," he said.
Contact Mike Pare at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.