Advanced Energy Business Roundtable for West Tennessee emphasizes importance of electrification, collaboration

Stakeholders from state government, higher education and the private sector discuss the state’s advanced energy sector and opportunities for future growth and collaboration

On April 13, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) hosted its first Advanced Energy Business Roundtable focused on West Tennessee. The event brought together individuals from three significant areas of the state’s advanced energy (AE) economy: state government, higher education and the private sector. Speakers spoke about the electric vehicle (EV) supply chain, creating AE jobs and how to boost state economic development through AE collaborations.

State Government 

The event began with insight from stakeholders in state government. The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s Director of Business Development Chassen Haynes shared TNECD’s vision to create a cohesive statewide network to become the number one state in the country for the EV supply chain. He also discussed EV efforts that will cultivate an AE economy to attract and retain innovative businesses across the state.

“Governor Lee has charged our department with making sure Tennessee is at the forefront of these changes and making sure the state is positioned to make itself number one in the nation for EV production,” Haynes said. “It’s an exciting time for Tennessee and an exciting time for the automotive industry.”

Next, Launch Tennessee’s Chief Executive Officer Van Tucker spoke about the value of the Energy Mentor Network and providing easy access to capital for growing or emerging businesses.

“Our goal for the next fiscal year is that we’re going to put a focused strategy together to recruit, retain, expand, and grow our mentor network and advanced energy industry in the state of Tennessee,” Tucker said. 

Higher Education

Afterward, attendees heard from higher education partners. During her presentation, Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) Chancellor Flora Tyding outlined TBR’s current AE focus across the state and what a transition to support the sector might look like. 

“We have a very succinct mission: student success and workforce development,” Tyding said. “We are your partners in the advanced energy environment.”

Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA) President Claude Pressnell highlighted what private campuses are doing to explore and support AE development and how the private sector can collaborate with private institutions.

“One thing that I want to share with you all is the importance of collaboration, whether it be collaboration with the board of regents, independent colleges, the UT System, locally governed four-year universities, and whether you do that locally or statewide,” Pressnell said. 

Private Sector

Rounding out the event, attendees heard from two major private-sector players in the state’s AE economy. First, Silicon Ranch’s Chairman and TAEBC Board Member Matt Kisber emphasized  how collaboration in the AE economy works now and how it could work by implementing more strategy and intentionality with various stakeholders across the state.

“Organizations like TAEBC were developed to support bringing these various voices together so that they can collaborate, share information, and know who is out there that can fulfill and need or void in the development of a project, technology, or what’s necessary to move forward,” Kisber said.

FedEx’s Environmental Affairs & Chief Sustainability Officer Mitch Jackson wrapped up the presentation portion of the event by outlining FedEx’s transportation electrification goals, and speaking about how the state and AE economy can support these efforts, along ith opportunities for improvement.

“We announced we were going to take FedEx carbon neutral by 2040 for our global operations,” Jackson said. “Companies like FedEx are trying to transform not only themselves but their industries with respect to renewable energy, advanced technologies, zero carbon strategies and the like.”

Following the presentations, speakers answered a range of audience questions, including what are the biggest selling points for recruiting and retaining advanced energy businesses and specifics about EV developments in the state. 

“Having the ability to convene and organize all the stakeholders like we are doing today and continuing those dialogues and discussions, setting priorities, helping inform policy, it is going to be critically important,” Kisber said. “Bringing everybody together is going to be critically important so that we’re not just having one-off conversations but we’re talking as a community and focusing on how to move forward together.”

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