Middle Tennessee Advanced Energy Virtual Business Roundtable highlights private-public partnerships, transportation electrification initiatives

Stakeholders from government agencies, higher education, and the private sector emphasized the value of the state’s advanced energy economy and opportunities for future development and collaboration

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) hosted its second Advanced Energy Virtual Business Roundtable, this time focused on Middle Tennessee stakeholders. The event brought together 10 speakers representing three main areas of the state’s advanced energy (AE) economy: government agencies, higher education, and the private sector.

Government Agencies

David Salyers, Commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), kicked off the event by speaking about the value of EV adoption for the environment and economy, along with the TN Corridor Fast Charging Network, a new partnership between TDEC and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

“We strongly support the goal of becoming the number one state in the country for the EV supply chain,” said Salyers. “We are committed to providing a cleaner, safer environment, and are supportive of more efficient modes of transportation that can reduce emissions, improve air quality, decrease transportation-related energy costs, and drive economic plus job growth across our state.”

Representing the federal perspective, Chris Berryman, Senior Target Market Specialist at TVA, discussed the wide-reaching economic impacts EVs can have on the state’s economy from the EV manufacturing project to the supply chain. He also discussed the effects of EVs on the utility sector and on TVA in particular.

“TVA, along with its State Economic Development Partners, are currently working on approximately $25 billion of new EV manufacturing projects,” said Berryman. “These projects are considering the TVA’s seven-state region along with other competing States in the Southeastern U.S. This equates to a potential job creation of approximately 35,000 new jobs.”

Next, Van Tucker, Chief Executive Officer of Launch Tennessee, spoke about the organization’s many network partners, including the statewide entrepreneur centers and the Energy Mentor Network, run by TAEBC in partnership with LaunchTN. She also provided an update about the restoration of State Matching Funds for federal SBIR/STTR grant recipients across the state.

“Those funds are important because federal funds are restricted as to how those dollars can be spent,” said Tucker. “The State Matching Funds are unrestricted and can be used for things like hiring a business development officer, launching a website, or even hiring an attorney to secure your IP. As a company, you’re able to use those funds that really help grow and scale a business.”

Wrapping up the government agency portion of presentations, Victoria Hirschberg, Director of Business Development at Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD), spoke about TNECD’s mission to make the state a leader in the EV supply chain and referred to the sector as a “very fluid and active.”

“There is a lot going on in our state and I’m really proud to be part of it,” said Hirschberg. “I think as we continue to build out this network and talk to companies that are interested in doing business, having meetings like this is so important.”

Higher Education

Both Flora Tydings, Chancellor of Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR), and Claude Pressnell, President of Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association (TICUA), returned for the second Business Roundtable to discuss higher education’s role in the AE sector.

Tydings provided an overview of TBR’s mission, AE programming, and how TBR received an additional $80 million from the state’s budget to increase what the system is doing with technical education, reduce the technical education waitlist, and look directly at what they are doing in the AE sector.

“We are always looking toward the economic development of our state,” said Tydings. “We are dedicated to making sure we place students. Right now, our rate for placement is at 89 percent. So, if you graduate from one of our programs, 89 percent of our students have received a job immediately after graduation in their field of study.”

Following Tydings’ presentation, Pressnell gave an overview of TICUA campuses and students, various public-private partnerships across the state, and engineering programs that were created to specifically meet the needs of local employers.

“The focus on science, the focus on technology is pretty critical to us. We rely very heavily upon corporate advisory committees to be able to shape our curriculum so that we can meet the needs of local and statewide employers,” said Pressnell. “We are very responsive to the corporate needs in the area.”

Private Sector

Moving into the private sector portion of the webinar, Jim DeMouy, Vice President of Environment, Health, Safety and Sustainability at Bridgestone Americas and TAEBC Board Member, highlighted Bridgestone’s environmental mission and key milestones, along with renewable energy goals for its operations, products and technologies. DeMouy also highlighted two of the company’s environmental milestones it is set to reach by 2030.

“One is to increase the recycled and renewable content of our products to 40% by 2030,” said DeMouy. “The second was to move to an absolute emissions reduction, which again goes to the energy discussions we’re having here, by 50 percent by 2030.”

Finally, two representations from Nissan Group of Americas closed the presentation portion of the event. Chris Goddard, Manager of Energy and Environmental, and Mike Clemmer, Director of Corporate & Manufacturing Facilities and Environmental, presented about Nissan’s efforts to accelerate toward carbon neutrality and electrification, including EVs, battery innovations, intelligent factories, and a greener energy supply.

“Like a lot of companies, earlier this year, globally, we made the announcement to be carbon neutral by 2050. If you look at just Tennessee operations, we have improved our efficiency by close to 40 percent,” said Goddard. “And we’re very excited about the electrification of our fleet.”

Following presentations, speakers answered a range of audience questions on building up the infrastructure of the state’s AE economy, EV supply chain efforts, private-public partnership, workforce development, and recent electrification updates across the state.

“It was really exciting to join TVA earlier this year by trying to remove some of the barriers to adoption,” said Commissioner Salyers about the launch of the TN Corridor Fast Charging Network and future EV initiatives.

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Tennessee’s 2021-2022 Budget restores SBIR/STTR Matching Fund

SkyNano Technologies praises restoration of funds that will help advance its core technology 

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council is pleased to announce Tennessee’s 2021-2022 Budget included $7,000,000 in non-recurring funding for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Matching Fund. 

This SBIR/STTR Matching Fund restoration would not have been possible without the hard work of Launch Tennessee, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, and other key stakeholders across the state.

“The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council applauds the General Assembly and Governor Bill Lee’s allocation of $7 million in funding for the SBIR/STTR Matching Fund,” said TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper. “TAEBC champions advanced energy as a job creation and economic development strategy. One of our commitments to our members is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups, such as those in our Energy Mentor Network program. The restoration of the SBIR/STTR Matching Fund is essential to helping us meet this goal.”

Anna Douglas, Co-Founder and CEO of SkyNano Technologies, an Innovation Crossroads and Energy Mentor Network graduate, was instrumental in highlighting the need for these funds for innovative entrepreneurs in the region. Earlier this year, Douglas penned an Op-Ed in the Knoxville News Sentinel and an open letter to her state representative, highlighting her need for the SBIR/STTR Matching award. SkyNano received an SBIR Matching grant in 2020 and was counting on the restoration of these funds to support the development of its technology and cover the cost of necessary expenses that were not covered by the SBIR/STTR program.  

“We are relieved and excited that the SBIR/STTR Matching program funding has been restored in the state budget,” said Anna Douglas, Co-founder and CEO of SkyNano Technologies. “The SBIR/STTR Match program helps businesses like SkyNano thrive in the state and continue to pull in more federal SBIR/STTR funding to continue creating jobs for talented Tennesseans.” 

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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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Join the critical discussion on how to leverage advanced energy to ignite economic development despite pandemic uncertainty

If you aren’t already a part of the advanced energy economy, you are most likely thinking of how you can jump into this wave of innovation to position your organization toward future economic solutions. Where do you start? Who are your partners in making this pivot? How do you get better connected to find the skilled workforce needed to make your business more competitive and the state more attractive?

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) wants to help answer some of those questions. What resources does the state offer to support your growth or new interest in the advanced energy economy? How do you better engage with the higher education campuses around you to recruit employees?

Where can you recommend your employees go to get the education they need to make the pivot with you? How can you keep the discussions going with educational partners to ensure the ecosystem around your organization is working together towards strategic economic growth? How can you engage other businesses involved in the advanced energy economy and EV supply chain to create more alignment and cohesion?

Advanced Energy Virtual Business Roundtable – West Tennessee

TAEBC is bringing together government officials, business executives and higher education leaders next month to share their expertise and insight about how our state can create a collaborative network to drive economic development through the advanced energy (AE) sector. The first of three Advanced Energy Virtual Business Roundtables will take place April 13, 2021, beginning at 10:00 a.m. CT / 11:00 a.m. ET, and focus on West Tennessee.  

At the April event, attendees will hear brief presentations from speakers representing the three major stakeholders in the future of the AE economy: state government, higher education and private sector. However, the majority of the hour long discussion will be focused on hearing from business leaders and entrepreneurs in regards to what they are experiencing, what additional information they need and any questions they may have for the community. The point of this roundtable discussion is to advance Tennessee’s AE economy and become the number one state in the country for the electric vehicle supply chain through dialogue, networking and action items. 

Speakers representing these three areas include: Department of Economic and Community Development’s Director of Business Development Chassen Haynes, Launch Tennessee’s Chief Executive Officer Van Tucker, Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora Tyding, Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association President Claude Pressnell, Silicon Ranch’s co-founder Matt Kisber, and FedEx’s Environmental Affairs & Chief Sustainability Officer Mitch Jackson.

Stakeholder #1: State government 

From the state government perspective, Hanyes will share the state’s vision-to create a cohesive statewide network to become the  number one state in the country for the electric vehicle supply chain. Additionally, these efforts will cultivate an advanced energy economy to attract and retain innovative businesses. Tucker will then share LaunchTN’s perspective and about the value of the Energy Mentor Network and providing necessary access to capital for companies across the state.

Stakeholder #2: Higher education 

Attendees will also hear from the higher education side, with Tydings discussing the Tennessee Board of Regents’ current advanced energy focus and outline what a transition to support AE might look like. Pressnell will provide perspective on how private campuses are exploring and supporting AE as well as how private sector partners can collaborate for future opportunities. 

Stakeholder #3: Private sector 

As a former Tennessee State Representative and TNECD Commissioner, Kisber has a unique perspective for bridging the gap between state government and the private sector. Speaking from the perspective of Silicon Ranch Corporation, Kisber will discuss how collaboration in the AE sector works now and how it could work in Tennessee with some strategy and intentionality. Lastly, Jackson will outline FedEx’s electrification goals and new sustainability goals, along with the progress they have made in this area in recent years. He will also discuss how the state and the overall AE economy can support the private sector and offer opportunities for improvement.  

Want to attend this event? Register here.

TAEBC reflects on 2020 accomplishments

As 2020 draws to a close, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) is taking a look back at its accomplishments over the last 12 months.

This year, Tennessee’s advanced energy economy was booming. We stood alongside our members and stakeholders as they celebrated business milestones, received countless awards for sustainability and business accolades, funding for advanced energy innovations, and expanded and broke ground on new facilities.

At the same time, we recognize that 2020 has been a challenging year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even in these uncertain times, TAEBC has continued to champion advanced energy as an economic development and job creation strategy for Tennessee. We believe that Tennessee has an opportunity during this economic downturn to add jobs and become a leader in the advanced energy economy. That is why we are committed to keeping our members and stakeholders informed by sharing the latest news concerning Tennessee’s expanding advanced energy ecosystem.

TAEBC’s commitments to you, our members and stakeholders, remain as strong as ever. These commitments are:

  • Inform the national energy agenda.
  • Support TVA and our local power companies’ efforts to become the energy companies of the future.
  • Help Tennessee become the #1 location in the Southeast for high-quality jobs.
  • Foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups.

Here’s some of the ways TAEBC championed advanced energy as an economic development and job creation strategy in 2020. 

Inform the National Energy Agenda

Advanced energy is a $1.4 trillion global market. Tennessee and TAEBC have a lot of expertise to share, especially in the area of transportation electrification. The state is uniquely positioned to capitalize on transportation electrification thanks to the hard work of U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and previous governors like Phil Bredesen and Bill Haslam, who diligently put our current advanced energy infrastructure and assets in place.

  • In July, TAEBC joined 50 cleantech organizations in signing on to the Transportation Electrification Partnership’s (TEP) $150 billion federal stimulus proposal. TEP’s proposal would create 2.3 million high-quality, advanced energy jobs across the United States and provide much-needed investments in zero-emissions vehicle manufacturing and innovation.
  • In August, TAEBC joined with the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator to host a webinar on the federal stimulus proposal and how it could support transportation electrification as a job creation and economic development opportunity in Tennessee.
    • TAEBC also authored an op-ed about the proposal and how its investments in advanced energy can help recharge Tennessee’s economy and secure its place as a leader in transportation electrification.
  • TAEBC held its 2020 Annual Meeting at Schneider Electric’s Nashville Hub in early March. TAEBC members, stakeholders, and supporters heard from Commissioner Bob Rolfe of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) and Commissioner David Salyers of the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, who spoke about electric vehicles (EV) and their role in Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.
    • Attendees also heard from the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Senior Power Utilization Engineer, Drew Frye, who spoke about EV trends and the utility’s EV strategy for the state, and Silicon Ranch’s Director of Regenerative Energy and Land Management, Michael Baute, who spoke about the company’s holistic approach to solar power plant design, construction, and operations.
  • In early December, TAEBC held its annual Opportunities in Energy event. This year’s event included a panel session called, “Tennessee’s EVolution: Making the state a destination for the electric vehicle supply chain.” Panelists discussed the importance of transportation electrification efforts, areas of opportunity, and steps Tennessee can take to accelerate its goal to become the top state for EV manufacturing. The event also featured a preview of the 2021 Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report.

Support TVA and Our Local Power Company’s Efforts to Become Energy Companies of the Future

In February, TVA’s board voted to allow local power companies (LPCs) to self-generate or procure a percentage of their power demand through its Flexibility Proposal. Prior to this modification to the Flexibility Proposal (also called the Flexibility Option), LPCs were restricted from generating or procuring energy from local distributed sources.

  • The Flexibility Option represents a potential increase of more than one gigawatt of distributed advanced energy in the Tennessee Valley. TAEBC submitted comments to TVA’s draft Environmental Assessment. After the flexibility announcement was made, TAEBC praised TVA, stating that this move has the potential to create great economic impact in the region. TAEBC is here to offer our expertise so we can seize these opportunities to recruit and retain businesses in the state.
  • This fall, TAEBC partnered with Seven States Power to host a three-part Advanced Energy 101 webinar series for LPCs. The webinar series emphasized the benefits of advanced energy solutions, provided baseline information on various distributed energy technologies, and offered guidance to help LPCs take advantage of the Flexibility Option and any economic development opportunities that might follow.
  • In November, TAEBC also hosted a virtual Lunch and Learn with Jeannette Mills, TVA’s Executive Vice President and Chief External Relations Officer. Mills talked about several LPC flexibility projects that arose from the Flexibility Option. She also discussed TVA’s approach to accelerate EV adoption through partnerships and the ways in which advanced energy serves as an economic development driver in Tennessee.

Help Tennessee Become the #1 Location in the Southeast for High-Quality Jobs

TAEBC champions advanced energy as a job creation and economic development strategy. According to the 2018 Advanced Energy Economy Impact Report, employment in the advanced energy sector grew by 10.3%, a rate higher than the state’s overall growth rate of 8.3%, since 2013.

  • In 2021, we will be releasing our third Advanced Energy Economy Impact Report. This new report will present a great opportunity to educate and exchange information about Tennessee’s advanced energy sector. We intend to use data from the report to inform actions we can take as a state to maximize economic opportunity from this sector for our economy, specifically in support of Tennessee’s goal to become the number one state in the country for EV manufacturing. We are grateful for TVA and the University of Tennessee’s financial support in this report.

Foster the Growth of Tennessee Advanced Energy Technologies and Startups

The Energy Mentor Network, a partnership between TAEBC and Launch Tennessee, is stronger than ever. The Energy Mentor Network’s goal is to foster the growth of Tennessee advanced energy technologies and startups by connecting entrepreneurs with mentors and industry-specific expertise.

  • In 2020, 35 mentors helped us serve over 20 companies, while a record high number of five companies graduated from the program. Energy Mentor Network companies raised a combined total of $8 million in grants and funding. Here are a couple of highlights from our companies this year:
    • Justin Nussbaum, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Ascend Manufacturing, launched A Mask for All with two partners to address the global shortage of N95 masks, procedure masks, and personal protective equipment, which are desperately needed by caregivers and healthcare workers on the frontlines of COVID-19.
    • Quantum Lock, co-founded by Erica Grant, won the $3,000 Innov865 Crowd Favorite prize as voted on by viewers of the annual pitch competition during Startup Day 2020, hosted by the Innov865 Alliance.
  • This year’s Innovation Crossroads Showcase took place virtually during Innov865 Week 2020 in September. The event, presented by TAEBC and Launch Tennessee, focused on the value of entrepreneurship in the East Tennessee region and featured pitches from the five Innovation Crossroads Cohort Four startups. Innovation Crossroads Cohort Two alumni participated in a panel discussion where they provided updates on their businesses and reflected on their experience in the Innovation Crossroads program.
  • TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper was a featured participant in a panel session on innovative partnerships at this year’s 36|86 Entrepreneurship Festival, presented by LaunchTN. Piper discussed TAEBC’s mission and how the Energy Mentor Network supports this mission by fostering the growth of advanced energy companies and technologies in Tennessee. In a separate panel session, seven members of Innovation Crossroads Cohort Three discussed what is on the horizon for cleantech and energy and how the Tennessee entrepreneurial ecosystem helped their companies over the past year.

Additional 2020 Highlights

In addition to our mission highlights from 2020, TAEBC wants to share several other developments and accomplishments that occurred over the past 12 months.

  • TAEBC awarded Dan Hurst, CEO and Founder of Knoxville-based Strata-G, with the annual Thomas B. Ballard Advanced Energy Leadership Award during TAEBC’s Annual Meeting in March. The award honors exemplary leadership and success in championing, connecting, and strengthening Tennessee’s advanced energy economy. Since founding Strata-G in 2002, Hurst and his 240 employees have contributed to Tennessee’s advanced energy economy through a diversity of advanced energy projects that are committed to improving the state’s communities.
  • TAEBC Executive Director Cortney Piper shared her vision for making Tennessee a global leader in advanced energy innovation and job creation on an October episode of LaunchTN’s Disrupt the Continuum podcast. Piper’s podcast episode, Turning Energy Innovation into Economic Growth, is part of LaunchTN’s #BuildTN series, which explores Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
  • In October, TAEBC celebrated a significant victory for Tennessee’s advanced energy industry with the announcement that GM will build an electric vehicle, the Cadillac Lyriq, at its Middle Tennessee Spring Hill plant. GM’s announcement comes with a planned $2 billion investment for the state and, along with Nissan’s and Volkswagen’s electric vehicle plans, signals opportunities for employment in the advanced energy economy for the people of Tennessee.
  • In November, TAEBC congratulated the University of Tennessee (UT) for receiving the prestigious designation as an Innovation and Economic Prosperity University by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. The university has partnered with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) over the years to expand a number of energy-related research programs and partnerships that contribute to Tennessee’s advanced energy economy.
  • Volkswagen, UT, and ORNL are partnering to create an innovation hub at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm. This will be Volkswagen’s first innovation hub in North America and will offer research opportunities for doctoral students focused on EVs and the use of composite materials to create lighter vehicle components, among others.
  • In December, Piper was featured in a Startup Knox podcast episode where she discussed the creation of TAEBC and all things Knoxville.

Here’s wishing you a Happy Holidays from TAEBC!