In a recent interview with teknovation.biz, Darrell Akins reflected on the history of the Tennessee Valley Corridor (TVC) which will hold its latest Summit at the Center for Rural Development in Somerset, the second time the event has been held there. The theme is “Promoting America’s Energy Security.”
Akins and his firm, AkinsCrisp Public Strategies, have helped plan and staff every TVC Summit since the first one was held in Oak Ridge in May 1995.
He recalls a change in prime contractors for all Oak Ridge operations in 1984 – Martin Marietta replaced Union Carbide – and the wishful thinking of then Governor Lamar Alexander and then U. S. Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker.
“They wanted a new approach to preserve and better leverage Oak Ridge’s vast assets,” Akins said. They were the “fathers of the vision,” but it a decade later for newly elected Third District Congressman Zach Wamp “to put structure to their idea” by planning and holding that first TVC Summit.
Over the ensuing 17 years, Akins believes the Summit has remained true to its three original goals – protect, pursue and parlay – even as it has expanded its original geographic footprint from part of one Congressional District to 10 Congressional Districts in five states. The TVC covers about one-half of Tennessee, several districts in North Alabama and one district each in Kentucky, North Carolina and Virginia.
In the late 1990s, the TVC evolved from an ad hoc confederation of interested organizations to a chartered 501(c)(6) entity with its own board of directors. AkinsCrisp is under contract to provide staffing to the board. Etta Clark of Kingsport, an Eastman executive, is the current TVC Chair.
“We promote and protect the existing federal missions in the area,” Akins said, citing not only Oak Ridge but also Huntsville, AL and Tullahoma where the Arnold Engineering Development Center is located.
He explained that TVC also works with other organizations to pursue new federal mission opportunities including those that would facilitate partnerships between the various federal sites.
“We also are focused on leveraging the federal investment in the region to help create private sector jobs,” Akins said.
Since its inception in 1995, TVC has held both full-blown Summits and mini-events throughout Tennessee, in the other states and even in Washington, DC. In additional to Oak Ridge, Somerset and the nation’s capital, other locations have included the Tennessee cities of Chattanooga, Johnson City, Kingsport, Knoxville, Nashville and Tullahoma as well as Asheville (NC), Greenville (SC) and Huntsville (AL).
Fifth District Congressman Hal Rogers of Kentucky, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, will host the 2012 event which officially opens with the first plenary session at 3 p.m. May 23.
Akins said that the welcoming session will be followed by a general session focused on the Summit theme of “Promoting America’s Energy Security.” The keynote speaker for the session will be Len Peters, Secretary of Kentucky’s Energy and Environment Cabinet. He is a former Director of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Congressman Rogers will host a keynote dinner to wrap-up the first day.
Two general sessions are planned for the second day under the titles of “Preparing Our Future Workforce” and “Connecting the Valley for New Job Creation.” Panelists will be announced later. The Summit ends at 12 noon on May 24.
For more information, visit http://www.tennvalleycorridor.org/summits/detail.html.