By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
“I’m not a scientist, I’m a cheerleader,” Ted Wampler Jr. said as he concluded a luncheon presentation on the second day of a conference on entrepreneurship hosted last week at Pellissippi State Community College (PSCC).
By that time in his speech, attendees at the Friday event were convinced that the President and Chief Operating Officer at Wampler’s Farm Sausage Company in Lenoir City was a pretty astute business executive who was benefitting from the results of an entrepreneurial journey his company helped accelerate.
The occasion for Wampler’s presentation was a gathering of leaders from community colleges around the region hosted by PSCC and Roane State Community College. It was one of a number of similar events that the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) holds annually to promote the important role that two-year institutions play in stimulating the economies of their local regions.
The technology for which Wampler was a cheerleader is the CHyP system developed by Proton Power Inc., co-founded by Sam Weaver. The official name of the revolutionary technology – Cellulose to Hydrogen Power – has been described in a series of articles on teknovation.biz spotlighting the work of Weaver, one of the area’s true serial entrepreneurs.
While Wampler is clearly a cheerleader for Proton Power and its leader, he is also what any inventor needs – an early adopter who is also an entrepreneurially-minded leader in his own market sector.
During his presentation that included humor combined with an amazing recall of facts and figures cited without a single note, Wampler discussed the evolution of the company founded by his grandfather in 1935. At the time, he was a tenant farmer.
“Today, Wampler Sausage Company is one of the most advanced SQF (Safe Quality Foods) certified (plants) in the world,” the current President said of the family owned business. It’s a designation that he clearly takes great pride in having.
Yet, Wampler spent most of his time describing a journey to net zero energy usage that started in 2009 with installation of a 30,000-watt solar project.
“We were doing everything we could to be more sustainable,” he explained. “We had a culture change in our company . . . to sustainability.”
The initial solar installation was followed just two years later by a second solar farm that generated 500,000 watts from 2,240 panels. More important from the viewpoint of the conference and the attendees, the nearly $2.5 million project had a tie to Pellissippi State.
“Teri (Brahams) helped write the feasibility study,” Wampler said in citing PSCC’s long-time Executive Director of Economic and Workforce Development.
The role that she played reinforced just one of the many ways that community colleges assist residents of their service areas.
Today, Wampler’s Farm Sausage proudly proclaims that its product is “Made with the Sun.”
As a result of the culture change that he mentioned, Wampler said it was only natural that his company took a major step when he more fully understood the potential of Proto Power’s new technology.
“We decided to be the first commercial technology install in the world,” he said. The result of using power from the grid during the day and returning power to the grid at night and on weekends, thanks to the CHyP installation, is a wise business decision for the company as well as an environmentally responsible one.
“What we are is net zero energy connected,” Weaver proudly told the attendees.