Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
July 24, 2022 | Tom Ballard

Economic development announcements in three cities top this week’s “News & Notes” feature

Across the State:

There were a number of announcements last week by Governor Bill Lee and Stuart McWhorter, the new Commissioner of Economic and Community Development. We took note of these:

  • Rugged American Spirits, the company co-founded by Scott Andrew and Stephen Callahan, announced this past week that it will invest $21.3 million to expand by adding a Bristol location to serve as the company’s new headquarters. The new location will join Tennessee Hills Distillery’s two existing operations in Jonesborough and Johnson City. Through the project, Tennessee Hills Distillery plans to create 45 new jobs over the next five years as the company constructs an automated distillery, which will be housed in the company’s new headquarters on nearly nine acres off U.S. Highway 11W.
  • TechnologyAdvice LLC officials announced the company will invest $2.7 million to expand its headquarters and other back-office functions in Nashville. A business-to-business (B2B) technology marketing platform, the company will create 350 new jobs in Davidson County over the next five years. The expansion will enable the company to continue delivering marketing and data information to its existing technology partners while also introducing a new line of product offerings to the marketplace.
  • iFixit will create 201 new jobs and invest $24.2 in a retrofitted building as the company locates its East Coast distribution hub in one of Tennessee’s Qualified Opportunity Zones in Chattanooga. The San Luis Obispo, CA-based company was founded in 2003 and is described as “the hub of the global repair ecosystem.” iFixit provides repair manuals, parts and precision tools for repairing everything from consumer electronics to power tools. Around the world, more than eight million people a month, including 700,000 Tennesseans, rely on iFixit to learn how to repair their products.

From Knoxville:

  • The second set of offerings in the three-part “Women’s Capital Series” from the Let Her Speak non-profit is this Thursday. The morning session for women entrepreneurs begins at 9 a.m. at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center, and the noon session for women interested in investing in women-owned businesses begins at 12 noon. Registration information can be found here.
  • Provectus Biopharmaceuticals has announced a new sponsored research program with Kelly Tseng, Associate Professor of Pathology and Lab Medicine in the School of Life Sciences at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). The work will characterize the effects of Provectus’ pharmaceutical-grade rose bengal sodium (RBS) on vertebrate tissue regeneration and repair. RBS is the lead member of a class of small molecules called halogenated xanthenes that is entirely owned by Provectus. The work, which will be undertaken in The Tseng Lab at UNLV, will assess the effects of RBS on animal development and tissue repair using the African clawed frog, an established vertebrate model organism, and in vivo assays to evaluate key biological processes: embryo development, wound healing, and tissue regeneration.

From Cookeville:

The Biz Foundry has announced a two-hour workshop tomorrow night focused on dealing with the “Great Resignation.” The free session is titled “Use Your Core Values to Attract, Hire and Retain Great People.” It will be led by Tim Barrett and runs from 6 to 8 p.m. at The Biz Foundry offices, 114 North Cedar Avenue. To register, click here.

From Nashville:

  • Camille Padilla, C0-Founder of Nashville-based VODIUM, was one of 50 Founders around the U.S. selected for “Google’s Inaugural Latino Founders Fund,” which seeks to address the disparities among Latino-owned businesses by investing in the underrepresented group. Latino-led businesses are the fastest growing segment of small businesses in the U.S. although, as a category, they only receive two percent of total venture funding in this country. Google awarded each of the founders $100,000 in funding and $100,000 in Google Cloud Credits. Padilla, the sole Tennessee-based recipient, says she and Vodium Co-Founder Mary Mellor will use the money to mature their software and accelerate Google Ads.
  • Meg Hutchinson, owner of The Florista, has been named to Florists’ Review’s “35 under 35” list. Now in her fifth year of operating the business, she won all three student business competitions hosted by the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business during her days on The Hill.
  • John Murdock, President and Chief Operating Officer on the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and possibly the longest serving employee, is stepping down to join Shore Capital Partners as Vice President of Strategic Planning.
  • Axios Nashville reported last week that the city ranks #9 among the top 10 metros where corporations are buying-up single families homes. One in four homes sold in the first three months of this year was purchased by a corporation, according to data from Redfin.

From Chattanooga:

  • Volkswagen (VW) Group of America announced a top leadership change last week that has implications for Chattanooga and the global giant’s electric vehicle plans for North America. Scott Keogh, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Group, has been named to the same positions at Scout, an all-electric pick-up vehicle. He will be succeeded in his old role, which also included serving as and CEO of Volkswagen’s North American Region, by Pablo Di Si, the current Executive Chairman of Volkswagen South American Region.
  • The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce has announced the appointment of Toya Moore as Director of Leadership Development. In her new role, she will direct the administration of the Chattanooga Chamber Foundation’s suite of programs: Leadership Chattanooga, Young Professionals of Chattanooga, Protégé Chattanooga, Leadership Chattanooga Alumni Association, and ChattaNewbies. Moore’s work will focus on professional development and civic engagement among early career, mid-career, and established professionals.

With Oak Ridge Implications:

As part of a Cooperative Development Agreement with Materion Corporation, Kairos Power has commissioned a Molten Salt Purification Plant (MSPP) at the Materion campus in Elmore, OH. The plant, designed by Kairos Power, will produce large quantities of high-purity fluoride salt coolant to be used in high-temperature molten salt reactors, a clean, affordable and safe nuclear energy solution with the potential to transform the global energy landscape. Kairos Power’s fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactor (KP-FHR) technology is cooled by a mixture of lithium fluoride and beryllium fluoride salts known as “Flibe” which is chemically stable and operates at low pressure. This molten salt coolant will be used in Kairos Power’s Engineering Test Unit (ETU), and the Hermes demonstration reactor, as well as future commercial KP-FHR reactors.

As an industry leader in the production and manufacturing of beryllium-based materials, Materion supplies beryllium fluoride for MSPP and contributes requisite expertise staffing and operating the plant. The decision to locate MSPP at Materion’s Elmore facility reinforces a long-term, strategic commitment by both companies to demonstrate leadership in molten salt production. By confirming the chemical process to produce Flibe at industrial scale, MSPP will help ensure the success of Kairos Power’s iterative hardware demonstrations, reducing risk in a critical path work stream for the commercialization of KP-FHR technology while delivering cost certainty.

Kairos Power, a privately-funded company, announced a year ago that it would invest $100 million and create 55 jobs to deploy a low-power demonstration reactor named Hermes at the East Tennessee Technology Park or Heritage Center in Oak Ridge. That’s the former site of the K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

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