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April 05, 2012 | Tom Ballard

ACE Accelerator holds first of 18 monthly sessions

More than 40 people attended a public kickoff for the Roane State Community College-led (RSCC) Advanced Composites Employment (ACE) Accelerator program Thursday morning at Tech 20/20 in Oak Ridge.

Program Director Mike Farmer told the group that the federally-funded initiative is designed to train people for jobs in the composites industry and help create jobs by assisting existing or new companies move into the technology area.

The one-hour meeting was coordinated by the East Tennessee Economic Council (ETEC) as a way to help stakeholders in the region learn more about and capitalize economically on Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) world-leading research in low-cost carbon fiber and composites.

It was the first of 18 monthly meetings that will be held at 8 a.m. on the first Thursday of every month at the University of Tennessee’s (UT) Outreach Center, 1201 Oak Ridge Turnpike. The May 3 session will feature a presentation by Jeff McCay of Top Five/Composite Application Group. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Top Five was profiled in a previous article that can be found at

Those attending the April 5 kickoff included representatives from the ACE partner organizations, companies in the region interested in or actually currently producing composite products, and local economic developers. Walter Perry, District Director for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), was a special guest. SBA is one of three federal agencies that joined to fund the ACE effort. The other two are the Department of Labor (DoL) and Economic Development Administration (EDA).

During the kickoff, the attendees were briefed on the roles and responsibilities of the key partners.

  • RSCC provides overall coordination while also building an Associate’s degree in advanced composites.
  • RSCC’s Tennessee Small Business Development Center office in Oak Ridge and Tech 20/20 are serving small businesses. The latter is committed to helping identify six potential start-up companies and enrolling at least three of them in its Center for Entrepreneurial Growth.
  • UT’s Center for Industrial Services and Innovation Valley, Inc., are focused on helping existing manufacturers capitalize on composites opportunities and ORNL’s scientific expertise as well as helping develop the carbon fiber composites supply chain.

More information about the ACE Accelerator program and the monthly meetings can be found at also published a feature article on the ACE program that can be found at

Walter Perry (above left); Mike Farmer (above right)

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