Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
July 31, 2022 | Tom Ballard

Entrepreneurial challenges and opportunities top this week’s “News & Notes”

From Knoxville:

One of the city’s most ubiquitous entrepreneurs is recovering after an encounter with a bear. No, it wasn’t in the woods. Brandon Bruce, well-known locally as a biking enthusiast, was on one of his frequent rides about 8 a.m. one day, coming down Bluff Mountain when he hit a bear. “My bike was totaled, and I broke my right leg and two bones in my right foot,” Bruce said. “Crazy story. Recovery is probably three months, so I’ll have to cancel my adventures/sporting events for most of the year. I’m bummed, but mostly I’m thankful it wasn’t worse. I’m very happy to be alive.”

We characterized the Co-Founder of two start-ups – Cirrus Insight, which he sold, and Uncat, which is one of his current efforts – as Knoxville’s Renaissance Man in this November 2021 article. Why did we describe Bruce that way? He leads or has led the Boards of Directors of the  Knoxville Entrepreneur CenterMuse KnoxvilleJunior Achievement of East Tennessee, and local start-up SmartRIA; founded the 100Knoxville initiative focused on Black-owned businesses; chaired the Knoxville Chamber’s eKnox Broadband Task Force; co-founded the Knoxville Technology Council with John McNeely and others; launched the Startup Knox site with John Bruck; serves on the “Innov865 Alliance Steering Committee” and the Board of Directors of Cherokee Farm Development Corporation, the latter as overseer of the University of Tennessee’s Research Park; and was the force behind the November 8, 2017 successful effort to surpass the number of individuals who were simultaneously learning to code as confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Let’s hope the recovery is faster than expected and complete!

Two more items of note from Knoxville:

  • Teri Brahams, Executive Director of Economic and Workforce Development at Pellissippi State Community College, has retired after 27 years at the institution and 17 years in the Executive Director role. The likable and well-known administrator posted this on a social media site: “I’ve been so blessed to have great people with whom I have worked who shared my passion for improving our community through entrepreneurship, education, workforce development and lifelong learning. To those of you I’ve had the pleasure to lead, thank you! To those of you I’ve had the pleasure to partner, thank you! To those of you I’ve had the pleasure to work alongside, thank you!! I’m not sure what this next part of my life will be other than spending  precious time with family and friends but I’m ready to begin that journey!” Thanks for all you have done, Teri, and enjoy whatever comes next.
  • Don DeRosa, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer of Eonix LLC, has authored a paper that describes in more detail the work that the company will be doing under its exclusive collaboration with Schrödinger Inc. to accelerate the discovery and design of materials for safer, energy dense lithium-ion batteries. We published this May article announcing the collaboration between Eonix, an alum of the “Innovation Crossroads” program, and Schrödinger. DeRosa’s article was published in Extrapolations and can be found here.

From Oak Ridge:

Ninety-one middle and high school students (and high school teachers) recently graduated from the “Appalachian STEM Academy” at Oak Ridge Associated Universities and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

High school and middle school students conduct guided group science, math, and computer science technology research projects, while high school teachers work with science practitioners to develop STEM-related (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) curriculum.

Established in 1990, the program’s participants include many who come from economically distressed counties and often gain their first exposure to applied science and STEM education through this experience.

From Chattanooga:

The “Veteran Entrepreneurship Program” (VEP) at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga just celebrated its 10th birthday. Established at the Gary W. Rollins College of Business in 2012, the VEP program has spent a decade helping veterans flesh out their business ideas through courses, workshops and one-on-one conversations with local business owners. The just concluded weeklong boot camp attracted 16 veterans this year. Learn more here.

From Nashville:

The Nashville Entrepreneur Center (EC) is accepting applications for the next cohort of its “Project Healthcare” program. It is a nine-month healthcare entrepreneurship initiative, driving transformation in the industry through tailored programming, connections and more.

The EC describes the program as designed for healthcare entrepreneurs seeking to accelerate their high-growth start-ups. “Project Healthcare” leverages the Center’s relationships with Nashville’s healthcare industry giants and provides unmatched access to the top experts and resources in the field.

Application deadline is September 18, and the application can be found here.

From across the Volunteer State:

The Wall Street Journal/ “Emerging Housing Markets Index” (article link and list here, subscription required) was released earlier this week, and the only Tennessee city to crack the top 20 was Johnson City which was ranked third out of 300 metropolitan areas. It moved-up 14 spots from the Spring rankings. Coming in #1 was Elkhart-Goshen, IN, while Burlington, NC was ranked #2.

The index identifies the top metro areas for home buyers seeking an appreciating housing market, a strong local economy and appealing lifestyle amenities. All of the top 20 markets in the index fall into one of two categories: affordable or outdoorsy.

After Johnson City, the next highest rated Tennessee city was Johnson City’s Appalachian Highlands neighbor: Kingsport and the border cities of Bristol at #29. Knoxville placed #36, Nashville-Murfreesboro-Franklin came in at #46, Chattanooga was #67, Memphis placed #117, and Clarksville rounded out the list of Volunteer State cities at #122.

The article notes that “low-cost cities with strong economies fared well in the second quarter as high prices and rising mortgage rates caused a swift slowdown in the housing market. As remote or hybrid work schedules have become more common, households are willing to relocate for cheaper housing or a better quality of life. That migration helped push small, affordable markets to the top of the (list).

From Washington, DC:

The U.S. Department of Treasury announced on Friday approval of an additional state plan under the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI 2.0). It was our neighbors to the east – North Carolina. That approval brings the state plans that have been approved to 15, according to our tally.


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