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June 22, 2020 | Tom Ballard

Erin Koshut recalls her years helping organize TVC events and the unexpected additional benefit

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another in a series of articles focused on the history of the Tennessee Valley Corridor and its series of Summits. Twenty-five years after the inaugural event in Oak Ridge, the silver anniversary Summit will be a five-part series of 90-minute virtual sessions kicking-off July 16 and continuing for the next four Thursdays.)

As one of the long-time behind-the-scenes organizers, Erin Koshut has fond feelings for the Tennessee Valley Corridor (TVC) even though she was not a participant in the first four TVC Summits.

“That’s how Tom (Koshut) and I met,” the Executive Director of the Cummings Research Park in Huntsville reminded us in a recent telephone interview. “He was working for (Congressman) Bud Cramer.” Today, her husband is Associate Vice President for Research and Economic Development at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Erin Koshut had joined the team at AkinsCrisp Public Strategies in early 1999, and the first of several Summits in Huntsville occurred the very next year. Because the AkinsCrisp firm played the lead role in organizing TVC events, she had a great view of the preparations and execution.

“I had never heard of such a thing where people from different cities rallied around a common purpose,” Koshut said. “Everybody felt like they had skin in the game.”

Like so many others have said, one of the significant strengths of the TVC has been its bipartisan support among the Members of Congress, something Koshut recalls in several different ways because “they found common purpose and areas where they could collaborate.”

And, it was that sense among the Members of working for the good of the federal science and technology missions across multiple districts that caused more collaboration among public and private enterprises within those districts that might not have done so in the past.

One of those was an initiative called the Trilateral Alliance that involved NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Arnold Engineering Development Complex in Tullahoma, and the Department of Energy operations in Oak Ridge.

“Those entities were not used to working together,” Koshut reminded us, yet they started meeting regularly and found ways to help each other.

She also noted the frequently cited TVC Community College Consortium where members work beyond their traditional service areas to share ideas and experiences.

“TVC has been that organization that has birthed those ideas and partnerships,” Koshut said.

She joined Cummings Research Park nearly five years ago. Today, it is the second largest research park in the U.S. and fourth in the world with 300 companies, 26,500 employees, and 13,258 students across its massive campus. Those facts reflect the rapid growth of Huntsville and the importance of the connectivity across the TVC.

“By 2023 if not before, we will be the largest city in Alabama,” Koshut says. “It’s a fun time to be in Huntsville.”


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