Stories of Technology, Innovation, & Entrepreneurship in the Southeast

Knoxville Business News Tennessee Mountain Scenery Background
May 16, 2022 | Tom Ballard

ETDD and partners plan to continue efforts related to BBB proposal

This week’s “News & Notes” feature includes a graduation for the Sky City Entrepreneur Center in Maryville, developments for two members of the “Innovation Crossroads” family, and plans from the East Tennessee Development District (ETDD) and its partners to advance some of their priorities that were part of its “Build Back Better Challenge” (BBBC) proposal.

From Knoxville:

  • At last week’s annual meeting of the ETDD, Executive Director Rick Yakubic announced that the organization and its key partners intended to continue the focus of the regional BBBC proposal. ETDD was the lead agency on what was termed the “East Tennessee Transformation Network” (see article here). Key partners were the University of Tennessee (UT) System, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Only one of the nine submissions from Tennessee to the U.S. Economic Development Administration made the final 60 selected. In spite of not moving on, Yakubic said that three areas identified in the proposal were priorities for additional focus: (1) asset mapping; (2) more industry engagement including possible creation of a manufacturing alliance; and (3) updating of ETDD’s five-year plan, officially known as the “Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy.” Input sessions on the latter, known by its acronym of CEDS, are planned next month.
  • Ascend Manufacturing has announced the hiring of Clinton Spencer Abbott as its Director of Research and Development. The Idaho native and graduate of Brigham Young University worked with the company for a year through an internship program funded by the National Science Foundation. Ascend Manufacturing is an “Innovation Crossroads” alum and third place prize winner in the inaugural PYA-sponsored “Tom Ballard Innovation Award” in 2021.
  • A current member of the “Innovation Crossroads” program has received a significant recognition. Hempitecture Inc. has been named as one of the “10 Top Sustainable Start-ups to Watch in 2022” by Truic’s Startup Savant. Hempitecture is a sustainable insulation start-up that specializes in HempWool®, an insulation alternative made with roughly 90 percent hemp fiber and 10 percent binder.
  • We noted without further comment in this article last week that Carol Seamons, formerly of FirstBank, had joined the Spark Innovation Center as Director of Engagement. She posted on her LinkedIn page the following: “My focus will be assisting these start-ups with the financial models for their businesses and engaging outside funders.”

From Maryville:

The Sky City Entrepreneur Center graduated its first class in the CO.STARTERS program earlier this month. The group (pictured here) included 13 owners representing 12 different businesses (one was a partnership) who completed 10 weeks of business planning. State Farm provided funding to defray the costs of materials. Volunteer facilitators were Jeremy LaDuke and Marcus Blair, and the mentors were Greg Rowe, Cliff Caudill and Saralyn Banks.

Separately, Sky City announced that its monthly “Side Hustle Happy Hour” is May 19, starting at 6 p.m. at Tri-Hop Brewery in Maryville.

From Nashville:

The Nashville Entrepreneur Center has announced that it is accepting applications through June 13 for its annual “NEXT Awards + Entrepreneurs’ Hall of Fame.”

Presented by Amazon, the event celebrates exceptional entrepreneurs transforming their industries, creating opportunities, growing economies, and improving lives in Nashville and beyond. Award categories include both “Emerging” and “Market Movers” in: (1) products, services and retail; (2) technology; (3) healthcare; (4) music, sports and entertainment; and (5) real estate, construction and hospitality.

Applicants who have up to $1 million in revenue and have been in business no more than two years will automatically be considered for “Start-up of the Year.” Click here to apply.

From Nashville but with Statewide Interest:

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development has issued a “Save the Date” for its annual “Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development.” The event that is almost always held in Nashville will again call Music City home on September 19 and 20.

From Memphis:

The UT Research Foundation is seeking a Vice President for its Memphis-based Health Science Center office. As previously reported, Richard Magid, longtime leader of the office, started a new role as Vice President for Technology Transfer at Colorado State University’s Research Foundation on May 5. Here’s a link to the job description.


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