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February 19, 2012 | Tom Ballard

Gilmartin champions energy corridor

A family history in the steam generation world has driven Gary Gilmartin on a passionate pursuit to position the East Tennessee region as a national energy corridor.

Now, he’s reached a critical milestone in a three-year initiative to bring to life a vision that Gerald Boyd, former Manager of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge Office, had to make this region the model for DOE across the country.

Gilmartin notes that Boyd retired from his DOE role in the past year and the vision for the DOE Energy Parks initiative has not materialized at the national level. Funding for his time ends in about a month, and it is unclear if additional monies will be available to continue his formal involvement.

Regardless, Gilmartin will continue to be passionate about the initiative and will be a “volunteer” if he’s not a contract employee. More important, he will forever celebrate the accomplishments that have been realized.

Reflecting on the launch of the “Oak Ridge Energy Corridor” initiative, Gilmartin said that “Gerald wanted to get ahead” of other DOE sites. Oak Ridge could be more nimble and move faster while officials at DOE Headquarters were determining its strategy.

“We (also) did not want to create another entity,” he said, explaining that Oak Ridge did not need another Tech 20/20 or Innovation Valley Inc. “The idea was that this was more of a vision and campaign about the energy assets of this region. It was more of a campaign or journey than a thing.”

Gilmartin said that the concept was to focus on projects underway or being considered in the region and connecting them “to other organizations that are synergistic.” The big projects included a regional transportation demonstration project, an integrated electricity generation plan to cut carbon emissions, a demonstration plan in smart grid and energy storage, and an energy efficiency initiative.

Big projects were not all that comprised the Energy Parks initiative, however. It also involved connecting small companies like LED North America and Simple Controls to resources that could help them. And, it involved answering the simple but critical question – “What are the projects than can or will happen”? Gilmartin cites the small modular reactor and carbon fiber work as the examples of activities that underscore the fact that the region really is the model for Energy Parks.

“Gerald believed in it then, as he does now, and we moved forward,” Gilmartin said, adding that each of the four initiatives “had something in it that is underway and will continue in the future.”

“I would consider it (the initiative) a success if it stopped tomorrow,” he said.

Gilmartin laments the fact that DOE headquarters “never took the Energy Parks idea and put any teeth behind it.”

He has been funded by a DOE grant through the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee (CROET), and that funding ends on February 28.

“We don’t have a plan for what will happen in March,” Gilmartin said. “I don’t need to continue it, but I want to continue it because I believe in it. I think it needs some continued attention to keep it growing. It needs money, but it will not come from DOE.”

Options could be to transfer the leadership of the initiative to another organization like Innovation Valley or the East Tennessee Economic Council, but “they don’t have the resources needed,” Gilmartin said. Perhaps a coalition can help make it work.

He urges those interested in determing the best way to keep the vision alive to contact him.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: Gilmartin Engineering Works is Gary’s other passion. We’ll explore his

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