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February 28, 2012 | Tom Ballard

Gilmartin pursuing family passion for energy and technology

(EDITOR’S NOTE: In a article posted on February 20, we reported on Gary Gilmartin’s passion for the Oak Ridge Energy Corridor. This article covers his passion for a specific “opportunity area” for the Corridor.)

Gary Gilmartin’s family history finds its roots tied deeply to Southside Chicago where his grandfather was heavily involved in the steam generation business. In fact, Gilmartin has a still functioning miniature steam engine that his grandfather gave him when Gary was six or seven proudly displayed on a bookshelf in his Oak Ridge office.

“We’ve always been in the steam business,” he said. “I’ve always had that kind of background.”

The family history is reflected in his college education – a degree in electrical engineering with a specialty in power systems. It is also reflected in his work with a number of companies, including Babcock & Wilcox that brought him to Oak Ridge and the Y-12 National Security Complex. It was one of the factors that caused him to jump at the chance to help Gerald Boyd, former Manager of the U. S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Office, launch the local Energy Parks initiative. Most recently, it is this same history that drove Gilmartin to launch his own company, Gilmartin Engineering Works.

The always upbeat founder said he carefully selected his company’s name to reflect the same pioneering enthusiasm he has that those who used the named Clinton Engineering Works in the early days before the facility was renamed Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). It also underscores Gilmartin’s professional work in nuclear energy and his passion for that sector.

“Our mission (Gilmartin Engineering Works) is to support the development of a manufacturing industry for energy in the U.S.,” he said.

He said the “natural fit” for his company will be in grid, distribution and nuclear generation. “That’s what I know,” Gilmartin said, adding that he does not intend to limit the company’s focus to those areas alone.

“We want to identify those opportunities that truly make sense to manufacture in the U.S. with U.S. technologies and workers,” Gilmartin said. “Those are the perfect opportunities” for our firm that was founded in August 2010.

“It’s been a good start-up” that has been “boot-strapped with self-funding.”

Gilmartin hopes to grow the business locally. “I know and love this region,” he said,

He uses a rubber band analogy, describing the ideal work would occur in the area that he has served for three years as coordinator of the Energy Corridor Initiative. If the opportunity might pull in another area, such as Scottsboro, AL where “Bellefonte is being built,” you simply “stretch the band” by adding a new pin. “Absent new pins, it is Oak Ridge-focused.”

Gilmartin established a strong voice in the community even before the Energy Corridor Initiative by being a strong proponent for something called the “Tennessee Valley Nuclear Energy Coalition.” This initiative was embraced by the Tennessee Valley Corridor organization as a way to revitalize a supply chain to provide critically-needed parts for nuclear facilities.

As Gilmartin looks at a strategy for capitalizing on an expected demand for suppliers of components for the nuclear industry, he is generally bullish.

“We have the core service and manufacturing sector either here or in Chattanooga, and we have the expertise to determine what those markets are,” Gilmartin said. The challenge is that those companies “don’t talk to each other.”

Gilmartin Engineering Works will play the critically important role of matchmaker. He says that he sees opportunities that no one is addressing, and he wants to help connect people to fill those gaps – in the nuclear field and other areas.

He is even more bullish about “this small modular reactor opportunity that has been presented to this region.” In Gilmartin’s mind, the real payoff for the region will come if we do more than just install a unit. He believes we need to also focus on securing the “value add” jobs that allow us to do future R & D and manufacture units.

In terms of his new company, Gilmartin says that he is still trying to answer the question, “What is the best business model?”The answer, at least for now, is that circumstances will dictate the approach. It could be fee for service, shared service, equity or another structure “as you find and grow these opportunities.”

Regardless of the final answer, it is obvious that Gilmartin’s passion for the region, its assets and nuclear energy are realities that will drive him for years to come.

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