Joel Duling and Mark Gradkowski appreciate TVC’s approach to promoting a regional agenda

(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.)

Joel Duling and Mark Gradkowski are two corporate executives who got involved with the Tennessee Valley Corridor (TVC) through their employers. In addition, both share a common appreciation of the organization’s role in promoting the multi-state region and fostering long-lasting relationships.

“I knew about the TVC from my days running production at Y-12,” Duling says of his two-year stint as a Vice President for B&W Y-12 that managed the National Security Complex in Oak Ridge. He did not attend his first National Summit until 2015, however, when he was President of Nuclear Fuel Services in Erwin.

“I expected a bunch of vendors,” Duling said of the 20th anniversary event held on the campus of East Tennessee State University. “What I saw was a conglomeration of regional leaders. It became apparent it was a very worthwhile effort.”

Fast forward to today, and Duling is based in Lynchburg, VA where he is President of the Nuclear Operations Group for BWX Technologies Inc. More important, he’s still a member of the TVC Board of Directors.

Citing as one example an enhanced understanding that he has about the vulnerability of the nation’s electrical grid, Duling says being involved with the TVC provides “access to knowledge you would not have (otherwise) from a cadre of very smart people.”

He also credits the organization with enhancing his network of contacts . . . “connections and being able to pick-up the phone and have conversations. We work as a region and as the Corridor rather than just fighting on our own.”

Mark Gradkowski of Huntsville, AL had a similar experience. Now a Senior Vice President at Information International Associates headquartered in Oak Ridge, he was a Vice President at Teledyne Brown Engineering when he was asked to join the TVC Board.

At the time, Gradkowski said he had responsibility for two Teledyne Brown laboratories located in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region. One was focused on radio chemistry, the other on atmospheric analysis. As such, there was significant value to the TVC from his unique perspectives on the two communities that receive billions of dollars annually in federal funding.

“Oak Ridge needed Huntsville, and Huntsville needed Oak Ridge,” Gradkowski observed. To illustrate the point about mutual benefits to both regions, he cites a recent multi-year contract awarded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Huntsville to Protection Strategies Inc. based in Knoxville.

“The big thing I’ve seen is the collaboration between Y-12, ORNL and NASA, mainly on the technology side,” Gradkowski said, adding that he does not believe it would have been possible without the TVC.

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