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November 05, 2018 | Tom Ballard

PART 1: Charlie Brock exits Launch Tennessee’s CEO role after a fast six years

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first article in a four-part series where Charlie Brock, until recently the President and Chief Executive Officer of Launch Tennessee, discusses his nearly six years with the statewide public-private partnership. Brock also penned this wish list for the State of Tennessee that was posted on the Launch Tennessee webpage.)

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Literally six years and one week after agreeing to lead the statewide non-profit organization focused on promoting entrepreneurship and innovation, Charlie Brock has turned over the reins of Launch Tennessee to Margaret Dolan, its new President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

His exit occurred after the annual “Governor’s Conference on Economic and Community Development” that ended last Friday. It was a symbolic ending, since Launch Tennessee and the State Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) have been linked so closely during the soon-to-end administration of Governor Bill Haslam.

In a recent interview, Brock reflected on his decision to take the position, the evolution of Launch Tennessee during his tenure, and some of the things he wants to do in the future. Ironically, our interview occurred exactly six years to the day that the Chattanooga native accepted the position after a whirlwind courtship.

“I was driving to my reunion at the University of the South and called Brad Smith on October 26 (2012) and told him I would do it,” Brock told us on October 26, 2018 at the Camp House in Chattanooga. Smith was the interim leader of the organization, on loan from ECD where Smith had served as Commissioner Bill Hagerty’s Chief of Staff.

The decision to pick-up and move to Nashville was not an easy one for Brock or those trying to convince him to accept the opportunity. I know; as a member of the Board of Directors, I was one of several individuals who worked to convince him to make the move.

“We were just coming-off the first ‘GIGTANK’ accelerator,” Brock explained. At the time, he was Executive Director of the fairly new Company Lab (CO.LAB) and one of the partners in the recently launched Chattanooga Renaissance Fund.

Brock conferred with a number of people, both in Chattanooga and across the state, after ‘GIGTANK’ wrapped-up in August. It was a two-month process.

“I was convinced it would help Chattanooga, and I could leave CO.LAB in good hands with Mike Bradshaw,” Brock said. From a statewide perspective, he was assured that Governor Haslam, Commissioner Hagerty, and the TTDC Board of Directors would “give us a chance to try things . . . to run it like a start-up business. We were going to be allowed to be entrepreneurial.”

Those who know Brock would no doubt agree that he loves to build things, and the personable Chattanoogan found that opportunity in Launch Tennessee.

“It was kind of a blank sheet of paper,” he says. “There were a number of ideas, but we had to fill-in the blanks.”

One important factor that helped convince him to say “yes” was a four-year commitment from ECD, the organization that provides Launch Tennessee’s base funding.

As Brock reflected on a fast six years, he says it’s been a great ride with mostly highs and one memorable low from which the organization quickly recovered and grew.

“I have absolutely no regrets in doing it,” he says even as the position has caused him to spend portions of almost every week away from his hometown. Brock is now ready for some family time . . . he calls it a sabbatical. As to exactly what comes long-term, that’s still to be determined although he shared some areas where he still plans to be involved. We’ll share those in the final article in this series.

NEXT: The early challenges for the new CEO.

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