By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
The Fairview Technology Center has been around a long time, first as an elementary school and now for nearly three decades as an incubator for small business start-ups.
This Knox County owned facility has been managed by The Development Corporation of Knox County since the early 1990s, according to Todd Napier, President and Chief Executive Officer of the organization. Today, the mix of clients is changing somewhat as the facility nears capacity and aligns with local needs.
“Occupancy is as full as it has ever been in my 16 years with The Development Corporation,” Napier says, adding, “The quality of the tenants is also as strong as it has ever been.”
In fact, with one pending application for an office and plans to convert another area to a co-working configuration, the Fairview Center had one available spot when we conducted this interview.
Napier says the mix today includes start-ups in energy, chemistry and life sciences, all focused on what he describes as “real science.” While tech-based companies have been tenants for years, the landscape has changed recently in several ways.
“We are filling a void in the tech space with the demise of Technology 2020,” Napier explained. “The companies that are there now are tech-based start-ups that are developing a product and need physical space to make progress.”
Another factor is a strategy to capitalize more on the location. Because the building is situated on Solway School Road less than two miles from the bridge that separates Anderson and Knox Counties, Napier believes the positioning between ORNL and UT makes Fairview very convenient to new ventures that are tied to one of the region’s technology generators.
We have spotlighted several of the tenant companies in previous articles on teknovation.biz. They include:
- 490 BioTech, a start-up with strong ties to the University of Tennessee (UT) that provides substrate-free bioluminescent human cell lines capable of continuously and autonomously producing light;
- NuSirt Biopharma Inc., another UT-connected company that has developed a breakthrough technology platform that combines natural compounds with various pharmaceutical agents;
- Peroxygen Systems Inc., a UT licensee developing breakthrough technology for on-site hydrogen peroxide production; and
- Active Energy Systems, one of the participants in Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) “Innovation Crossroads” initiative that is focused on energy start-ups.
The Development Corporation recently contracted with Jonathan Patrick, a well-known local entrepreneur and the creator of the SouthFound podcast series, to provide part-time administrative services as well as consulting for the tenants.
“I’ve always been active in the local community . . . a banker, entrepreneur, and former Development Corporation board member,” Patrick explains. The new role allows him to maintain his engagement locally as well as his national consulting work with credit unions.
Collaboration is an important principle in terms of how Fairview is managed.
“We have group lunches once a week,” Patrick says. There’s a good deal of camaraderie among the tenants.
Plans are underway to build on the sense of community by creating a co-working area for start-ups that need some lab space, such as a hood, and also see the value of working collaboratively in such a shared environment.
“We’re evolving and learning who we are and what is needed,” Patrick says. His point is reinforced by Napier who says it this way” “We’ve been reintroduced to who we are . . . it’s tech-based for companies with longer timeframes.”
NEXT: An update on 490 BioTech.