By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
The year was 1977, and it was the beginning of demonstrations in Iran against the Shah that eventually led to the Iranian Revolution.
It was also the year that H. M. “Hash” Hashemian earned his Master of Science in Nuclear Engineering at the University of Tennessee (UT). He had planned to return to his native country, but those plans changed, partly because of the situation and also because of an opportunity.
Hashemian had been a student of Tom Kerlin, a faculty member who would later become Department Head of Nuclear Engineering.
“He was a fantastic mentor and great Professor,” Hashemian says of Kerlin. The two joined forces and founded Analysis and Measurement Services Corporation (AMS) in 1977 based on research being performed at UT and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
In today’s vernacular, it would be described as a spin-out.
Fast forward a few years, and Hashemian was talking with his father who was still in Iran.
“AMS was not doing great, just doing OK,” the company’s Co-Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer recalls telling his father. “I wanted to make it more.”
The answer was to purchase Kerlin’s interest in AMS over a three-year period.
“I walked into the deal with $10 in my pocket,” Hashemian says. “If I defaulted on the terms, he got the whole company.”
At the time – 1985, AMS had about five employees plus its new sole owner.
“I was not a kid by age, but in experience,” Hashemian says.
His plan to ensure success was hard work with a focused strategy that included adding something new every year.
“I wanted to expand . . . to take some chances,” he says of a decision in 1986 to move to the company’s current location on Cross Park Drive. AMS initially leased about a fourth of Building A.
“We are now in almost four buildings, and we own three of them,” Hashemian says.
In 1987, Hashemian married Nazzy who lived in Boston. They have a daughter and a son.
Two federal programs – Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) – have played critical roles in the growth of AMS.
Hashemian says the company has won more than 28 Phase I SBIR awards and another 21 or more Phase II. AMS also won two Phase IIIs and a couple of STTR awards. By any standard, this is an impressive record.
“We don’t do it for revenue,” Hashemian says, “It subsidizes our research.”
The end result is more commercially-viable products.
“We have commercialized in some way at least 70 percent of the work,” Hashemian says. “We have two nuclear plants we are in today as a result of SBIR work.”
He is an advocate for matching the federal program with a means-tested state initiative, similar to programs offered in neighboring states.
NEXT: The always critical workforce challenge and the nuclear future.