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November 16, 2017 | Tom Ballard

New statewide Composites Coalition announced

Composites CoalitionBy Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Five organizations came together at a press event yesterday to announce the formation of a statewide alliance focused on growing the composites industry.

The Composites Coalition, the name of the new initiative, involves the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), Tennessee Valley Authority, Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI), Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD), and Tennessee Valley Authority. Innovation Valley will be the home base.

According to this news release, the goals of the Composites Coalition are to:

  • Raise international awareness of Tennessee’s composites-related assets and opportunities;
  • Host quarterly composites-related existing industry cluster meetings;
  • Identify workforce training needs of composites companies and enhance training programs to fill those gaps, as well as to raise awareness of composites career opportunities; and
  • Aggressively target and recruit composites-related companies to locate research, manufacturing and distribution operations to the State of Tennessee.

Yesterday’s announcement is further evidence of what regular readers of already know; the region has become more and more an epicenter for composites and other aspects of the broader field encompassed by the term advanced manufacturing. Three of the big assets are the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility and Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, both operated by ORNL, and the Joint Institute for Advanced Materials at the University of Tennessee.

Those facilities, in turn, helped the region successfully compete for IACMI, one of the Manufacturing USA hubs that collectively are focused on accelerating emerging advanced manufacturing technologies through public-private-academic partnerships.

All of those assets and efforts lead to what almost every community seeks – more and better paying jobs. In this region’s case, there’s already a well-established manufacturing base – from long standing boating companies in the Vonore area around Tellico Lake to global players like Techmer PM in Clinton and newer arrivals such as Local Motors and Magnum Venus Products.

Ahead of yesterday’s announcement, we had the opportunity to talk with John Hopkins, IACMI’s Interim Chief Executive Officer. “It’s a great example of things we’re trying to drive at the state level,” he told us.

The Composites Institute, as IACMI’s tagline says, is based in Knoxville but involves about 150 industry partners literally scattered around the country as well as several state economic development organizations such as ECD.

“It (the new alliance) may have its primary focus in East Tennessee because of the assets located here, but it will have a statewide focus,” Hopkins said. “We want to help our states and partners be as competitive as possible.” That help includes seed funding to help launch the Composites Coalition.

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