By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed since a brand new freshman Congressman gathered a group of several hundred local business and political leaders under a tent in Oak Ridge to talk about the future of the “Secret City” and its connectivity to other communities in the region.
The Congressman was Zach Wamp, the successor to long-time Third District Congresswoman Marilyn Lloyd. It was a time of great uncertainty in Oak Ridge with the Cold War coming to an end and the continuing need for the massive federal investments in Oak Ridge being questioned.
That two-day gathering in May 1995 has spawned an annual conference that has been held for 20 consecutive years across the Tennessee Valley – from Huntsville, AL through a number of East Tennessee cities (Chattanooga, Johnson City, Kingsport, Knoxville and Oak Ridge) as well as Somerset, KY and even on three occasions in Washington, DC.
The focus has always been on economic development, drawing on the multi-state region’s science and technology assets, and helping facilitate partnerships that best leverage them to sustain the federal investments while growing private sector jobs.
On May 27 and 28, the “Tennessee Valley Corridor National Summit” will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a conference at East Tennessee State University’s (ETSU) D.P. Culp University Center in Johnson City.
In addition to the traditional keynote speakers and panel discussions, this year’s celebration will also include a trip down memory lane at the closing luncheon on May 28. I had the privilege of chairing the Tennessee Valley Corridor (TVC) Board of Directors for six years, and I will have the privilege of moderating a panel featuring individuals who have been integrally involved in the 501(c)(6) organization.
Alex Fisher, who played a key role in helping plan and execute the early Summits in Oak Ridge and Chattanooga, will provide a keynote address at lunch. He is now Chief Executive Officer of the Columbus (Ohio) Partnership. The panel will include Gerald Boyd, retired U.S. Department of Energy executive who now chairs the TVC Board; Paul Stanton, President of ETSU; Susan Reid, Executive Director of the First Tennessee Development District and a Past Chair of the TVC Board; Helen Hardin, Senior Policy Advisor to Congressman Chuck Fleischmann who also served as Congressman Wamp’s Chief of Staff; and Fisher.
Ahead of the birthday celebration, there will be sessions featuring updates on developments in Huntsville and Oak Ridge, two key federal research centers in the Corridor; and the importance of education, workforce development, and healthcare in the region’s economic growth.
The Summit kicks-off at 12 noon May 27 and concludes about 2 p.m. May 28. For more details and to register, click here.