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Weekend edition December 15, 2023 | Katelyn Keenehan

$51 million expansion tops the weekend news roundup

Events may be slowing down in East Tennessee as the holiday season starts to creep closer; however, business developments continue full-speed ahead.

Custom Foods of America Inc. will expand manufacturing and distribution operations in Knox County

Governor Bill Lee, alongside the Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) Commissioner Stuart C. McWhorter, shared that Custom Foods of America Inc. (CFA) will invest over $51 million to expand its manufacturing and distribution operations in Knoxville.

The expansion is located at its Pleasant Ridge site in Knox County. The expansion is expected to generate 249 new jobs and bring CFA’s regional workforce to about 500 employees. The project involves adding about 200,000 square feet of space for manufacturing, storage, staging, and shipping, and enhancing CFA’s production and distribution capabilities.

“Today’s announcement is proof that Knoxville and Tennessee have the right assets to attract and support companies like Custom Foods of America as they grow and expand. We are thrilled that Knox County will see nearly 250 new jobs as a result of this project and thank all our partners that worked together to bring this to fruition,” McWhorter said.

Since 2019, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) has supported nearly 20 projects in Knox County, resulting in approximately 1,800 job commitments and $126 million in capital investment.

Six UTK faculty recognized as highly cited researchers in 2023

Six distinguished faculty members from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, earned a coveted spot in Clarivate’s Highly Cited Researchers class of 2023. It is a distinction reserved for the top 0.1% of scientists, engineers, and mathematicians globally. The selection process is based on the frequency of citations over the past decade. It underscores the exceptional and sustained impact of their research at the highest levels.

“UT is so proud of its Highly Cited Researchers Class of 2023” said Vice Chancellor for Research, Innovation, and Economic Development Deborah Crawford in a press release. “These faculty are making ground-breaking, high impact contributions that distinguish UT Research at the highest levels,” said

Among the honored researchers is Sheng Dai, a chemistry professor with a joint appointment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, specializing in innovative materials for energy-related applications.

  • Peter Liaw, the John Fisher Professor and Ivan Racheff Chair of Excellence in Materials Science and Engineering, explores the behavior of advanced materials.
  • David Mandrus, the Jerry and Kay Henry Endowed Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, focuses on the properties of materials, including new quantum materials, with a joint appointment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
  • Richard Norby, a research professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, investigates the health and growth of ecosystems, forests, and trees, along with carbon and nitrogen cycles, holding a joint appointment with Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
  • Arthur Ragauskas, the UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Biorefining, specializes in biofuels, clean carbon, and lignin biomass, contributing to the Tickle College of Engineering and the UT Institute of Agriculture’s Center for Renewable Carbon.
  • Jiaqiang Yan, an associate professor of materials science and engineering, designs and characterizes novel materials, also with a joint appointment at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Looking ahead to 2024

On January 16, the Knoxville Chamber will host an insightful discussion on the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program, which will help bring private capital into low-income communities.

They will have an expert panel to share invaluable insights on how for-profit and non-profit organizations can effectively harness this flexible financing tool. The discussion will delve into the qualifications and best practices for securing NMTC financing. Don’t miss this opportunity to gain a comprehensive understanding of the NMTC Program and its potential to fuel positive change in diverse communities.

The panelists for the discussion include  Chris Leutzinger from Truist Community Capital, Monica Blanton with Bright Bridge Inc., Grady Vanderhoofven with Three Roots Capital, and Mike Britton with Custom Foods of America (CFA).

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