Competition For Major High-Tech Facilities Is Worldwide, ORNL Director Says

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 - by Judy Frank

Not long ago, the director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory said Wednesday, he visited a city that had fallen on hard times a couple of decades ago.

Officials in the city, looking for a way to revitalize their community, decided to try to make it a tourist destination, Dr. Thom Mason told the 900 men and women attending the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting.

Their strategy? Capitalize on the fact that a river ran through the city by building a large tourist attraction on the river and promoting it heavily.

The effort paid off and, over the years, the city had succeeded in becoming a tourism center. But rather than resting on their laurels, officials then looked for other ways to improve the economy.

What they needed, they decided, was to find ways to convince high tech industries to locate there . . .

“Now it may sound like I’m talking about Chattanooga,” Dr. Mason said, “but this city was not Chattanooga . . . Instead of an aquarium, they built a Guggenheim Museum . . . It was Bilbao, Spain.”

Communities seeking new industries are no longer just competing with their counterparts across the U.S., he said.

“The world truly is flat,” he told chamber members. “People around the world are all trying to connect the same dots we’re trying to connect.”

Dr. Mason heads America’s largest energy research laboratory where studies will help meet the energy challenge by developing a range of technologies, from lighter cars that get 100 mpg to a new generation of nuclear reactors that will allow for the recycling of spent nuclear fuel instead of storing it for thousands of years.

For the U.S. to stay competitive in the global economy, he said, it must create high-paying, high-quality jobs and develop clean, affordable and reliable energy resources. He urged members of the audience to “stay sharp and keep pushing” to meet those challenges.

Dr. Mason was selected to head ORNL after spearheading creation of the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) in Oak Ridge, a leading research facility that uses neutrons to study the structure and dynamics of various materials.

Because of their lack of charge, neutrons have a superior ability to penetrate materials, according to a 2006 ORNL press release.

“Researchers can determine a material's molecular structure by analyzing the way the neutrons scatter after striking atoms within a target material. SNS will direct the neutrons to a host of state-of-the-art instruments.

”The SNS . . . will operate as a user facility that will enable researchers from the United States and abroad to study the science of materials that forms the basis for new technologies in telecommunications, manufacturing, transportation, information technology, biotechnology and health.”

During Wednesday’s annual meeting, chamber members celebrated Volkswagen’s decision to locate in Hamilton County as well as expansions by major existing businesses and the accomplishments of chamber members, volunteers and staff.

“We have much to celebrate today,” chamber president and CEO Tom Edd Wilson told the Convention Center audience.

“Even as Volkswagen is preparing its site at Enterprise South, Unum has announced a $20-plus million investment, BlueCross BlueShield’s new headquarters has entered the final phase of construction, Memorial is planning a $300 million expansion that will add hundreds of healthcare jobs and Alstom is transforming the western part of our downtown riverfront with a $300 million project that helps re-establish Chattanooga as a hub of the power generation industry. I can’t remember a time when our prospects were as bright.”

During the meeting, outgoing board chair Nick Decosimo, managing partner of Decosimo & Company, turned the gavel over to Tom Griscom, incoming chair and Chattanooga Times-Free Press publisher and executive editor.

Mr. Decosimo pointed out that the chamber enjoys a membership of 1,500 businesses of all sizes and that member retention is at 85 percent, the highest in recent memory. He praised the work of the Chamber’s 11 councils that serve the business interests of their neighborhoods and collectively contributed over $100,000 to local schools and community programs during the past year.

He applauded the chamber’s dedication to existing industry and business recruitment. “That dedication is paying off as companies announce new jobs and investment,” he said. “During the past year the Chamber directly assisted 10 companies (not including Volkswagen) announce $335 million in investment, 704 new jobs, and 300 saved jobs.”

Mr. Griscom praised Chattanooga for developing an economic development strategy with the chamber as the lead agency in job growth efforts. He said he is eager to expand the chamber’s burgeoning roles in public education and the regional economy during his tenure as board chair.

During the meeting, Mr. Wilson recognized Perry Betts of www.TravelTrendsLive.com as Chamber Ambassador of the Year and the North Chattanooga Council as the first recipient of the Chamber Council of the Year Award.


Music Therapy Gateway Wins Grand Prize At "Will This Float?" Competition

The Company Lab announced three emerging companies as the winners of its seventh annual "Will This Float?" business pitch competition yesterday evening. Music Therapy Gateway in Communications, Inc. took the first place prize, winning $3,000 in cash, as well as 30 hours of free business services, a spot in a CO.LAB program and three months of access to co-working space at Society ... (click for more)

Celebration At Speed Deluxe Sunday For Best Race Bike Award For Adam Sheard

Adam Sheard of Speed Deluxe Vintage and Bespoke Motorcycles built a BSA flat tracker motorcycle for an invitational bike build-off held by Deus Motorcycles in Venice Beach, Ca. He made the frame from chromoly and hand-formed the gas tank, oil tank, and seat pan/tail piece from sheet aluminum. The bike won Best Race Bike at the build-off, and the build process and its first time ... (click for more)

County Schools Prepare To Set Priorities For Next Round Of School Building Funding

County school board members are gearing up to set priorities for the next round of new school construction in Hamilton County. Lee McDade, assistant superintendent, said officials may know by the spring how much money will be available to build new schools or add on to existing ones - or do a combination of both. Board member Rhonda Thurman said a proposal to build a new Chattanooga ... (click for more)

New Walker County Commissioner Whitfield To Move Public Meetings To Evenings And To Larger Venue; Will Also Be Listening Sessions

Walker County Sole Commissioner-Elect Shannon Whitfield said there will be a new arrangement for holding of public commissioner sessions when he takes place at the start of January. Current Commissioner Bebe Heiskell has held Thursday meetings at 3:30 p.m. from time to time in a conference room at her office near the Walker County Courthouse in LaFayette. Mr. Whitfield said those ... (click for more)

Roy Couldn't Possibly Be More Wrong - And Response (3)

Spreading false information isn't only harmful, as we've been made aware recently. The spread of false information can be outright dangerous.   Calling himself a Christian and all, Roy truly disappoints on so many levels with his recently opinion piece about black students attending predominately white schools being the cause of so much problems and grief at those schools. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Our Senseless Divide

If I could change one thing about the schools in Chattanooga, my wish would be that everybody could become good friends. I’m talking about the private schools versus the public schools. The rancor is so bad we hardly ever play in sports anymore and what the loathsome TSSAA has done in recent years to the out-numbered private schools is sinful. My dream would be that there would ... (click for more)