Cortney's headshotBy Cortney Piper, Executive Director 

I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of strategic partnerships lately. It’s truly incredible to witness when individuals or corporations connect with others to create something bigger or better than they ever could have on their own, especially in the advanced energy industry.

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council is passionate about connecting assets to opportunity. For the industry to continue to grow and organizations within it to become leaders regionally and around the globe, we must be intentional about building and maintaining strategic partnerships.

Evolution of strategic partnerships at TAEBC 

Since co-founding TAEBC, it’s been a privilege to watch the deepening of industry relationships. What once began as pleasant conversations between members has evolved into formal, lasting partnerships between them and other stakeholders.

Just last year, the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation partnered with Stone Mountain Technologies (SMTI), an Energy Mentor Network graduate and TAEBC member, to validate SMTI’s gas absorption hot water heat pump technology in a commercial setting. 

Then a few months ago, TAEBC’s relationship with the University of Tennessee Research Park cemented into a formal partnership to grow the cleantech ecosystem in East Tennessee through the launch of the Spark Cleantech Accelerator. John Bruck, Director of the Spark Innovation Center, recently spoke about the accelerator at TAEBC’s 2022 Annual Member Meeting.

These examples emphasize the importance of coming together to create something new and innovative. If our mission is to champion advanced energy as a job creation and economic development strategy, don’t dozens of voices ring out stronger than one or two?

Advanced energy industry: A point of pride for Tennesseans

We also need to do more to share how great this industry is for Tennesseans. Our 2021 Tennessee Advanced Energy Economic Impact Report found that the industry contributes $45.8 billion to our state GDP, outpaces the growth of the overall state economy and offers high-quality and high-paying jobs for nearly 400,000 workers.

To spread more awareness, TAEBC is launching the TAEBC Powerhouse, a group composed of leaders from all areas of this sector, and a podcast, “Energizing Tennessee,” created in partnership with FirstBank.

The first cohort of the Powerhouse will be made up of current TAEBC Leadership who will provide expert media commentary, speak at events and let others know about the value of advanced energy. Meanwhile, the Energized podcast will launch this fall and serve as the state’s number one source for news and information about advanced energy. TAEBC is proud to partner with FirstBank and release episodes on topics ranging from transportation electrification to rural solar energy development.

I see both initiatives as chances to saturate the ecosystem with positive messages about how good the industry is for everyone. From solid jobs to a cleaner and safer environment, there is so much to talk about.

As a Michigan native, I’m familiar with the pride the people of Detroit have in their automotive industry. I want residents of my adopted home to have a similar feeling toward advanced energy. Amazing things are happening in the industry every day, and I believe it’s important to show all Tennesseans – not just the ones working in the industry – how proud they can be of their state.

Future strategic partnership opportunities 

Looking ahead, I want TAEBC to play an even greater role in helping facilitate relationships and opportunities between corporations looking to deploy advanced energy technologies and the companies that can help meet these needs. Helping companies meet their corporate sustainability goals is one vital way to facilitate industry growth.

I’m also looking to workforce development. The State is bringing in new economic development wins every day – from Ford’s Blue Oval City to Tritium’s manufacturing facility – so it will be crucial in the coming years to create more connections between Tennesseans, educational institutions and employers to keep the labor pipeline strong and resilient. 

Beyond these two wishes, I want the country to recognize that yes, Tennessee is a great state for the EV supply chain and other crucial manufacturing industries, but it is also a place where advanced energy innovation happens every single day. Let’s loudly celebrate our triumphs and join together to make our state’s advanced energy future even brighter for all.

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