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Turning energy innovation into economic growth

Cortney Piper, Executive Director of Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, shares her vision for making Tennessee a global leader in advanced energy innovation and job creation.

When Cortney Piper first recognized the enormous potential of Tennessee’s advanced energy sector, she decided to create an organization that could help make her state an industry leader. The result was the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council, which Piper co-founded in 2013.

“I looked around the state of Tennessee and thought, ‘You know, there are a lot more clean energy companies in the state of Tennessee than anyone had probably ever realized. I wonder if they would find value in coming together under one organization?’ The resounding answer was yes,” Piper shared. “What we need is an organization that looks at energy innovations as a means of economic development and job creation.”

In this episode of Disrupt the Continuum, Piper explains why Tennessee is an ideal place to build an advanced energy company, and she shares how TAEBC is partnering with Launch Tennessee to support startups in the industry.

What Sets Tennessee Apart

With the idea to create TAEBC, Piper realized something that many energy innovators are beginning to recognize about the state: Tennessee has several key assets that can set advanced energy companies up for success.

“Those assets really center around the University of Tennessee, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Oak Ridge National Lab,” Piper explained. “There’s really no other state in the country that has those blend of unique assets that really help propel our advanced energy economy forward. So you’ve got private sector businesses that are drawn to the state of Tennessee because of the location of those three assets.”

The TVA has a long history of prioritizing environmental stewardship and economic development, not just power generation. Additionally, the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge are leaders in research and workforce development, and they work closely together to achieve their goals.

As a result, the advanced energy industry is a major provider of jobs and GDP contributions for the state.

“Nearly 360,000 Tennesseans are employed in the advanced energy industry at over 18,000 businesses, and they contribute nearly $40 billion to our state GDP,” Piper shared. “So it is a very large and encompassing industry.”

Supporting Energy Startups

In an effort to help make Tennessee the number one location in the Southeast for high quality jobs, Piper and the TAEBC are partnering with Launch Tennessee to support advanced energy startups.

The two organizations created the Energy Mentor Network, which pairs experienced mentors with promising new companies and entrepreneurs in the advanced energy industry, providing a structured program that helps energy entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

“Our commitment is to foster the growth of Tennessee’s advanced energy startups and technology, and keep that talent in the state of Tennessee,” Piper explained.

Please subscribe, rate, and review Disrupt the Continuum wherever you listen to podcasts. This season we’re sharing Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem story. It’s about how, as a statewide community, we collaborate and provide resources founders need to build, scale, and execute their businesses. It’s the power of our statewide network and the boots-on-the-ground startups that #BuildTN.

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