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The People in the Room: September 4, 2020

by Jim Campbell, ETEC President

Labor Day week is usually the last few quiet days of summer before we sprint to the years' end. This week is different, and it’s been hard on us.

Right now, the federal employees and their contractors are finishing out their fiscal year and prepping for FY2021. Most of them are still working remotely. Congress will go back to work next week hopefully putting together a continuing resolution that allows the work here to persist. Politics continue. The 2020 election will be significant.

At ETEC, we’re doing those things we normally do this time of year, albeit in an unusual fashion. It’s time to select our Muddy Boot and Postma Medal Award winners for 2020. We have a great group of candidates to select from.

We are working on our 2021 work plan and foresee another very active year… hopefully with in-person meetings. Part of what we will be doing next year is updating our Economic Study of the Department of Energy’s impact on the State of Tennessee. Our early sense is that it is much larger than even four years ago.

The future for Oak Ridge’s federal sites looks very strong going out at least 10 years. Several new construction projects are in the works at Y-12 and ORNL, notably the Lithium Processing Facility and the second target station at the Spallation Neutron Source. If TVA decides to move forward on its advanced reactor project (which I personally think is a great venture) we will be building billions of dollars of new facilities for the missions on the Oak Ridge Reservation.

Just as intriguing, there are a number of private sector projects that are spinning out of the federal workplaces: isotopes, advanced manufacturing, even the proposed Motorsports Park at the Horizon Center Industrial Park has an R&D component.

But COVID-19 is still with us. That is hard, and it has hit close to home.

Just this week, our communications and operations director, Nicole’s son is in quarantine from being exposed to a confirmed case of COVID during his first week of school.

And worse, ETEC’s Vice President, Tracy, lost her father to the virus. It was sudden and totally unexpected. We mourn with her his passing. Tracy said to me on Tuesday, “I wish you could have known him. He was one of the good ones.”

We’re moving forward. But this week has been hard.
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East Tennessee Economic Council
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