In 1973, amidst increasing stress on the federal programs in Oak Ridge, the East Tennessee Economic Council (ETEC) was chartered as the Roane Anderson Economic Council (R-AEC) to meet a growing need at the original Manhattan Project site. The Atomic Energy Commission, which largely operated the community of Oak Ridge until its incorporation in 1960, was transitioning to what ultimately became the Department of Energy (DOE), and as the community evolved and began to self-govern, it was looking for new ways to attract commercial and industrial business to the city and region.
Leaders from the business community – notably Eugene Joyce, Tom Hill and Don Maxwell – established R-AEC as a forum for federal officials and their contractors to discuss and prioritize programs. The organization’s purpose was “to promote regional development of the two-county area, to explore broad opportunities for growth, particularly in the multi-billion dollar field of energy technology . . . It is also concerned with informed political representation at the state and federal levels and the need for unified action toward common political goals.” Today, the same missions influence the work of ETEC.
R-AEC contracted with consultants in Washington, D.C. to advise on specific programs, and industry recruitment focused on companies that had a connection to Oak Ridge via local DOE contracts, programs, or advanced technology from the federal facilities. Economic development in the government town meant building relationships with federal and state officials and trips to D.C. and Nashville. Conversely, many political and elected representatives traveled to Oak Ridge. R-AEC strategically balanced its platform of work, supporting large government projects in the area – such as the Clinch River Breeder Reactor – while preserving the DOE’s economic development assistance programs, including the transfer of land and technology.
In the early 1990’s, R-AEC was re-positioned under the umbrella of the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce. It retained an independent financial status, but the leadership was transferred to the Chamber executive director. During that time, R-AEC served as the community reuse organization for East Tennessee, broadening its organizational scope to include five East Tennessee counties and changing its name to reflect the expansion.
Now the East Tennessee Economic Council, or ETEC, the organization worked diligently to find new uses for the K-25 Site, collaborating with DOE and the contracting community to develop a re-industrialization program. While continuing to transition land no longer required for federal missions, ETEC – with significant support from DOE – created Technology 2020, a public-private partnership to incubate high-technology industry. Other major issues in the 1990s included: securing future missions for the Y-12 National Security Complex; developing a new research facility for Oak Ridge National Laboratory (now the Spallation Neutron Source); and expediting clean-up programs at each of the local DOE sites.
TODAY, ETEC is an independent, regional, non-profit membership organization dedicated to supporting the federal government’s missions in Oak Ridge as well as encouraging new opportunities to fully utilize the highly-skilled talent, cutting-edge technologies and unique facilities that make up the federal reservation. ETEC still works in strong partnership with federal contractors, Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration representatives, state officials, small businesses, and other local economic development organizations to seek new ways to use federal investments in science and security to create prosperity, promote regional development, and explore opportunities for growth.