The highway that runs from Oak Ridge to the Knoxville airport should be renamed the Oak Ridge Corridor, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander said Thursday.
The highway starts in Oak Ridge as South Illinois Avenue, and it turns into Pellissippi Parkway.
Alexander, a former Tennessee governor, said he wants to give the area a signature like Research Triangle in North Carolina or Silicon Valley in California.
“I can think of no better calling card for a job recruiter than to be able to go anywhere in the world and say, ‘I’m from the Oak Ridge Corridor,'” the Tennessee Republican said in a press release after speaking to Rotary members at the Rotary Club of Oak Ridge. “In Anderson, Roane, and Knox counties, more than 40,000 people have graduate or professional degrees. This includes 1,600 scientists and engineers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, more than 1,000 PhDs at the University of Tennessee, and hundreds of engineers at Tennessee Valley Authority and at Y-12 National Security Complex. We are in the middle of one of our country’s most formidable concentrations of brainpower.”
Previous efforts to turn Oak Ridge brainpower into jobs has “not always worked as well as we had hoped,” Alexander said, but today there are four ways Oak Ridge is showing great promise:
- First, Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, which is giving U.S. manufacturers easy access to the extensive expertise and capabilities of ORNL.
Alexander, who toured the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility earlier in Thursday, noted that several companies working with the facility have decided to relocate some of their operations to East Tennessee to be closer to this valuable resource.
CVMR Corporation has announced 600 news jobs in Oak Ridge, Local Motors has announced 80 new jobs in Knoxville, and Cirrus Aircraft has announced 170 new jobs in Blount County.
- Second, the Uranium Processing Facility is a $6.5 billion project—one of the largest construction projects in the country—and is now on time and on budget and being consistently funded.
“The scope of this project—projected to spend $300-400 million a year until it is completed—already is drawing companies to the Oak Ridge area that may very well choose to locate here and create jobs here,” Alexander said.
- Third, cleaning up old Cold War sites at Oak Ridge, which already supports 1,700 jobs. Once these sites are cleaned up, they are made available to companies that want to locate in Oak Ridge.
“I’ve seen a big page full of companies that have relocated to the Oak Ridge area as a direct result of completed cleanup work: Babcock Services, East Tennessee Rail Care, Energy Solutions, Infrared Technologies, Oliver’s Restaurant,” Alexander said. “That’s just a sample, the list goes on.”
- And fourth, supercomputing. More than 6,000 scientists from all over the world use the supercomputing facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is home to the Titan supercomputer and several other systems.
Then in 2017, Oak Ridge will become home to the world’s fastest supercomputer, which will give the U.S. a competitive edge over other countries in scientific advancement and advanced manufacturing, Alexander said.
The senator said advanced manufacturing technologies, Uranium Processing Facility construction, environmental cleanup, and supercomputing show the promise of bringing new jobs for East Tennesseans.
“Today, more than ever before, the Oak Ridge-Knoxville area is finally solving the mystery that has stymied so many for the last 40 years and that is: How do you turn all this brainpower into jobs for East Tennesseans?” Alexander said.
“As governor, I helped construct the four-lane, interstate-quality highway from Knoxville airport to Oak Ridge, something that had been talked about for many years,” he said. “We built it 100 percent with state funds. But I had something in mind then more than a road. I envisioned the Oak Ridge Corridor—a signature and identity not unlike Research Triangle in North Carolina or Silicon Valley in California. If you stop and think about it, there is probably no other better known brand name in the world that represents excellence in science, research, technology, and supercomputing—the resources that are a magnet for advanced manufacturing companies with good-paying jobs in Anderson, Roane, and Knox County.
“Unfortunately, for 30 years ‘The Oak Ridge Corridor’ has been the best idea that has never happened. Now that the mystery of how to turn brainpower in the Oak Ridge-Knoxville area into jobs for East Tennessee is showing so much promise of being solved, it is time to give that promise a signature name that will let the world know exactly where to put those jobs. That name is ‘The Oak Ridge Corridor.’”
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