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Proton Power is the 2014 Industry of the Year for Roane County.
The Roane County Industrial Development Board presented the award last week during the annual Roane County Industry Appreciation Breakfast on the main campus of Roane State Community College.
“I have been amazed at just what is being accomplished right here [in Roane County] that is having an enormous impact on the world around us,” said The Roane Alliance President and CEO Wade Creswell.
“There is no greater example I know of than this year’s industry of the year.”
Also at the breakfast, a partnership between The Roane Alliance, Harriman Utility Board and Rockwood Electric Utility, Volkswagen Group of America was recognized at the breakfast with this year’s Beautification Award.
The Beautification Award recognizes the efforts of a business that has exhibited a strong sense of community pride and a standard of excellence through the presentation of their facilities on a consistent basis.
“This award is more about community pride and living up to a high standard than it is about the appearance of a structure and the grounds that surround it,” said Creswell.
“The winner of this year’s award brought with them a standard for excellence in everything they do.”
Proton Power is a nine-year-old company that began making hydrogen through a patented cellulose-to-hydrogen system in 2012.
Now, Proton Power is one of the fastest growing industries in Roane County — expanding on its existing sites while acquiring new ones — totalling five now.
And all are in Roane County — both in Roane Regional Business and Technology Park and the most-recently-purchased site in the Roane County Industrial Park in Rockwood.
“We are proud to have Proton Power in our community and are excited for their future,” Creswell said.
He and Tommy Thompson, chairman of the Roane County Industrial Development Board, presented the award to Sean Hensley, Proton Power’s human resource manager.
Volkswagen’s commitment to community and the workforce were cited as Creswell and Thompson presented the Beautification Award to John Kutz, senior manager of VW’s South East Distribution Center.
“The impact that their facility has on people passing by leaves a very positive impression for our community at large,” Creswell said.
“This is in recognition of their commitment to excellence.”
Thompson also announced a special recognition this year for David Webb.
Webb, a Harriman business owner and community leader, was honored for his tireless dedication and commitment as the outgoing Industrial Board chairman after seven years.
Webb has been a member of the Industrial Board since 1996.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thom Mason, the breakfast guest speaker, discussed how the lab wants to be used as a resource to businesses and industry in the state — and especially to Roane County, where more than 95 percent of the lab is located.
Mason said more than $450 million in products and services were spent by the lab last year. Around 40 percent of that was spent in the state, and much of it from area business and industry.
Mason discussed specific examples of how ORNL is working with East Tennessee businesses to help them grow and develop.
He encouraged industries in attendance to reach out to them for their help with any challenges they may have.
“ORNL is a research and technology facility,” said Mason.
“If we can help business and industry expand and ultimately grow jobs, then we have done our job.”
The Roane County Industrial Board is a partner in The Roane Alliance, Roane County’s economic development organization.
Other partners include the Roane County Chamber of Commerce and the Roane County Visitors Bureau.