Spirit of Innovation: Where are they now?

Amanda Ellis

During last month’s Startup Week Chattanooga, visiting speakers from VaynerMedia’s Gary Vaynerchuk  to Harvard Business School’s Manjari Raman lauded Chattanooga as a great place to grow ideas, take risks and launch a business.

Companies like 3D Ops have done just that. Keith Campbell founded the company to 3D print patient specific replicas of organs and body parts. Three years after his initial idea, he’s signing a deal with Erlanger Hospital to print these models onsite.

To recognize groundbreaking ideas and companies like these in our community, your Chamber hosts the Spirit of Innovation Awards each year. As we gear up for our 2015 Awards celebrating recent local ingenuity, let’s take a look back at our past recipients and some of their accomplishments since the big win.

Tandus Centiva (formerly Collins & Aikman) – 2001 – A floor covering recycling system ensuring 100 percent of previously used materials divert from landfills into new products.

Where are they now?

Since 1994, Tandus Centiva has diverted more than 284 million pounds of carpet and waste from the landfill back into the manufacturing stream. In 2014, they became the first American carpet manufacturer to achieve Cradle to Cradle Certified™ Silver v3.0 for their ethos® Modular soft surface products. As a soft surface backing option, 100 percent recyclable ethos is made from recycled non-chlorinated polymer. The Cradle to Cradle® design principles provide for continual improvement and innovation around the economic, environmental and social issues of design and product use.  

U.S. Xpress – 2002 – Integrating technology into its trucking fleet, including satellite-based email, ecommerce tracking and anti-collision radar technology.

American Mammographics – 2003 – A device increasing breast cancer detection rates by enhancing the accuracy of mammogram imaging.

Alexian Brothers – 2003 – An innovative program to help seniors stay in their own homes.

AquaShield Inc. – 2004 – AquaSwirl, a system to effectively treat stormwater.

Where are they now?

AquaShield Inc. continually expands, growing its product lines and offering stormwater solutions that solve problems for engineers, developers and city planners. AquaShield now has 24 independent representatives for its line of integrated stormwater products, with product installations in more than 40 states and Brazil, Canada, the Middle East and Europe.

The Aqua-Swirl has been installed in high-profile projects such as the New Jersey Route 35 rebuild following Super Storm Sandy, the stunning Four Seasons Hotel in Bahrain, the I-35 Expressway Bridge in Dallas  and at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga. The company’s newest water quality treatment device, the Bio-Filter, was installed for the first time on Rossville Boulevard in Chattanooga this year. AquaShield continues to expand its products to create a better environment giving every country and community access to higher quality, usable water.

Specialized Enterprises – 2005 – A device that automatically changes vehicle fluids such as oil.

Shared Health – 2006 – A secure, web-based database of medical records for authorized medical practitioners.

eSpin – 2007 – The first process to mass produce nanofibers − fibers 1,000 times thinner than a human hair.  Nanofibers can enhance automotive fuel filters, make hydrogen fuel cells more efficient and much more.

Where are they now?

eSpin continued its nanofiber research and expanded nanofiber manufacturing capabilities, successfully commercializing nanofiber technology for air filter application with the launch of exceed™ with nanofibers air filters.  Automotive manufacturing plants in the Southeast and military sustainment depots use these high performance, energy efficient filters. Find out more at 

Since receiving the Sprit of Innovation award in 2007, eSpin has won the prestigious Technology Innovation Award from the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) to develop and commercially produce carbon nanofiber, a United States Military award for developing nanofiber technology to produce Tissue Engineered Medical Products, and a Homeland Security award for development of explosive sensor technology.  Most recently, eSpin won a contract to manufacture filtration products for U.S. Missile Defense. 

TR Automation – 2008 – Innovations enhancing the productivity of robotic work cells for manufacturing.

DJO Chattanooga – 2009 – An exercise platform allowing patients to begin physical therapy before they can stand.

Astec, Inc. – 2010 – A warm‐mix asphalt cement providing a 14 percent reduction of fuel usage, emissions and production costs.

Global Green Lighting – 2011 – A smart grid optimized public lighting system controlled by city operators and public safety officials via a web-based interface.

Sherman+Reilly, Inc. – 2012 – Designing and manufacturing fully-enclosed power line stringing which dramatically improves safety for installers.

Where are they now?

Over the past 3 years, Sherman+Reilly, Inc., a Textron company, upgraded these U-Series underground pullers to include an enclosed Safe-Zone™ Cab with improved visibility and a more efficient heating and air conditioning system.  Upgraded hydraulics cooling capabilities now allow for continuous operations in extreme heat environments in an effort to better serve Southwestern power utilities. Sherman+Reilly also added a Tier 4 Final engine reducing the amount of emissions.  Software updates have improved the operator experience and reduce costly downtime for power utilities. 

Card-Monroe Corp. – 2013 – ColorPoint™, a carpet manufacturing method for producing vivid, high-definition multicolored carpet styles faster and at a lower cost.

Bellhops – 2014 – An on-demand platform providing a convenient solution for small-scale local moves through a nationwide workforce of college students who choose their own jobs from customers’ online moving reservations.

Where are they now?

Shortly after last year's award ceremony, Bellhops wrapped its Series A fundraising campaign, securing more than $6 million from investors around the country. Since then, Bellhops has experienced 5X business growth, relocated its offices to Warehouse Row and increased its headquarters roster to more than 100 employees.

2015 – Find out Nov. 18. at our Spirit of Innovation Awards Luncheon.

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