Tour de France great brings jobs, new technology to Innovation Valley

LeMond Composites readies Roane County facility

At a time when our country is so highly concentrated on job growth and energy options, a progressive company is breaking new ground in a traditional stronghold of intellectual and innovative thought nestled in the shadows of the Great Smoky Mountains.

In January of this year, LeMond Composites began investing $125 million in their new facility with plans to create 242 new jobs in the carbon fiber industry, and it has secured a licensing agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) operated UT-Battelle. Founded in 2016 by three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, the company focuses on the manufacture of high-volume, low-cost carbon fiber composites and will be the first to offer this low-cost carbon to the transportation and renewable energy industries, as well as composite bicycles.

Gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd says, “This decision to invest in Tennessee underscores the incredible resources ORNL has to offer companies looking to tap into one of the world’s top research centers, and one that is constantly on the cutting edge of new scientific and technological breakthroughs. On behalf of Team Tennessee, I’d like to thank LeMond Composites for its investment and commitment to create nearly 250 new jobs in Roane County.”

Carbon fiber has great industrial advantage over traditional materials used primarily in industry today. It’s light, stiff and strong, and it typically weighs less than one-fourth as much as an equivalent steel part. It can be used to improve efficiency, save energy and build or repair vehicles and planes, wind turbines and shipping containers, bridges and tunnels and commercial and residential structures. In light of recent political events, these attributes will hopefully make using this material very attractive to businesses and transportation industries and open doors for new economic growth in Innovation Valley aka Knoxville and Oak Ridge.

Previously, carbon fiber was too expensive for use in infrastructure and manufacturing. However, a new process pioneered by LeMond and his team allows for the cheaper production of carbon fiber and will allow them to mass produce the first carbon fiber bicycle in the United States.

In an interview with Oak Ridge Today, LeMond said, “As a result of the affordability of this carbon fiber, we believe that worldwide mass adoption will be inevitable. We are positioning ourselves to grow and meet this demand by locating our company in Tennessee, a state that through Gov. Haslam and Commissioner Boyd’s forward-thinking programs like Tennessee Promise, will provide a steady stream of quality employees for our company. Our close proximity to ORNL adds a value beyond measure and we are looking forward to future collaborations with them. Additionally, with the input of the University of Tennessee, the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) and the emerging composites corridor, I believe the Knoxville area will become the world hub for carbon fiber in the future. On a personal note, the bike riding in this area is incredible.”

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