Tennessee Technology Development Corporation, its finances in the hands of state officials, is flying into action on a wing and a prayer.
Eric Cromwell, president and CEO of the nonprofit economic development agency, told his board yesterday that its operating expenses top $30,000 per month, and that the company has not yet received $5 million in grants promised by the state department of economic and community development.
Undaunted, TTDC yesterday approved spending $300,000 to buy equipment for tenants of the Cumberland Emerging Technologies incubator in Nashville, of which TTDC is a part-owner.
The TTDC board of directors approved the purchase, but with the understanding that a third party may later be enlisted to pay for the equipment or that CET, itself, may repay TTDC. Those assurances – as well as an additional 5,000 shares of CET going to TTDC – were key to the deal.
ECD Commissioner Matt Kisber provided some comfort yesterday when he told the TTDC board he is confident the first of two $2.5 million payments will be made within two weeks.
Today, Cromwell told NashvillePost.com that the board chose to proceed with the equipment outlay because it's confident the state money will arrive, and because the relationship with CET "is an existing partnership that can have a significant [economic development] impact over time."
Responding to questions about the relationship, Cromwell explained that he is an unpaid advisor to the CET board and that two TTDC board members are on the CET board, representing TTDC and Vanderbilt University, respectively. CET is owned by Cumberland Pharmaceuticals, TTDC and Vanderbilt.
CET CEO A. J. Kazimi, who is also CEO of Cumberland Pharmaceuticals, was traveling and not immediately available to respond to questions.
Banking on the promised state funding, TTDC has already made commitments on several fronts. Cromwell has committed funds to retain strategist Dan Schmisseur of Lawrence, Kan., to help flesh out TTDC's "Innovation Tennessee" jobs and economic-development strategy. He is to deliver his report prior to the April 3 meeting of the TTDC board.
Also, Cromwell told the board yesterday that he and a board subcommittee will soon entertain marketing and public-relations proposals from three local firms: McNeely Pigott & Fox; Seigenthaler Public Relations; and Katcher, Vaughn & Bailey. Cromwell estimated such services might cost $4,000 to $7,000 per month for at least six months.
Since last fall, TTDC has been operating on a small fund of cash on hand and an interim state grant. Cromwell has hired research and administrative staff and has taken offices at 230 Fourth Ave. N. The TTDC board is listed here.