Innovators of the Scenic City

5 Local Companies Paving the Way for the Future

It’s no secret that innovation is vital in the workplace. In fact, embracing innovation is often what separates the most successful companies from the pack. A groundbreaking idea, if executed well, has the potential to improve the way people live and drive business forward – paving the way for the future.

The following five companies have taken groundbreaking ideas of their own and transformed them into first-of-their-kind programs and services. Read about them here.

mobile lung innovator rob headrickMobile Lung CT Coach

CHI Memorial

When CHI Memorial’s Breathe. Easy. mobile lung CT coach was introduced in early 2018, it was the first of its kind in the Chattanooga region and the only fully independent unit in the nation. The mobile coach takes this important screening into communities, which increases access to healthcare and helps reduce common barriers such as travel and time.

“Lung cancer is curable when caught early, but it’s often not discovered until the advanced stages when symptoms appear. We saw an opportunity to develop a mobile coach that would take lung CT imaging into communities, especially rural counties, making it easier and more convenient for people to access this important screening tool.

Low-dose lung screening is much more than just finding lung cancer early. It allows doctors to see inside the entire chest, similar to looking under the hood of a car. In addition to the lungs, the image also shows the heart and coronary arteries, allowing doctors to assess the risk of cardiovascular disease. Our goal is to continue growing the lung screening program so that we can find potential health risks in the earliest stages when they are more treatable, thereby improving the health of our community.”

Rob Headrick, MD, MBA

Thoracic Surgeon, CHI Memorial Chest and Lung Cancer Center

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dawn and elizabeth of advanced molecular diagnosticsAdvanced Molecular Diagnostics

Athena Esoterix

Dr. Elizabeth Forrester and Dr. Dawn Richards established the Baylor Esoteric and Molecular Lab (BEML) during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to address urgent regional laboratory needs. Restructured as Athena Esoterix in 2021, the lab specializes in advanced molecular detection of infectious diseases and is the first of its kind in the area.

“The pandemic highlighted our region’s lack of access to advanced molecular diagnostics. Barriers to laboratory services limit patients’ ability to receive the care they need in a timely manner. We work closely with local hospitals and clinicians to remove these barriers and expand access to state-of-the-art precision medicine, preventive, and diagnostic test services. We’re committed to providing local clinicians with the most advanced molecular diagnostics available in the world.

Our licensure and accreditation allow us to perform tests on the cutting-edge of science. Today, this includes next-generation sequencing and bioinformatic analysis of data. This technology allows us to analyze a single respiratory sample for over 280 pathogens or take a solid tumor of any origin and detect somatic mutations in over 500 genes. There are new discoveries every day in science, so to stay on the cutting edge, we’re always moving forward.”

Drs. Elizabeth Forrester & Dawn Richards

Founders, Athena Esoterix

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accessible gig speed katie espesethAccessible Gig-Speed Internet


While EPB has been in operation for over 80 years, the company is perhaps best known for bringing the world’s fastest internet to Chattanooga. In 2010, EPB began offering every home and business in its service area access to gigabit-speed internet (1,000 Mbps), and five years later, the company launched the world’s first community-wide 10 gigabit internet service.

“It all started with a plan to establish America’s most advanced and highly automated smart grid electric system, which utilizes thousands of smart switches and other devices installed across the service area to automatically re-route power around damaged power lines. In order for Chattanooga’s Smart Grid to have lightning-fast response times, we needed a way for these devices to communicate at nearly the speed of light – that was the starting point for Chattanooga’s community-wide fiber optic network, but then we ‘thought bigger.’ As a result, Chattanooga became the first city in America to make Gig-speed internet accessible to everyone. Five years later, we followed up by becoming the first to make 10 Gig internet speeds accessible to all.

Today, EPB is working on a multi-year process to upgrade Chattanooga’s fiber optic network to the latest technology, so we can keep our community on the leading edge. In support of our mission to enhance quality of life for our community, our goal is to future-proof our customers and ensure that they always have world-class energy and connectivity services both at home and work and to keep our local economy growing.”

Katie Espeseth

Vice President of New Products, EPB

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Denise Rice President & CEO, Peak Performance Inc.The Smart Factory Institute

Peak Performance Inc.

The Smart Factory Institute, operated by Peak Performance Inc., helps area manufacturers adopt the newest Industry 4.0 technologies to improve productivity and upskill their workforce to remain competitive. The institute is the nation’s first Deutsche Messe Technology Academy, a joint venture between Deutsche Messe and the Volkswagen Group Academy.

“As a former plant manager in the manufacturing industry, I knew that the current technological revolution was rapidly changing the way America manufactured products. At the core of any technical change is people, and how people adapt is crucial. We already have a strained workforce, and the adoption of technology is adding the need for employees to have more skills and a greater span of responsibility. We are passionate about helping manufacturers through this process.
As a company, we innovate every day by keeping up with the changing needs of the industry. We have recently implemented an online training portal that has a mobile app so that employers can easily provide training to their employees without disrupting shift schedules or requiring employees to attend large in-person instructor-led training sessions. Employees can complete their required training on an iPad or a mobile phone. This gives employers and employees ultimate flexibility.”

Denise Rice

President & CEO, Peak Performance Inc.

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 R. Platt Boyd CEO & Founder, Branch Technology3D Printing

Branch Technology

Branch Technology utilizes 3D printing on a large scale to create commercial building cladding where each panel is bespoke. This innovative approach to manufacturing allows for mass customization, providing architects, designers, and developers unrivaled design freedom within normal construction budgets.

“After 15 years as an architect, I was frustrated with normal methods of construction that are prohibitive to true creative freedom. 3D printing offers incredible design freedom as a technology, but it wasn’t available at construction scale. Our innovative approach was to bring 3D printing capabilities to the commercial facade market. By doing so, Branch is able to bridge the chasm between digital design capability and the physical built environment, offering unparalleled design freedom.
Of Branch’s six core values, four of them are centered around innovation. In bringing a completely new product to the construction marketplace, innovation is a part of everything we do and almost every conversation we have with clients. Our products serve as the technological platform that allows architects, contractors, and developers to produce truly innovative designs for the built environment.”

R. Platt Boyd

CEO & Founder, Branch Technology

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