The Daily Times
Sunday, May 4, 2014
By: Bry Robert Norris
Merit Construction workers prepare the ProNova Solutions site
Merit Construction workers prepare the site where the company is building the ProNova Solutions facility at Pellissippi Place off Old Knoxville Highway.
Construction has started on ProNova Solutions’ $52 million corporate headquarters and research and commercialization laboratory at Pellissippi Place.
Heavy earth-moving equipment is doing the groundwork for the anchor tenant at the research and development park that serves as a transformative model of intergovernmental cooperation. Alcoa, Maryville, Blount County and Knox County are partnering in this development that could also prove transformative in cancer treatment.
Proton therapy benefits include decrease in tissue damage, in debilitating side effects and in secondary cancers by eliminating unnecessary radiation exposure, proponents explain. It can allow for a combination of radiation, chemotherapy and biologic treatments and the potential for patient cost savings by decreasing complications and secondary cancers.
While the for-profit technology solution is in the works in Blount County, the not-for-profit treatment center is already up and running in Knoxville, where medical care for patients is already taking place. The Provision Center for Proton Therapy held its official grand opening at Dowell Springs last week.
That project was a Merit Construction job. Now Merit is focused on Pellissippi Place. Phase one work the ProNova project is slated for completion in early 2015. That will include a two-story, 21,000-square-foot office space, as well as a 51-foot-high assembly and research and development space with a 32,600-square-foot mezzanine area. It is projected that as the company expands, ProNova will employ 500 people.
Alcoa Mayor Don Mull was in Knoxville for the Provision grand opening. He said he wanted to show solidarity with the medical center side of the cancer-fighting venture that is the vision of founder Terry Douglas.
“Since they’re actually putting their corporate headquarters in our R&D park, I think it’s very important that we be here and show support, because I certainly think this is going to be good for Maryville/Alcoa/Blount County once we get that facility (ProNova) up and running and start making these things and sent all over the country. I think it’s great,” Mull said.
It is at the Pellissippi Place location that ProNova will develop super-conducting magnet technology, permanent-magnet technology, super-conducting cyclotron technology, precision robotics, mechanisms for specialized designs, imaging, X-ray imaging, PET imaging and potentially MR imaging.
‘A big day’
Tom Welch, chief financial officer for ProNova Solutions, said the grand opening of Provision along with the start of construction for ProNova is a landmark for the joint projects.
“The ProNova factory will house the ProNova operations and development team. We’ll build the first building to be done this year, and then we have room to expand for many years. It is a big day,” Welch said.
Bill Hammon, Alcoa assistant city manager, praised the initial construction at the Pellissippi Place site.
“ProNova’s been a really good first tenant for us out there. They’ve been sensitive to all the work that’s gone in,” Hammon said. “The road that they had to build for construction into the site keeps their traffic off the main roads. They’re doing an excellent job of keeping on schedule, so we’re real excited about having them there.”
In addition to the initial phase of the ProNova Solutions project, four additional phases will include more research and development and office space. At the completion of the entire project the facility will have about 200,000 square feet of research and development space and about 150,000 square feet of office space.
“We are pleased to be working with Terry Douglass and his team again,” Bruce Bosse, president of Merit Construction Inc., said in a statement. “Not only is this a significant project for Merit Construction, Blount County and the entire East Tennessee area, but the work done by ProNova Solutions is sure to impact the quality of life for individuals fighting cancer around the globe. Being even a small part of that impactful work is humbling and an honor for the entire Merit team.”