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Published December 2, 2011

PYA Launching Innovation, Technology & Entrepreneurial Initiative

Knoxville-based Pershing Yoakley & Associates (PYA) is launching a new initiative to leverage its core and affiliated businesses in ways that accelerate innovation, technology and entrepreneurial development in this region.

Leading the new initiative is Tom Ballard, a former UT Vice President and current Director of Partnerships for Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He will retire from ORNL at the end of the year and join PYA in January as Director of Innovation & Entrepreneurial Initiatives.

From its founding as a three-person accounting and consulting firm in 1983, PYA has grown to a diversified professional services company with 130 employees, and additional offices in Atlanta, Austin and Tampa Bay.

We are recognized as a national leader in providing services to the healthcare industry which is arguably one of the most innovative and technology-intensive industry sectors in the country, President Ed Pershing said. We believe this is an opportune time to take what we have learned over the past 28 years and apply that knowledge to a broader range of business sectors.

Pershing cited a number of reasons to launch the new initiative now, including the emphasis that Innovation Valley, Inc. is placing on technology and entrepreneurship, the presence of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and UT as generators of new technologies and innovation, and the emphasis that Governor Bill Haslam is placing on creating new companies in the technology sector.

PYA benefited in its early years from individuals who advised us and gave us opportunities to grow our business from three people to what it is today, Pershing said. While our new initiative will help us continue to grow, it is also an opportunity for us to invest in our community to help grow the high-value jobs that our region needs.

One example that Pershing cited would be support for the recently submitted UT-led proposal for a State of Tennessee jobs accelerator. He said that he wanted PYA to be active in the voluntary mentoring initiative that will be started under the program.

PYA also intends to become more engaged with the local economic development community and play a leadership role in helping communicate and celebrate the progress achieved by entrepreneurs and business leaders through innovation.

We believe we have an innovative way to make this happen which we will launch in early 2012, Pershing said.

PYA s business lines have grown rapidly and successfully over the years. PYA is recognized by Modern Healthcare magazine as the 12th largest, privately-held healthcare management consulting firm in the country. PYA s new initiative will identify opportunities to link expertise from its business units and affiliates to help an entrepreneurial and innovation-focused company grow. PYA service lines include business and management consulting; accounting and auditing; business and individual tax services; financial planning and management; real estate development and advisory services; and marketing and communications.

We have a rich mix of service lines that can benefit startup companies as well as established firms that have aggressive plans to grow through technology and innovation, Pershing said.

He noted that he had wanted to pursue this initiative for at least five years, but could not find the right person to lead it.

Over the last six months, it became obvious that Tom Ballard not only shared my passion for the opportunity, but had demonstrated in his leadership positions at UT and ORNL that he had the skills needed to make it successful, Pershing said.

He cited Ballard s current role leading ORNL s technology transfer and economic development activities, his previous work at UT overseeing a 150-person industrial and government consulting organization, his service on key local and statewide technology development boards, and his network of connections throughout Tennessee and the south.

The initiative will not be limited to entrepreneurial companies, but will also seek opportunities to help existing companies that want to be innovative in realizing their goals. In addition to pro bono work like mentoring, PYA will also consider arrangements where equity is shared in lieu of payments for services.

At the end of the day, we want to see this region truly capitalize on the rich assets that make us stand apart from other communities, Pershing said. ORNL is the Department of Energy s largest science and energy lab, and UT s new leadership is on a trajectory to become a Top 25 research university. Our lakes and mountains, low tax structure, climate, work ethic and quality of life make us attractive to many people from other places.

At PYA, we don t have all of the answers, but we know we have some key capabilities to help the region. We believe that engagement with local economic developers, entrepreneurs and innovative business owners will open opportunities for us to help them achieve their goals.

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