KINGSPORT — Kingsport has found a new tenant for its old city hall — and in doing so plans to take entrepreneurship to the next level.
The tenant is Create Appalachia, a Johnson City-based company that provides access to a state of the art digital media center. In that members can access specialized tools and equipment, Create Appalachia operates in a similar way to the Inventor Center.
Create Appalachia gives its members access not to metal-working tools or wood plastic, but to digital media centers. In the center will be $430,000 worth of equipment, including photography and videography studios, large format printers, a large gallery, event space and a technology-enabled conference room. Entrepreneurs and small businesses can rent technology-enabled coworking spaces and private offices.
” The goal is to assist people with computers and software that are difficult for individuals to afford,” John Rose, Kingsport’s economic development director. “The beauty of it is Create Appalachia helps with marketing from product design and allows a person to come in with an idea, help them design a product in a 3-D environment to see if it would truly work.”
This digital computer lab and training room are fully equipped and will be focused on skills that are sought by regional manufacturers and employers — and are aligned with the Kingsport City Schools system and higher education partners.
“When you think about designing a product or visualizing an idea, it starts with digital design.” said Cher Cornett, President of Create Appalachia and a professor at ETSU’s department of digital media, “At the Center for Digital Innovation, we are adding equipment, technology and training opportunities for the community to learn the new digital tools of manufacturing, creativity and the arts.”
MOVING INTO CITY HALL
Create Appalachia plans to use approximately 9,000 square feet of the old city hall building (255 E. Center St.), both floors of the east wing and call the new space the Center for Digital Innovation. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the lease for one year with an option to renew for two more years.
The lease is $1 per month. The matter must be approved by Sullivan County Commission as Sullivan County is a coowner of the building.
The lease is for $1 per month and must be approved by the Sullivan County Commission. Sullivan County is a co-owner of the building.
“Kingsport is a city built on innovation and a workforce that supports the region’s manufacturing industry.” said Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull, “Expanding Innovation Village to include a digital technology center is key to providing opportunities for students and the public to learn new skills, and is a welcomed addition to our city’s culture of leadership in advanced manufacturing.”
City Manager Chris McCartt said the goal is to incubate Create Appalachia in the old city hall and then determine where they can relocate in downtown in two to three years. McCartt stated that there are many types of economic development. There’s traditional…industrial, but also retail, medical and entrepreneurial. This could lead to new businesses opening in our city, as well as the sale of items in existing stores. “To be able to provide resources for individuals as Create Appalachia has, this potentially could lead to businesses opening within our city and offer items for sale in our existing stores.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Create Appalachia is tailored to support the launch and continued success of artists and makers working with digital technologies, particularly in the areas of animation, game design, 3D visualization, visual effects for cinema and video, virtual and augmented reality, web and interactive design, e-commerce and social media marketing.
Kingsport leaders envision the digital media center becoming the second of three phases toward the ultimate creation of an Innovation Village in downtown.
The history of the Innovation Village began in 2017,. It was a multi-phase effort to support the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem and remote workers. The Inventor Center, the first phase of Innovation Village, was opened in 2018 with a $540,000 grant from the city to create the region’s premier maker-space and prototyping center.
Designed to be a community center for the region and include a combination of tools and equipment for both inventors and those looking to gain new skills, the Inventor Center continues growing with now more than 80 monthly members of makers, hobbyists and entrepreneurs.
Heath Guinn (President of Sync Space Entrepreneur Center) outlined the entire ecosystem for a product. The first phase involves the creation of a product at the digital media center. Next, the Inventor Center creates a prototype. Finally, the Warehouse-sized incubator is used for storage, assembly and shipping.
Incubator space — the third phase of the Innovation Village — is currently in the planning process.
” We want to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem around advanced manufacturing in Kingsport,” Guinn stated. “And to do that you need a design center, a prototyping center and you need an incubator.”
For more information visit www.innovationvillagekpt.com.
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