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September 19, 2016 | Tom Ballard

“Knoxville Maker City Summit” attracts hundreds of people


By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

When we asked key organizer Joy O’Shell what she thought about yesterday’s “Knoxville Maker City Summit,” the always effervescent Roane County native paused for a few seconds before invoking the immortal words of Harry Cary.

The long-time baseball announcer was fond of yelling two words – “Holy cow” – when something amazing happened in a Chicago Cubs baseball game, and those were the first two words that came out of the mouth of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center’s Director of Outreach.

“I’m blown away,” O’Shell said of the roughly 400 people who pre-registered for the event that was held in conjunction with “Innov865 Week,” Knoxville’s inaugural week-long celebration of entrepreneurs like those in the maker movement.

“We added 100 more seats in the last two weeks, and that was still not enough,” O’Shell said. “The community really came together . . . makers of all ages connecting, communicating and colliding.”

We concurred with her assessment of the crowd as we clearly saw individuals of all age groups, races, and gender including a few mothers with infants. Most were dressed casually, but there were a few in ties. Regardless of age or dress, everyone was actively engaged in the idea sharing, clearly underscoring how much of an interest exists around the maker space.

Yesterday’s event was a commitment made by O’Shell and two other participants after attending Etsy’s national summit earlier this year. The other attendees were Nanci Soloman of Rala and David Harman of Native Maps. (EDITOR’S NOTE: You can read this post for more background.)

“The Knoxville team really came together,” Ilyssa Meyer, Etsy Public Policy Analyst, said.

Shortly after Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero issued a proclamation announcing Knoxville as an inaugural “Etsy Maker City,” those attending the Knoxville summit listened to presentations and shared ideas, first around the topic of defining a vibrant maker city.

A number of ideas surfaced including:

  • Creating a centralized hub of information for makers;
  • Starting something similar to “First Friday,” but focused on showcasing the work of makers;
  • Establishing a “Made in Knoxville” brand;
  • Offering continuing programming for makers and possibly having a “Maker Week”;
  • Launching something like Atlanta’s AmericasMart to connect sellers and buyers;
  • Updating zoning regulations for makers; and
  • Developing an app that would make it easier for makers to understand the numerous government regulations affecting them.

As part of the Knoxville event, Scripps Networks Interactive had a crew onsite at the Mill & Mine building to videotape the personal stories of local makers. Some of the stories could find their way onto Scripps various digital platforms.

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