BY: JESSICA KARSTEN
With its flourishing economy and business- friendly values, the Knoxville-Oak Ridge Innovation Valley is a prime location for business with more than 40 companies choosing to relocate or expand in the region last year.
Its unmatched quality of life, excellent transportation and technology infrastructure, and culture of innovation continues to attract businesses in a variety of unique industries, contributing to the thriving, diverse business ecosystem.
“The Innovation Valley region, with its numerous assets, truly offers an excellent location for many different types of businesses,” said Doug Lawyer, vice president of economic development for the Knoxville Chamber. “We’ve seen corporate headquarters, advanced manufacturing, distribution, and large office projects all thrive in our region. Each business sector has its own unique needs, and our quality of life, low cost of doing business, talent development, and infrastructure are all critical to success.”
Innovation Valley is one of the nation’s premier science and technology centers, thanks to world- class research institutions like Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the University of Tennessee, Y-12 National Security Complex, and the Electric Power Research Institute.
Research and development performed in facilities like ORNL’s Carbon Fiber Technology Facility, ORNL’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, and the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) have made East Tennessee a hub for the emerging composites and additive manufacturing industries, attracting businesses from all over to utilize this innovative technology.
Advanced composites manufacturing involves the use of carbon or glass fibers to create work- able materials that are as strong as many metals but with a much lighter weight, commonly used to manufacture products through 3D printing.
Arizona-based Local Motors, a company revolutionizing automotive manufacturing with the first road-ready, 3D-printed vehicles, recently opened its first micro-factory in Knoxville. This location printed the first self-driving shuttle called Olli, which will make its debut in downtown Knoxville in 2018.
With a focus on direct digital manufacturing, Local Motors is dedicated to integrating the latest technology into its vehicles, and its sustainability efforts ensure all parts, molds, and tools can be recycled or reclaimed.
Similarly, Volunteer Aerospace, Inc., located in Hardin Valley, is utilizing state-of-the-art machines for 3D printing helicopter engine and rocket parts from powdered aluminum. The company also pro- vides expert consulting and training to help others design effectively for additive manufacturing.
Many other companies making strides in the advanced materials sector like Magnum Venus Products, Cirrus Aircraft, and LeMond Composites have also established locations in Innovation Valley to capitalize on the unique technological assets of the region.
CREATIVE MEDIA CENTER
While Knoxville might not be the first place one thinks of as a video production hub, the city has been ranked the third largest market in the nation behind New York City and Los Angeles.
Prominent television companies like Scripps Net- works Interactive, Jewelry Television, and RIVR Media choose to call Knoxville home because of the area’s technological assets, central location, and low cost of living.
Scripps Networks Interactive – parent company of popular lifestyle brands HGTV, DIY Network, Food Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel, and Great American Country – engages more than 190 million consumers each month. At a Knoxville Chamber Premier Partner event, CEO and Founder Ken Lowe expressed that Knoxville was the perfect place for the company’s global headquarters.
“My dream was to tap into this huge home-buying and renovating trend in the United States by launch- ing a very small niche network based on home de- sign, landscaping, and decorating,” he said. “When we were looking for somewhere to create HGTV, I wanted to find a location where employees could actually live the brand. They could own a home. They could have a garden.”
Jewelry Television is one of the leading retailers of jewelry and gemstones in the United States. From its headquarters in East Tennessee, it broadcasts live programming 24 hours a day, seven days a week to 86 million households across the nation.
However, the region’s creative arena extends beyond television, as one local entrepreneur took advantage of local resources to pioneer one of the largest online entertainment brands.
Fadi Saleh, University of Tennessee graduate and founder of SpareTime Network, is the creator of popular YouTube Channel “baraksdubs,” the largest to ever emerge from Knoxville. With nearly two million subscribers and 300 million video views, Saleh made his mark by producing videos that cut and reconfigure sections of President Barack Obama’s public speeches into popular songs.
Now, the budding entertainment guru is building his business in Innovation Valley, hir- ing local technical employees, editors, interns, and a chief operating officer.
BITES & BREWS
From farm-to-table restaurants to quirky craft breweries, Knoxville’s culinary and brewing industries are on the rise in a substantial way.
The unique culinary scene is driven by renowned chefs making strides in the “foodie” culture, including Chef Matt Gallaher at Knox Mason and Emilia; Chef Jon Gatlin of the Oliver Royale; Chef Jesse Newmister at Kaizen; James Beard nominee Chef Tim Love with Lonesome Dove Western Bistro; and Chef Joseph Lenn at J.C. Holdway, a James Beard Award Winner for Best Chef in the South- east.
Similarly, the craft brewery scene is overflowing with a range of beer from traditional ales to infused brews at locations along Knoxville’s Ale Trail: Alliance Brew- ing Company, Balter Beerworks, Blackberry Farm Brewery, Blackhorse Pub & Brewery, Bluetick Brewery, Cold Fusion Brewing Company, Crafty Bastard Brewery, Downtown Grill and Brewery, Fanatic Brewing Company, Gypsy Cir- cus Cider Company, Hexagon, Last Days of Autumn Brewing, Saw Works Brew- ing Company, Schulz Brau Brewing Company, and Smoky Mountain Brewery.
On a larger scale, food and beverage production has a long-standing presence in Innovation Valley with companies like Bush Brothers and Co., Keurig Green Mountain, and Flowers Baking Co. housing operations in the region. Flowers, which bakes bread for brands like Nature’s Own, Merita, and Wonder, is baking 180,000 loaves of bread daily at its Knoxville bakery.
“No matter the size, stage of maturity, or industry sector, any business can thrive in Innovation Valley,” said Rhonda Rice Clayton, executive vice president for the Knoxville Chamber. “With so many companies choosing to locate or expand in this region, the business landscape is evolving every day in exciting ways.”