Knox named one of US’s top maker cities

Although Knoxville has been a hot spot for manufacturing since the early 20th century, Scruffy City only began fully embracing its “Maker City” nickname within the past couple years.

That nickname has since garnered some attention and recently was recognized on a national scale.

Popular Mechanics listed Knoxville as one of the 25 best maker cities in the United States, alongside nearby neighbors Nashville and Asheville, North Carolina.

“We have all been really excited (about the article),” said Maranda Vandergriff, creative director of the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center. “It speaks to what is going on here in Knoxville that we are starting to get attention on a national level.”

The article focused on local government’s support of makers and highlighted Jacks of Knoxville, the city’s newest maker marketplace.

An official designation

The term “maker” started in the tech space but has since expanded to include basically any handmade good or creative service, Vandergriff previously told the News Sentinel.

That includes fashion designers, people who work in media and manufacturers who work with metal or wood.

Knoxville’s “Maker City” status coincides with the maker movement that has been steadily growing throughout the country in recent years. The movement is so prominent that Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade items, decided in 2016 to designate standout creative communities as official “Maker Cities.”

Knoxville was the first to be recognized by Etsy, and only a handful of other cities share the same designation. Memphis was chosen the same year but was not included on Popular Mechanics’ list.

Local makers ‘excited to be mentioned’

The Popular Mechanics article by Tim Newcomb did not clarify whether the list was ranking the cities or simply listing the top 25 in random order.

Knoxville closed out the list with a photo of the skyline illustrated by Jacks Avenue, a local art business that inspired the owners to open Jacks of Knoxville on Friday.

“We were surprised, but we were excited to be mentioned for sure,” owner Logan Higgins said. “The (maker movement) momentum is growing with articles like that. ... Knoxville is a place where you can do your own thing and make it — and I mean make it successfully but also make your own thing.”

The article briefly mentioned local officials supporting the maker movement and “the idea of local crafters and artisans filling the city.”

“From official government support for makers to gather together to actual spaces where creative minds can work together, Knoxville hopes to grow in reputation as a true Maker City,” Newcomb wrote.

Makers and tourism in Knoxville

Vandergriff said receiving attention on a national scale helps Knoxville in two major ways.

“The whole reason for branding ourselves as Maker City is twofold,” she said. “There is a local part of that and a tourism part of that.”

The local aspect allows makers to celebrate each other under the shared name while encouraging local shoppers to consider purchasing items made in Knoxville, Vandergriff said.

“On a national and regional scale, it’s really exciting to have that name associated with Knoxville,” she said. “It brings people to Knoxville to shop but also brings makers around the country because they know there is already a support system here.”

Source: Knoxville News Sentinel, by Ryan Wilusz

The East Tennessee Economic Development Agency markets and recruits business for the 15 counties in the greater Knoxville-Oak Ridge region of East Tennessee. Visit


Published February 8, 2019