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Entrepreneur Jay Rogers may have selected Knoxville as the home of his innovative automotive company, but he has visions of global domination.
The maker of the world’s first 3D-printed car, Local Motors is much more than an additive manufacturing operation. It is a cutting-edge designer that seeks to transform the way people view transportation and everyday living.
In an interview, company founder and CEO Rogers expounded on his vision for Local Motors and the importance that a Knoxville location plays in his firm’s growth.
Why did you select Knoxville as the location for Local Motors?
ROGERS: We selected Knoxville to be the home of our next micro-factory because this community offers three main ingredients. The first is a great population that can support both sides of what we do — our customers and our co-creators — people who have a great interest in what we do. It is a willing population, with the University of Tennessee and other schools, and that creates a very robust ecosystem for supporting a Local Motors micro-factory.
Secondly, we look for a willing technology relationship that can be helpful for us in these early locations. We have that with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the University of Tennessee and others. And we will announce another partner soon.
Thirdly, we found willing investment partners who can help us do the heavy lifting to get going. They wanted to support us. We found a willing nexus of stakeholders, including the chamber, here in Knoxville. A great support infrastructure is here.
How would you describe the business climate in East Tennessee?
ROGERS: East Tennessee has a history, a now and a future. It was traditionally poor. It had a real surge in identity around the creation of the national lab. It has attracted Regal Cinemas, Clayton Homes, TVA, Alcoa and Pilot Flying J. There is also a good ecosystem of small businesses. There is a strong culture of tourism, and Market Square is good. There is a can-do attitude. Plus, East Tennessee is a logistics hub.