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Kingsport Inventor Center boasts strong membership growth

Matthew Lane • Sep 17, 2019 at 12:38 PM

KINGSPORT — Less than six months after opening its doors in downtown Kingsport, membership at the Inventor Center is higher than expected and the growth is on track to make the facility self-supporting within the next two years.

City leaders heard this message and more from Inventor Center officials during a Board of Mayor and Aldermen worksession Monday afternoon. Tonight, the BMA is expected to vote on a measure to transfer the oversight of the Inventor Center from Engage Kingsport to Model City Makerspace – a newly formed non-profit organization comprised of local makers.

The Inventor Center — an idea that originally came out of the One Kingsport initiative four years ago — is a membership-based, community space for creators, makers, artists and entrepreneurs. It's a one-story building (at 118 Shelby St.) full of woodworking and metalworking machinery, 3-D printers, table saws and more.

WHEELS IN MOTION

“It's a public/​private partnership...where people come in and learn new skills and use equipment they couldn't afford normally,” said Heath Guinn, SyncSpace founder and president of the Model City Makerspace. “The great thing is (the Inventor Center) has something for everyone.”

The way it works is you become a member at one of three levels with each level granting you a specific amount of time per month to use the equipment. Other folks in the community can also attend or teach a class at the Inventor Center for free or for a small fee.

The facility also partners on a number of educational fronts, including Streamworks, DB Excel, ETSU and Northeast State Community College.

THE STARTING FOUNDATION

Through an agreement with Engage Kingsport, the City of Kingsport committed $519,000 for the construction, purchase of equipment, and initial operation of the Inventor Center. The amount of funding will be reduced each year as memberships and earned revenue increase.

The Inventor Center is projected to be self-sustaining by 2021.

According to Guinn, the Inventor Center has grown from having 30 members in May to 62 currently, with four joining just last week. This equates to nearly $1,500 a month in membership fees.

“We’re outperforming our initial estimates and it’s putting us on pace to meet our cash goals in the first year,” Guinn said. If the Inventor Center can hit $25,000 in earned revenue in its first year, Guinn said the facility could reach its $50,000 goal in two more years.

The Inventor Center is open 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, with additional hours on the weekend. For more information or to join, visit www.theinventorcenter.com.

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