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by Hugh Evans, VP, Corporate Development & Ventures

Yesterday I spent the day in Chattanooga, TN, at GigTank. Under the capable leadership of Mike Bradshaw, GigTank has created the very first 3D printing (3DP) accelerator in the US. Ten 3DP start-ups from across the country have spent the past two months here working with mentors, collaborating and problem-solving with each other, familiarizing themselves with leading print technology, such as 3DS' ProJet 3500, and improving their business plans. Yesterday was Demo Day, the coming out party for all ten.  It was their chance to impress the audience… and to ask investors for money.

It was a great performance, and Chattanooga’s Southern hospitality was in full bloom.  One start-up announced that they were sufficiently impressed by their new surroundings that they will be pulling up stakes from California and relocating to Chattanooga full-time.

This choice highlights the role of geography within our current digital manufacturing revolution.  As of now, there are few geographical incumbents. The digital manufacturing space is still a vastly open plain with generous opportunities for new business creation and employment that will deliver inter-generational benefits to our new age pioneers. Those places that promptly and effectively organize and mobilize towards relocalized manufacturing will create lasting benefits to their citizens. At the frontier of this transition, it is exciting to see mid-sized, industrial cities have equal play to the traditional tech-hubs on the coasts. Building the critical mass that we call an ecosystem is hard to incept, but once begun, it is also hard to extinguish. Chattanooga has raised the table stakes for localities that want to grab a share of this big prize. Which other communities will rise to the challenge?

photo courtesy of GigTank