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Makerspaces Can Uplift and Transform Communities

Large community makerspaces have the potential to transform communities into vibrant caldrons of innovation that increase prosperity.  Much of the tinkering that takes place under the roof of a makerspace grows into businesses that create useful things and gainfully employ others.  We should know by now that little help is coming from Washington DC or even our state government in Austin.  We must start taking initiative at the local and individual levels for our own transformation.

According to a report titled “How Cities Can Grow the Maker Movement”:  

The maker movement is centered in cities. And this new, hyperlocal manufacturing environment holds potential not only for individual hobbyists but also for community-wide advances in local entrepreneurship and job creation. Cities have a great opportunity to catalyze this movement as a way to improve our local economies, diversify workforce opportunities, and support the creative economy.

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Two years ago in 2015, I wrote a proposal for my community and posted links to this proposal on Loving Garland Green’s website.  The proposal is for the redevelopment of an under-used area within walking distance of Garland’s downtown square and included such things as a makerspace and urban gardens.  I decided to revisit that proposal in this post.  All the various pages and sections of this proposal may be viewed at the Document Directory.  I posted it in 2015 on Loving Garland Green’s website.  

The proposed area is shown in the map below.  It is bounded on the north by Austin Street, one the east by North 1st; on the south by Avenue A; and on the west by North 3rd Street.  It also includes some portions of N. 5th and Main Streets to the east of the railroad tracks.

 
Walkable Main Street—An area entirely walkable from downtown Garland

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A Plant-Based Economy Is Compatible with a Makerspace Community

Like makerspaces, a plant-based economy is connected, supportive and local.  A plant-based economy is also compatible with a Makerspace Community in that it can provide materials that can be used to create products in the makerspace.  In addition, a plant-based economy can also increase the market need for related tools such as those needed for urban gardens:  new types of space-saving vertical containers suited to the urban garden, etc.  The plants themselves can be the materials for the new products:  pillows stuffed with hops (the world’s first tranquilizer); jams and jellies created in the commercial kitchen of a makerspace; jars of dried spices; seeds contained in packets designed in the graphics area of a makerspace; blackberry hand lotion; etc.

In my proposal for Walkable Main, I suggested that blackberry bushes be planted throughout that area—even in pots with trellises along that part of Main Street.  Blackberries grow well in our area and they are used as the basic raw material for many products—not all of which are food products.   Following are excerpts from that 2015 proposal.

 

All photos of garden products below were created by welders and are for sale at the actual prices shown. They are provided to show the potential for earning money by using welding skills to create urban garden items. Similar garden items created at the makerspace could be sold on Walkable Main Street, thus attracting walkers to Walkable Main Street. These items could be scattered throughout Walkable Main Street for sale, thus providing an elemental reason for people to keep walking on Walkable Main. All the businesses on Walkable Main are connected and supportive of each other. With the promotions of blackberry bushes, plain sturdy trellises will also be in high demand.  From “Walkable Main”

NOTE:  One of the suggestions I made in that proposal was to approach local businesses in the area to see if they might be interested in using a corner of their shop as a mini  Makerspace where qualified citizens might come and use their equipment for a fee and where the owners might even like to provide training (also for a fee).  Sharing such spaces would need to be a mutually beneficial relationship for all parties involved.  Wallis Welders, a local business in this area was one that I used as an example.

Makerspaces and Connectivity

Many of the items made in the Makerspaces along Walkable Main can also be featured along the Walkable Main Street and also in shops down on the square. Shops on the square can be connected with WALKABLE MAIN. We might even eventually be making enough products in the Walkable Main neighborhood to support a Walkable Main Street Store on the downtown Garland Square. The items created by the Wallis Welders and their makerspace minions will support and promote the edible blackberry landscaping that is blended into the Walkable Main Street path.

Other items for sale along Walkable Main will, of course be blackberry bushes. These too can be sold at any of the businesses along Walkable Main. Loving Garland Green would like to see as many makerspaces as possible connected to the process of strengthening a plant-based local economy.

Welding As Career

Of course like any career, welding is not for everyone. But it certainly is for some. Justin Friend, in 2013, his first full year as a welder, had an income of about $130,000, more than triple the average annual wages for welders in the U.S. In 2014, Mr. Friend’s income rose to about $140,000.

[This story is from Jan 2015 Wall Street Journal: The $140,000 a Year Welding Job – Two Year Degree and Special Skills Pay Off for Young Texan.  ]

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Three Good Reasons for Establishing Makerspaces

1) Makerspaces are great laboratories for job creation and job training.

2) Makerspaces will attract people to this area and give people one more reason for coming here.

3) Makerspaces can contribute to growing and strengthening our local economy and especially the businesses already located and/or to be built nearby.  If a developer wants to create an attraction for an area to be developed, a Makerspace serves well.

More References and Resources

  • MAKE MAGAZINE is perhaps the premier stopping place on the Internet for information regarding how to create a Makerspace. Make Magazine's website includes project instructions, the Maker Shed maker supplies store, project plans, videos, event listings and more.

  • Six Strategies for Funding a Makerspace  
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