Over the past few weeks, we’ve gotten a lot of questions about the free, technical assistance Smart Growth America is offering in partnership with the U.S. Economic Development Administration and Recast City. This FAQ addresses many of the common questions we’ve received.
Smart Growth America is offering free technical assistance to six communities interested in using small-scale manufacturing to help revitalize a downtown or neighborhood and create economic opportunity.
Smart Growth America is once again soliciting applications for a new round of free technical assistance for communities interested in using small-scale manufacturing as a strategy to create economic opportunity, boost the prospects of Main Street, and build great places.
In today’s American economy, where so much is imported from other countries, American cities are rediscovering their manufacturing roots. Industry shakeups and the economic downturn demonstrate the vulnerability of cities that rely on single-industry manufacturing sectors like steel and automobiles. But while large-scale industries suffer from lack of resilience, small-scale manufacturing is creeping back into our cities and strengthening our local economies.
Today, though the manufacturing sector makes up just 12% of US GDP, the sector has grown at roughly twice the pace of the country’s overall economic growth since the end of the recession. Manufacturing provides high-wage, low-barrier to entry jobs with the average manufacturing salary roughly $10,000 more than the average U.S. job. Between 2010 and 2012, manufacturing jobs grew by over 400,000—many of them in small businesses. The opportunity for local job growth is great.
There is a new opportunity in our changing cities to connect more residents with economic opportunity. We can do so by integrating small-scale industrial uses into our city development. Let’s call this mixed-use industrial real estate.
We are seeing a resurgence of small, local producers who are harnessing cheap technology and changing markets to sell hundreds and thousands of locally produced consumer products. Documented early on by Chris Anderson, and seen across the country today, these companies are often businesses with fewer than 20 employees and sell both in local markets and globally online.
These small-scale manufacturing business owners generally need dedicated production space of less than 5,000 square feet (often as little as 1,000 sq. ft), use clean technologies (think laser cutters), but need affordable, dedicated industrial/production space. They do not fit into office space because of noise, and most retail space is too expensive. So they often find marginal, cheap space at the fringes of our cities and survive on short-term leases or move far out into the suburbs.
The time is ripe for policy change and private sector investment to create this kind of development. The demand for small-scale consumer goods and locally made custom goods are growing and access to tools and technology gets cheaper. We need to provide affordable space for our local producers to grow their businesses in our city neighborhoods. By doing this, we will be able to connect more people to good-paying jobs, strengthen our small business and startup sector, and keep them all in the city.
Last night, neighborhood advocates came together with local manufacturers, businesses and independent crafters for Production in the City, a panel discussion and popup marketplace celebrating DC’s manufacturers and the neighborhoods they call home.
The event featured a panel discussion with Megan Parisi, Brewmaster at Bluejacket; Pranav Vora, Founder + CEO of Hugh & Crye Shirtmakers; Guy Brami, Partner at Gelberg Signs; and moderated by Ilana Preuss, Vice President and Chief of Staff of Smart Growth America. In addition, a popup marketplace with 20 local vendors showcased a variety of goods made right here in DC.
At the Bluejacket brewery, located in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood of Washington, DC. Photo by Bluejacket via Facebook.
What do a brewmaster, a shirtmaker and a sign manufacturer all have in common? They’re all manufacturing their products right here in the greater DC area.
Join us on on Thursday, December 5, 2013 from 5:30-8:30 PM at Production in the City to shop, celebrate and discuss DC’s home-grown manufacturing economy and the role the city’s neighborhoods play in the industry’s growth.