Each of the six communities selected to receive assistance on supporting local small-scale manufacturing are very different. Before diving into the assistance that will happen over the next year, let’s get to know each of the communities a little bit better.
Baltimore, MD; High Point, NC; South Bend, IN; Columbia, MO; Lafayette, LA; and Cusick, WA each outcompeted 58 other applicants for technical assistance on small-scale manufacturing made possible by the Economic Development Administration.
Those six cities and towns recognize the potential of this growing sector for creating positive change for the entire community. Supporting homegrown makers, like breweries and 3D printers, in the heart of a community can help residents access high paying jobs close to home and breathe new life into vacant storefronts and other struggling areas.
But other than the fact that each is committed to supporting their local maker economy, all of these communities are very different. From big cities like Baltimore, MD to small, rural communities like Cusick, WA; from communities with a long history of manufacturing like High Point, NC to cities using this as an opportunity to support a budding industry, each of these communities has their own challenges and opportunities.
As we prepare for our work with Recast City and local partners in the coming months, we’d like to share a little bit about them and what some local leaders have to say about their maker economy.
South Bend, Indiana recognizes the consistent challenge of accessing resources, opportunity, and capital when it comes to nurturing small businesses. Small-scale manufacturers have sprouted up along major corridors thanks to the city’s recently improved streetscape. The city intends to leverage the technical assistance as comprehensively as possible. “We’re excited to use this opportunity to make policy changes, develop financing mechanisms, and build other tools to support small business and improve the quality of life, particularly for South Bend’s low-income communities,” said Department of Community Investment Business Development Manager Austin Gammage.
“Through our ongoing Smart Streets Initiative, South Bend has built strong community support to redefine the role of streets in downtown and to restore vitality to established neighborhood centers by emphasizing the creation of people-friendly spaces,” shared South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. “A groundswell of excitement about this effort and the community’s overall direction has encouraged many of our residents to harness innovation and creativity in order to start small businesses, many in small-scale manufacturing, in these locations.”
Baltimore, Maryland is building momentum for a locally-sourced economy with its growing list of owner-operated manufacturers and “Made in Baltimore” initiative. Now, the city is ready to kick efforts into high gear with a focus on small-scale manufacturers.
Tour of Union Collective, the new home of Union Craft Brewing and about half a dozen other small manufacturers. (Photo: Kyle Pompey, used with permission)
“Programs like Made In Baltimore and the Baltimore Development Corporation’s Industrial Façade Improvement Grants have been working to support these businesses and highlight their presence in our city,” explains Andy Cook at the Baltimore City Department of Planning. “New zoning categories introduced in 2016 have allowed for more flexibility for light-manufacturing users, and new makerspaces like Open Works and The Foundery are creating on-ramps for part-time makers to scale up into full-time companies. We still have a ways to go before these businesses are as robust and numerous as we need them to be, but we’re making great progress.”
High Point, North Carolina hopes to recreate its once-dominant home furniture industry. The city looks ahead to revitalizing abandoned industrial buildings and revamping a workforce training program to promote equitable outcomes for all residents in the community.
“The City of High Point is working hard to transform our downtown and adjacent areas, and this assistance will help us accomplish that goal,” said High Point Mayor Jay Wagner. “High Point is known as the ‘Home Furnishings Capital of the World,’ and for decades we had strong and robust furniture manufacturing industry. In recent years our manufacturing sector has declined as companies moved their operations overseas. We understand the importance manufacturing plays in our local economy in terms of providing good paying jobs and capital investment.”
Columbia, Missouri is focusing its efforts on the Business Loop Community Improvement District to support locally-owned manufacturers. “We have such a strong community base of minority and women-owned businesses, that we really want to help them flourish and thrive,” shared Stacy Button, President of Regional Economic Development Inc. “We’ve got a lot of programs and resources for those businesses and startups, so I think this grant, the technical assistance, will really solidify the need.”
The program comes at a good time for Columbia and will compliment the area’s existing atmosphere according to Business Loop Chairman David Griggs: “Not only do artisan industries and small-scale manufacturing fit with the DIY spirit of the loop, it’s a great way to revitalize the corridor and distinguish us from other areas of Columbia.”
Lafayette, Louisiana is brimming with home-based food businesses and other artisans eager for economic opportunity and expansion. Strategies to support these small business while reutilizing old buildings will bring new vibrancy to the McComb-Veazey Neighborhood. Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux understands the breadth and potential in their local maker economy: “Whether it is the examples of a grandmother working to produce and market the sale of her famous sweet treats or a young college student seeking an avenue to locally manufacture his innovative new invention, the assistance of Smart Growth America will foster a legacy of economic ingenuity within and beyond the boundaries of the McComb-Veazey Neighborhood.”
“I recognize the importance of our homegrown industries contributing to neighborhood revitalization. This is especially true in our historic neighborhoods, and McComb-Veazey has proven that hard work and concentrated efforts can lead to economic opportunities,” says Lafayette Mayor-President Joel Robideaux
Cusick, Washington is home to the Kalispel Tribe of Indians which intends to reinvigorate the city’s downtown through small-scale manufacturing. “The Kalispel Tribe and our partners are excited that Smart Growth America is coming to Cusick to support our community’s tenacious advocacy for a competitive, 21st century economy that respects and protects our rural character,” says Matt Lower, the tribe’s senior planner. “This supports our existing work across the urban growth area in the central county to eliminate barriers to private investment, create predictable development regulations, and promote a healthy mix of land uses.”
Lower continued, “In Pend Oreille County, there is currently no commercial or industrial zoning—non-residential activity is permitted case-by-case through a conditional use permitting process. The Kalispel Tribe is seeking to change that for a small urban center in the central part of the county through The Cusick/Usk Subarea Plan. The plan focuses around the ‘town’ of Usk—an unincorporated community within the Town of Cusick’s urban growth area which contains the central county’s only walkable commercial district and boasts an existing mix of light industry and retail and is one of the only places in the entire county that can support new development.”
All six communities will spend the next few months refining their goals and gathering stakeholders so they will be ready to move forward once their technical assistance period begins. The three-month engagements will be spread out over the next year.