One very interesting emerging approach to growing entrepreneurship (and perhaps some of that can-do empowerment that I mentioned yesterday) are makerspaces — collections of tools and maker resources that people can access to work on projects of interest. The benefits of a makerspace include access to equipment that a person with an idea might not be able to get in their own garage (assuming they had a garage, of course), and perhaps more importantly, access to a community of like-minded people who can teach each other, problem-solve together, and help each other through the inevitable frustrations and brick walls that come with trying to make something. This post from MAKE magazine outlines not the workshop layout (although the graphic is pretty cool), but it sketches the more important part: the process.
To use the terms I used to frame local government and community options for supporting small business growth in a webinar I gave for Lorman a couple of weeks ago, a makerspace is typically one of those situations where a local government or a community organization should take a Feeder role, not a Leader role (apologies to Brad Feld). As much as anything because you probably shouldn’t be the person in charge of acquiring a CNC cutter or building the large-scale 3D printer. Someone in the potential Maker pool in your community is probably much better qualified for that. So it makes sense to do this in partnership with people who are interested in supporting a maker movement in your community.
“Feeding,” however, doesn’t mean “passively sitting back and doing nothing.” One of the best examples I’ve seen yet of a makerspace that’s directly tied into economic development strategies comes from the Allentown Economic Development Corporation in Allentown, Pennsylvania. You can listen to a great interview with Matt Turek about the impact of the makerspace on PodCatalyst here.