The next push to move the economy forward in Independence could be in a maker space – or makerspace, just one trendy word, if you prefer.
The hope is that it would get small companies growing, making more products and adding jobs. Think of it like shared office space, but for people who make things. Civic leaders recently toured one in Nashville with a metal shop, a wood shop, a print shop, a photo studio, co-working spaces and the obligatory coffee shop.
“So it’s a pretty simple concept. They have a great building,” Mayor Eileen Weir said Tuesday. The trip to Nashville and Franklin, Tennessee was the latest of a handful of trips Weir and leaders from government, business and civic groups have made to various cities to see what works there and might work here. The new Independence Uptown Market, for instance, is a direct result of an early 2017 trip to Bentonville, Arkansas.
A makerspace would function as a business incubator, much like the Ennovation Center in Independence has done with culinary businesses.
“Independence is a city of makers,” said Xander Winkel, who has the title of entrepreneurship enabler at the Ennovation Center. He was among those on the Nashville trip, several of whom spoke Tuesday at a monthly gathering of leaders convened by the mayor.
Winkel said makers are busy at work around town already, but it tends to be hobbyists. This idea would put things on a different scale. Winkel said there’s no commercial makerspace in the metro area. One more thing: The project in Nashville has attracted a good deal of private investment.
This would likely be a public-private partnership, as private investors would probably be unwilling to take on all of the risk, said Tom Lesnak, president of the Independence Council for Economic Development and the Independence Chamber of Commerce.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to do it,” Lesnak said.
Ken McCain, who with his wife, Cindy, owns several Square area businesses and has worked on various local initiatives, said this sounds like a good idea. Put a board together, find a space, “and then find a person to run it,” he said.
But he said there’s a bigger potential is pulling together local resources to train people in technology, moving more people out of low-paid work into good-paying jobs. That’s a more complicated question – but he’s right.
Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. Reach him at 816-350-6365 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter @FoxEJC.