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"Make it in Cleveland" and the Rising of the Creative Class
Cleveland is currently on fire and we have the maker movement partly to blame. Long the place where things are “Made in America,” Cleveland is embracing its Rust Belt roots and is booming again. While many of our companies are engaged in high-tech manufacturing, there is resurgence here in the industrial heartland of America to make things by hand and by heart. A growing Maker Movement in Cleveland is placing the City at the forefront of a revolution with its swell of maker spaces, marketplaces and start-ups supporting our creative class. Earlier in the year, Cleveland won the title as one of the best Start Up Cities in America by Popular Mechanics; A City building an “ecosystem that’s turning innovators into entrepreneurs.”
“The convergence of the internet, affordable electronics, new technologies and a millennial-driven philosophy to customize and personalize has created a growing DIY culture.” [i] Cleveland’s manufacturing heritage has created a wealth of knowledge, and available space for people to create their products. In these previous vacancies, the makers—people who build stuff—are moving in and creating maker spaces and stoking the maker movement. On this foundation, Cleveland is building its ecosystem of innovation, where creatives (makers, hackers, artists and anyone who uses creativity in constructive ways) collect and network and push each other forward.
One example[iii] is the Hildebrandt Building located at 3619 Walton Avenue. The Hildebrandt Building originally served as the meat processing facility for The Hildebrandt Provision Company. Today, the building is hub for local artists and food entrepreneurs, offering flex space to enterprising makers as well as a home to the Hildebrandt Artists Collective. One of the tenants of The Hildebrandt Building, Soulcraft Woodshop, is a membership-based woodworking woodshop. It serves as a maker space for woodworkers. They provide classes and access to woodworking equipment and serve as an incubator of creativity. In addition to this maker space, some of the other artisan/makers in the building include Rustbelt Welding (makers of custom bicycles), Hectic Studio (ceramic studio), Drake Studio (ceramic artist), Wake Robin Foods (naturally fermented canned foods) and the most recent addition Skidmark Garage (a motorcycle shop where customers can use bays fully loaded with all the necessary tools).
Cleveland’s maker scene is not limited to its industrial past but includes and is fostered by the City’s educational and cultural institutions. Cleveland Public Library provides makers with access to desktop 3D Printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, music production equipment and other tools through their TechCentral MakerSpace. The MakerSpace is located at the main library in Downtown Cleveland. Anyone with a library card can access the equipment at in the Lower Level of the Louis Stokes Wing located at 325 Superior Avenue. The Cleveland Metropolitan School District provides FabLabs (Digital Fabrication Labs) as part of their STEM curriculum. These FabLabs, located on Cleveland State campus, give students access to equipment and tools which are used as part of their curriculum. The school district plays a key in engaging the City’s youth and getting them interested in making and in STEM.
Think[box] at Case Western Reserve University (“CWRU”) is a robust maker space with access to 3D printers, routers, laser cutters, circuit boards and other high tech tools and is open to the public which is unique for a university based MakerSpace. Think[box] is undergoing a large expansion by moving into the former Lincoln Storage building located on the campus. In fall of 2014, CWRU broke ground on the new first phase of the new location which when completed the $35M project will be one of the largest university-based innovation centers in the world. The first phase will include a 50,000 square foot innovation hub which will allow users to create prototypes and transform their ideas into products. The first phase of the 7 story Lincoln Storage Building renovation will encompass 4 stories. The first floor will include workshop areas and meeting spaces to support K-12 students and industry and community groups. The second floor will be a collaboration area. The third floor will have prototyping equipment and the fourth floor will have fabrication and manufacturing workshops. This is an exciting project for Cleveland and the Maker Community as a whole as ThinkBox will become an innovation hub.
“The Great Lakes Science Center has become heavily invested in the maker movement over the past few years…” especially with its new Cleveland Creates Zone which “is filled with stations where visitors can build things and run experiments…”[ii]These activities are geared towards introducing kids to the fun of the maker movement while encouraging them towards STEM.
Making is not just about wood furniture and other manufactured products. Many makers are involved in the processing of food and drinks. To fill the niche of artisan food production, the Cleveland Culinary Launch Kitchen at 2800 Euclid Avenue, in Midtown provides access to fully equipped commercial kitchens to food entrepreneurs. The facility also provides business and peer support as well as networking and mentorship opportunities. With the exploding popularity of craft beer, comes the need for more craft brewers. In 2014, Platform Beer opened their craft brewery and pub at 4125 Lorain Avenue. As part of the project, Platform created an incubator for up-and-coming craft brewers. The brewing space is available to small brewers looking to start a brewing business. The brewers have access to small batch brewing equipment and industry knowledge of the Platform Beer staff. In addition to equipment and knowledge, Platform provides a market for the new beer products through the brewpub. This allows for exposure of the new beer. The incubator is currently hosting their second start-up craft brewer.
Whether you want to make, create, craft, or build you can Make it in Cleveland! As the Maker scene in Cleveland continues to grow more robust, more maker spaces and incubators will continue to pop-up throughout the City supporting innovation and a culture of builders. In addition to maker spaces there will be new businesses and new products. Cleveland’s community of entrepreneurs and innovators; its proud history of manufacturing, beer brewing and food production is pioneering the next transforming of our local economy, creating new jobs, new opportunities, new ideas and making Cleveland a vibrant place to live and make.
Find out more about Cleveland’s maker movement by checking out Northeast Ohio Makers and Innovators Network. You can also participate in Cleveland’s rising maker movement by attending these annual events: IngenuityFest (October), Weapons of Mass Creation (August), Mini Maker Faire (June).
* You may also follow Cleveland's Maker Movement on Twitter: #MakeitinCLE and #CLEmakermovement