IDEALAB 2019: Let’s make more stuff

We make stuff in Cincinnati, stuff we use every day.

At the Ivorydale factory complex, soap is still made at a plant that can put out 6 million bars a day.

Any Cincinnatians’ fridge should be stocked with goetta made in Covington and Kroger dairy products made in Springdale.

And no fridge should be without craft beer produced by Rhinegeist in Over-the-Rhine or one of Sam Adams’ many varieties brewed at its big plant in West End.

Kids of all ages enjoy Airheads and Mentos made in Erlanger, Ky.

Tens of thousands of homes are equipped with shower doors made in Mason. On the Fourth of July, you may unfurl a porch flag made at a 100-year-old factory in the West End.

If there’s a Ford in the drive, chances are pretty good that it has a gearbox made in Sharonville, and if you drive a Toyota, there’s the possibility it rolled off the assembly line down the road in Georgetown, Ky.

Your next vacation may begin on a flight powered by an engine designed and assembled in Evendale. In fact, the entire airplane may be held together with parts made in Erlanger or Florence, sheet metal made in Burlington and wheels and brakes made in Walton, Ky.

Greater Cincinnati is a hub for manufacturing and has been so for decades, and ideas for continuing to grow that sector of the economy, especially among small manufacturers in the urban core, will be the focus of IDEALAB: reMaking Industry, which will be held this Thursday, May 9 at the Xavier Center for Innovation.

Ohio can claim more than 12,000 manufacturing firms, while Kentucky can claim more than 3,000, and the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky region are among the best in those states for the number of jobs linked to manufacturing.

Although the number of manufacturing jobs declined for years, they are growing again. Just between 2014 and 2017, Ohio added 16,300 manufacturing jobs, according to the Ohio Manufacturers Association.

Although the Greater Cincinnati metro region lost 20 percent of its manufacturing jobs in the years between 2007 and 2016, the sector still accounts for more than 114,000 jobs here, the second largest employer group (after health care). The total payroll of manufacturing employers here amounts to more than $8 billion, the most of any industry sector.

Those statistics are part of new research conducted by the Urban Manufacturing Alliance that will be presented at this week’s IDEALAB conference. The group studied six cities, including Cincinnati, to understand the industrial network of small manufacturers in each of those urban centers. The other five cities examined were Baltimore, Detroit, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Portland, Ore.

The survey found that much of the future growth of manufacturing will be among small-batch manufacturers, young firms that start with an idea and then grow. Among the survey’s findings were two that point to future growth: Many of the small makers sell their products beyond the Cincinnati market, and many have grown in the last few years, and they expect to continue growing.

“Manufacturing is a huge part of our economy and the strength of our economy and it’s something that we’ve been doing for 150 years,” says Rich Kiley, founder and president of CoMADE, a new Cincinnati hub for job training, business incubation and collaboration.

The half-day IDEALAB 2019 event will feature a lineup of new ideas shared by thought leaders and entrepreneurs who have put them into practice in regional cities.

Alex Bandar will share how he created the Idea Foundry, part workshop, part co-working space and part learning center, in one of the most economically depressed neighborhoods in Columbus.

Dan Carmody will share the story of Eastern Market Corp. an urban success story in Detroit. Carmody is president of Eastern Market, which is both a marketplace and a 185-acre neighborhood with a variety of food businesses.

Adam Kenney will speak about Pittsburgh’s Monmade and its Craft Business Accelerator. Monmade connects manufacturers with markets and buyers and is a project of the Craft Business Accelerator, which finances artisan businesses, maker enterprises, design/build shops, and entrepreneurial artists.

Cincinnati will be represented by Dan Meyer, CEO of Nehemiah Manufacturing, which hires ex-felons and other hard-to-employ people; Peggy Zink, CEO of Cincinnati Works, a nonprofit that provides free job coaching and career services; and Kiley and Matt Anthony of CoMADE.

CoMADE is constructing a new 100,000 square foot facility in Avondale, and investing $21 million in the project. While that building is being completed, expected in early 2021, CoMADE has started providing its services and expertise on a smaller scale at a vacant Kroger store in Walnut Hills.

“We’re doing a small version of literally everything that will be happening in Avondale,” Kiley says. That includes a tool lending program, coworking space, a workshop available for prototyping, workforce training, and community events.

CoMADE is seeking volunteers and donations of tools and other supplies as it gets its prototype facility up and running Walnut Hills.

The 2019 edition of IDEALAB will begin at 11:45 AM On Thursday, May 9 at Xavier University’s Center for Innovation. It will close across the street with a happy hour at Listermann Brewing’s beer garden.

IDEALAB reMaking Industry is made possible with support from the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, People's Liberty, Issue Media Group and Soapbox Media. The cost is $35 per person or $17 for students and includes lunch. Purchase tickets at Eventbrite. Parking is free next to the Xavier University Center for Innovation venue.
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Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is an award-winning journalist and a Cincinnati native. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading, or watching classic movies.