"Making Space for Makers" brings urban development specialist to Cincinnati this week


The “Maker Movement” has found its way back to the Midwest, and an expert in the field comes to Cincinnati this week to make sure we're ready for it.

Ilana Preuss, former VP and chief of staff for Smart Growth America, is coming to town Feb. 25 to offer her input on small scale manufacturing in Cincinnati and how it has the potential to strengthen our neighborhoods and enhance our overall economy.

While Preuss is in town, she'll give a presentation on the importance of space, planning and policy within the Maker Movement at the 21C Museum Hotel at 6 p.m. Wednesday. At 9 a.m. the following day, Preuss will lead a workshop at the UC Community Design Center that hopes to foster discussion on the steps necessary to expand the manufacturing sector of Cincinnati’s business community.

The Haile Foundation and Cincinnati Made, a local nonprofit dedicated to such a vision, bring Preuss to town as a consultant from Recast City. She concocted the idea for Recast City after working extensively with small scale producers in a community development context.

“(My work) led me to look at development projects where small scale manufacturers are being put in a position to bring life back to old buildings and bring life to a neighborhood,” Preuss says.

In cities like Brooklyn and San Francisco, she says, big companies and nonprofits are backing manufacturing innovation in a way that allows small-scale producers, and the communities surrounding them, to truly succeed. For instance, in Brooklyn a six-building space has developed into a manufacturer haven. As a result, the community surrounding the businesses has been revitalized. Perhaps above all else, the space is providing jobs for surrounding community members, 40 percent of whom don't have a college or advanced degree.

Preuss sees the Midwest as prime territory for those kinds of results.

“The Midwest has a history of manufacturing,” she says. “The people who are drawn back are risk takers, they want to make a difference in the space.”

With the cost of living being so low here, particularly in comparison to cities on the coasts, Preuss believes that small businesses can see a kind of success that may be harder to grasp in a larger market. The best thing we can do for our region is create a manufacturing-friendly environment.

In a lot of ways, the region is already doing that. Cincinnati Made and local manufacturing accelerator First Batch are already promoting small batch makers. Indianapolis has seen significant investment in their budding textiles industry. And in Louisville, GE-backed First Build is creating an innovation space for appliances and electronics. 

With Preuss’ help and continued financial support from private investors and nonprofit interests, Cincinnati has a lot of potential that expands beyond business development.

“The places with the most success have nonprofit and private sector leadership leading the way,” she says. “The piece I find most the most exciting is where economic development intersects with real estate development and reinvestment.”

When Preuss’ work is done on Thursday, she plans to take a tour of Over-the-Rhine, our city’s prime example of where economic development and real estate reinvestment meet. With adequate planning, Cincinnati will hopefully see a similar revitalization surrounding small-scale manufacturing. 

You can find more details on the event's Facebook page.
 
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