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White House Showcases Potential of Maker Movement to Boost Local Manufacturing

November 21, 2013

Last week the White House hosted a Google Hangout on the American Maker Movement and highlighted some dynamic programs that are turning the Maker Movement into a legitimate economic development tool for regions across the country.

Event speakers highlighted the rapidly shifting industrial climate in the U.S. as a main driver of the Maker Movement. Low-cost energy, low-cost data storage, and an increasingly skilled workforce are supporting the explosive growth of industrial artisan entrepreneurship. Cities across the country are moving to provide the cooperative workspace Makers need to develop, test, and scale their businesses.

Public institutions also are being transformed into Makers Spaces. The Pittsburgh Kids Museum serves as a national model for public support of Makers programs, providing public space and outreach events at local libraries for Makers programming.

The Maker Corps, highlighted by the White House as a model program for increasing opportunities for STEM education, places Maker mentors in high-need communities across the country. The organization has even recently become a VISTA program, using Americorps funding to place mentors in high-poverty communities in California and is looking to expand the program.

America Makes, the newly minted federal innovation institute that supports Additive Manufacturing, is fostering a series of partnerships across the country to drive the growth of Makers Spaces and Maker programming.

An article released earlier in the fall by Forbes magazine cited the sweeping changes to the national and international retail landscape catalyzed by the Maker Movement. Entrepreneurs use Makers Spaces to conceptualize, build, and test their products, then use crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter to scale their production and build a client base, and then launch businesses that sell customized products on Etsy. The customization provided by artisans, supported by low overhead costs from working out of cooperative Makers Spaces, changes the playing field of industrial competition between the U.S. and manufacturers based in the developing world.

The Maker Movement has also been recognized as a low-cost, effective means of workforce development training. In Pittsburgh, the local AFL-CIO has partnered with Maker Spaces to provide skills training that can build a more adaptive workforce. General Electric also has recognized the opportunity that Makers Spaces provide for skills training and sponsored small-scale veterans training programs across the country.

Pennsylvaniawhite house, manufacturing