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How to support the maker movement in your community
Eli Dile   on Thursday, December 14, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

Makers are everywhere. According to online craft marketplace Etsy, they’re present in 99.9 percent of U.S. counties. Taken individually, independent craftspeople who peddle their wares at farmers markets and online may seem like small potatoes, yet they accounted for $2.8 billion in sales on Etsy last year.

Discovering Your City’s Maker Economy,” (PDF) a report from the National League of Cities, offers policy recommendations for local governments to support this overlooked segment of the economy. For example, traditional small business support – such as revolving loan funds and streamlined permitting – are less impactful to makers, who instead look for assistance with marketing, legal aid, and connections to manufacturers that can help scale production.

The report sees the maker movement as a boon to equity: “Without the need to raise venture capital, sign expensive retail leases, or meet payroll costs, the barriers and risks associated with entering the industry of maker-entrepreneurship are lower than for high-growth tech startups, restaurants, or even a traditional corner store.”

To support the maker economy, the report recommends that cities:

  1. Create a supportive businesses environment for makers and manufacturers.

  2. Drive demand for locally made and manufactured products.

  3. Provide access to affordable and safe production spaces for makers and manufacturers.

  4. Advocate for state policies that support makers and microbusinesses.

Makers have been on IEDC’s radar as well. Earlier this year, IEDC convened a free two-day entrepreneurial training course in Madisonville, Kentucky, with support from the Economic Development Administration. In addition to modules on incubators and SBA financing, IEDC discussed how to make the business case for creating a makerspace.

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