A new report from the National League of Cities shows that more municipalities are embracing maker culture. The first-of-its-type analysis of the maker movement finds that 26 percent of U.S. cities have makerspaces. The report also offers up policy recommendations that city officials can use to help support makers in their own localities.
The report brings definition to an often unclear understanding of the maker movement, which can include everything from small production manufacturing to prototyping to tech workshops. Many cities that have invested in makerspaces in their communities have seen a positive economic return. In cities like Eugene, Oregon and Chattanooga, Tennessee conversion of city buildings into makerspaces and prioritizing high-speed connectivity has attracted capital, talent and industry.
The report is compiled from interviews with a range of influential sources in cities across the US. Municipalities with high-profile projects were also included as case studies to show other policy makers how they might approach creating makerspaces.
According to data provided by the Atmel Corporation and included in the report, some 135 million Americans are makers. They build things either through professional light manufacturing, to do-it-yourself hobbies or “do it with others” hobbies. When cities invest in the maker movement by providing resources startups, small businesses and community groups are often quick to follow with their own support.
What kind of resources are needed to support the maker movement? They can be anything from incubators and accelerators to simply making tools like 3D printers available through local libraries or other community centers. The report recommends that when cities start to invest in these resources they should also start to publish their results so that makers and policy wonks can build on this knowledge and improve it.
“Across the country, cities are working hand-in-hand with maker communities to invest in makerspaces and encourage entrepreneurialism. This city-level support has helped to cement the role of makers as potential job creators and conduits for economic growth,” said Clarence E. Anthony, CEO and executive director, National League of Cities.