Around this time last year, Smart Growth America announced it was accepting applications for communities seeking assistance on small-scale manufacturing and neighborhood revitalization.
At the time, Andy Cook was running the Made in Baltimore initiative from the Baltimore City Department of Planning, before it became an official program of the Baltimore Development Corporation. The program’s mission, to spur re-investment in the city by supporting locally-made items and local makers, seemed like the perfect match.
He decided to throw Baltimore’s hat in the ring and apply.
“My proposal was to preserve affordable production space in three parts of town that were chosen after reviewing an industrial vacancy survey from a few years ago,” said Cook, who specifically named Carroll-Camden, Jones Falls Valley, and Highlandtown/Greektown in his application.
In August 2018, Smart Growth America announced it had received applications from 64 organizations and communities in 32 different states.
Baltimore was the first of six selected communities to be named a winner.
The city was promised “technical assistance in using small-scale manufacturing as a strategy to create economic opportunity, boost the prospects of Main Street, and build great places,” according to Smart Growth America’s original announcement.
This month, nearly a year later, that promise came true and the focus was all on Baltimore.
Over the course of three days, Cook joined members of Smart Growth America, U.S. Economic Development Administration, and Recast City to strategize and discuss the features of Baltimore’s maker community. Local organizations were also invited to discuss the state of Baltimore’s manufacturing sector, including the Maryland Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MD MEP) and the Mid Atlantic MBDA Advanced Manufacturing Center, as well as city and state government representatives, real estate brokers and developers, and community association leaders.
Additionally, more than 15 companies shared their thoughts about doing business in Baltimore, including Art By Barton, A Workshop Of Our Own, Baked In Baltimore, Danae Prosthetics, FiberElectronics, Fly Nerd Apparel, Harbor Designs and Manufacturing, Monument City Brewing, Open Works, Oyin Handmade, Secret Sauce Company, SewLab USA, Supik Woodturning Co., Taharka Brothers Ice Cream, Union Craft Brewing, and 228 Grant Street Candle Co.
All in all, through several business visits and focus groups held at Impact Hub Baltimore, more than 70 people participated in the economic development discussion.
“I think we reached a lot of different people, from local government to developers to the community sector,” said Cook. “A win for me is getting people to think about this issue.”
Smart Growth America is currently writing up recommendations for the city and will submit a report back to Cook by the end of the month, who will then circulate it around to all the partners.
Cook says the goal is to receive recommendations on how to promote and support local small-scale manufacturers through policy, zoning, planning, and community development. He’d also like to identify ways to slow the conversion of industrial space into other space, and have financing help certain neighborhoods get back up-and-running. This will address some of the business community’s concerns—while there is ample and affordable space, some buildings and neighborhoods are in bad condition, and need assistance to become more appealing to businesses, customers, and residents alike.
“It’s all about starting a conversation – and I think this will be a long one – on how we support this growing sector,” said Cook.
To learn more about Baltimore’s efforts on small-scale manufacturing, the Smart Growth America initiative, the Made in Baltimore program, or becoming a maker, contact program director Andy Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org or (443) 860-1336.