- Smart Growth America has chosen six communities to receive technical assistance to boost economic development and revitalization: Baltimore; Columbia, MO; Cusick, WA; High Point, NC; Lafayette, LA; and South Bend, IN.
- The assistance will center on identifying and supporting small-scale manufacturing opportunities, known as the "maker economy."
- Funding for the program comes from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), in partnership with consulting firm Recast City.
For decades, America had a reputation as a manufacturing powerhouse. The automobile industry was a notable leader, along with electronics, agricultural products and machinery. Many cities and towns across America formed, grew and thrived based on large manufacturers' presence. The steady decline in domestic manufacturing has caused many large companies to either go under altogether or to shut down operations in certain locations, many of which are small cities or towns.
A lot of post-industrial cities have struggled to regain their identities and create a new job base when large-scale manufacturers moved out, especially those that essentially were single-industry towns. But the assistance from Smart Growth America could change that for the six selected cities.
The goal is not to abandon the idea of manufacturing altogether, but to shift the type of manufacturing and residents' views of it. Rather than being so reliant upon giant companies to bring their operations to town and suffer the consequences if they leave, small-scale manufacturing offers options for diversification in lesser tapped markets. Workers can learn how to adapt their existing manufacturing skills to a plethora of new markets. For example, some small-scale manufacturing includes craft brewing, prosthetics making, yarn making, skin care product production and even a variety of artisanal foods like chocolates, bread, potato chips and flavored oils.
Part of the small-scale manufacturing concept that Smart Growth America strives for is bringing these businesses to main streets and neighborhood hubs that are easily accessible — even walkable — for many in the community. In this way cities can add jobs while also revitalizing neighborhoods and driving future growth.
"At a time when local economic development has become heavily dependent upon place-making, small-scale manufacturing has emerged as a way to tie opportunity to place. For many communities, especially those with legacy buildings from an earlier manufacturing age, it can fill a key missing piece for local economic revitalization,” Christopher Zimmerman, Vice President for Economic Development at Smart Growth America, said in a statement.