The Maker Movement and Economic Development


In the world of startups if we skew in any direction for Intrepid it is toward the maker movement or artisan economy. In light of that I just finished reading “The Maker Movement and Urban Economic Development” that was in the Journal of the American Planning Association. Two of the writers are professors here locally at Portland State who’ve done much to research, write, and contribute to the whole artisan and creative economy conversation. As I read the article, while the focus was more on the contributions of the maker movement to cities, I also thought about this in terms of smaller communities as well. Not either/or, but both/and.

This morning provides a great backdrop for this article as I’m sitting in a cafe of one of Portland’s many micro coffee roasters. Sitting directly behind me is a 2kg roaster. According to one of the owners they roast around 50 pounds a week which means they certainly qualify as a small-scale roaster in comparison to the large macro roasters like Starbucks, Portland Roasting Company, and so on.

Why is this conversation even important? “The maker movement is commanding attention and resources in city halls across the nation. The term making refers to the design and fabrication of consumer products, often via newly accessible technologies.” The authors of the article go on to point out that:

The significance of the maker movement to economic development planning, however, lies principally in the emergence of new small-scale manufacturing enterprises that integrate design with production. The confidence of elected officials that this new manufacturing trend can revive local economic bases animates many local efforts to support maker economies.

The focus of the article was to provide data based on research for urban planners and policy makers to help better accommodate these emerging industries. In terms of application for Intrepid, here are two of my takeaways from this article:

  1. Maker-entrepreneurs are often socially minded.

  2. Maker-entrepreneurs have an attachment to place.

When we think about what it means for Intrepid, church planting, and community development my hope is that the connections are rather obvious. With that said, I’ll flesh that thought out a bit. As the researchers found out from their interviews in Portland, Chicago, and NYC maker-entrepreneurs are often socially minded. That means they care. Not only that, but we could also note that they’re more than entrepreneurs … but social entrepreneurs. Meaning, they are interested in leveraging what they do for the betterment of others.

This then directly ties into the 2nd point of an attachment to place. The two are often linked together … being socially minded and attachment to place. In other words, because maker-entrepreneurs are socially minded it tends to mean they’re also involved locally in a variety of issues and needs that they see and experience on a daily basis.

My hope is by now you’re seeing the implications for how this ties into church planting, whether in cities or even rural areas. By starting a business (a) you’re bringing something of value to the community, (b) more than likely you’ll also be involved in meeting some local need, (c) it causes you to be more rooted in place, (d) as you grow and scale up it creates more jobs, (e) it pours more money into your local economy, (f) it provides a platform for your to naturally connect with people, and (g) it generates income for you for long-term sustainability.

Obviously, these are broad brush strokes, but my hope is that this will stimulate your thinking towards this direction.