While Richard Florida’s 2002 book The Rise of the Creative Class made the case for the importance of the creative economy, mainstream economic development often dismisses the idea of supporting artists, makers, and other creative people. The thinking is that most creative people are self-employed and bring little to the bigger picture of economic growth.
However, we are now seeing a rise in small-scale manufacturing that is the scale-up of creative endeavors such as jewelry making, garment, home décor and accessories sewing, and value-added food and beverage production, just to name a few. Suddenly these activities that have arisen from the creative sector are now addressing national and international markets, and becoming scalable, tradeable sector contributors to local economic development.
How can we support the emergence of these sectors? Entrepreneurial support mechanisms such as incubators, co-working spaces and makerspaces have morphed into creative spaces. For instance, Rising Tide in Portland, ME, supports artists in co-working studios, along with a shared kiln. The NoMad artist studio space in New York City provides fine artists and digital designers with access to affordable and convenient studio spaces. The spaces come equipped with easels, stools, storage, and tabletop workspaces. The Hatchery in Chicago features kitchen facilities and an entrepreneurship curriculum to support local food and beverage entrepreneurs.
There are several characteristics that create a space that encourages social activity. These include having a place that is easy to get to, to stay in and to move through, and one that is clean and safe. These places need to make it easy to create things, and should inspire creativity. They should allow enough density to support interaction, but also have private places for audio and video teleconferencing, meetings, or just quiet for individual work. Galleries for art displays or other presentation materials are encouraged, as are large white boards, or indeed, entire walls covered with white board material or chalkboard paint. Natural lighting, plants, and a view outdoors are also encouraged, as is visibility. Glass is often used to create openness, but keep in mind creative spaces should also allow for privacy when needed. Technology is also necessary, such as robust wireless connections throughout, outlets for power, audio and video teleconferencing equipment, and projections systems. Furniture should be comfortable, flexible and easy to reconfigure.
What we did for Engine:
Engine, a creative economy organization in Biddeford, ME, had a vision for IGNITE for several years. They envisioned IGNITE to be a place that could assist young, small manufacturers whose competitive advantage is design.
In March 2019, Camoin 310 partnered with Innovation Policyworks to determine the feasibility and economic impact of Engine, Inc.’s proposed IGNITE incubator/accelerator/makerspace. The Camoin Team worked with Engine to fully understand their desired outcomes and paired this understanding with a regional market analysis that provided a greater understanding as to how the region can develop its existing assets and where it can invest in new resources to capture a greater percentage of the state’s innovation talent and output. We prepared and distributed an entrepreneurial community survey that further defined the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Biddeford, ME and helped to outline opportunities for the IGNITE concept. Overall, the survey showed strong interest for an incubator/accelerator/makerspace with the strongest demand being for a Design and Innovation Coworking Center.
Through a combination of data, interviews, and a financial pro forma, we were able to assess IGNITE’s technical, financial, cultural and political, and organization feasibility. The Camoin Team then calculated the economic impact of the IGNITE Design and Innovation Coworking Center based on client and employee assumptions gathered as part of the technical feasibility assessment. In total, our work outlined how the market findings can translate into implementable actions for Engine to turn this project vision into a reality.
For more information on Engine, please visit: https://feedtheengine.org/
Should you have a program like this in your community? We recommend a feasibility study that is heavily data driven and looks at five types of feasibility.
- Market Feasibility: How many self-employed individuals or small companies do you have in your area in the creative sector? Include small-scale manufacturing where design is a critical component, such as jewelry, fashion-related items, and home décor. Are there one or more organizations in your area who support or represent these industries, like a manufacturing association, or perhaps a food and beverage association? What about a local college of art? Use these avenues, as well as your chamber of commerce and your own contacts to interview and survey these audiences to ascertain the need for a facility. Talk with potential partners such as developers, educational institutions, other entrepreneurial support organizations to explore the possibilities.
- Technical Feasibility: Do you have the technical knowledge in your community to support the program?
- Organizational Capacity: Does your organization have the capacity to undertake a project like this?
- Cultural and Political Feasibility: What is the climate in your area? Is there political support for entrepreneurship and specifically for creatives? Is the community welcoming and open to creative individuals?
- Financial Feasibility: Run the numbers. What will it cost to operate such a facility? Are there funding sources willing to support it? Is it sustainable over time?
In the end, make a decision based on a realistic budget, understanding of the demand and the fit with your community.