Small-scale manufacturers are often overlooked as
part of a downtown revitalization strategy.
Yet, micro-producers like brewers, bakers, and goat-soap makers are welcomed additions to the typical restaurant, retail, entertainment, and hospitality businesses found along vibrant main streets. So how does a community bring more of these locally-grown businesses downtown?
Like with any planning effort, the first step is to engage micro-producers, and listen to their specific needs. However, this is typically easier said than done because the people you’re looking for are probably producing as a hobby or side-hustle, making goods out of their home. Even those who do have an established business location are often not on the radar of local economic development staff or elected officials.
Finding local small-scale producers takes some determined digging.
Here are some places to look:
- Local craft fairs, festivals, and farmers markets
- Digital marketplaces like Etsy, Handmade by Amazon, Zibbet, Facebook, and Craigslist. Most allow filtering by location.
- Suppliers like art-supply stores, hardware stores, lumber stores, home brew supply stores, etc. In addition to a local customer base, many host events where makers congregate.
- Online networks that organize in-person gatherings like Meetup or EventBrite
- Ethnic and religious institutions
- Coffee shops, beauty salons, or other businesses who display local artwork or products
- Libraries where makers might access resources
- High School and Technical School educators who instruct trades (wood working, electronics, etc.)
- Social media sites where people are showcasing their products
- U.S. Patent database is a pain to use but a quick skim by location might offer some leads
Once you find someone, always ask them about who else they know. Most makers have a network of people who have similar interests and enjoy connecting people.
Does your organization engage small-scale manufacturers as part of a place-based economic development strategy? Tell us about it in the comments below.