While attending the 2016 National Maker Caucus Panel in DC this summer, a member of the audience asked the question, how can a makerspace get more support from area manufacturers?

Judging by the faces and everyone leaning forward, it appeared that everyone in the audience seemed interested in the answer. Although the panelists did a good job explaining how manufacturers help educational makerspaces, the majority of the audience seemed to want more.

So I raised my hand and the moderator asked, do you have a question. “No, can I further answer the previous question?” She said go ahead. Afterwards, I had over 20 makerspaces including NASA Langley wanting my help to boost their makerspaces growth. Now I am being asked to counsel and coach makerspaces all over the country.

To help more makerspaces grow, here are eight ways makerspaces can better partner with manufacturing and leverage the enormous potential to their advantage.

1. Create a Call for Equipment List

Have you created a master dream list of future equipment you want to acquire for your makerspace? When you are doing something good, like running a makerspace, the world will often conspire to help you if properly instructed how to do it. So it is very important to work with your membership and find out what they want to build and what equipment and resources are desired.

2. Partnering with the Chamber of Commerce

Have you reached out to your local Chamber of Commerce? Naturally, the chamber will want you to become a member before lifting a finger for you. But perhaps you can convince them that you are now a new resource to help with recruitment and retention of new and current businesses. Later, after you have increased your income, you can become an official member. Chambers can connect you to their manufacturing counsels, help promote your open houses, large events, training classes, and circulate your call for equipment lists. Also you need to find out who in your area is responsible for Economic Development and Retention. Having them as an advocate can help you grow and be a resource.

3. Birds of a Feather… Can Help You Soar Together.

Are you connected with area engineering associations, civic groups, and other professional associations? I highly encourage you to research your area and speak to these groups and invite them to tours of your makerspaces. Rotary, Kiwannas, Jaycees, and Civitan Chapters can help you uncover future donors of equipment, sponsors, and members. Also engineering associations like Society Manufacturing Engineering, Association for Facilities Engineering, International Facilities Management Association, and National Association Manufacturing chapters can be critical in locating much needed equipment, skills, and talented members for your makerspace.

4. Those Who Dine Together Become Friends Together

Host large dinners. What are you planning on doing for National Manufacturing Day? Why not host a Silo Busting Roundtable Maker Summit and invite different groups of your area to participate. Invite Academic, Business, Finance, Government, Art, Community and student  Leaders to sit together and discuss issues relating to making and manufacturing. Amazing the dialogue that can happen when that occurs. You may be able to find food trucks or area restaurants to donate their services and food to help.

5. Host STEM Job Fairs

On Ultimate Pi Day on March 14, 2015, I hosted a STEM related job fair and started at 9:26 and 53 seconds to correspond with job fair. We had over 200 candidates come in the rain on a Saturday to meet with 20 employers who had over 80 jobs that day. Over 20 people got hired from that event and several were extended jobs that same day.

6. Why Buy an Ad When You Can Be the News?  

Planning a major event at least once a quarter can make you newsworthy and continue to grow your makerspace mindshare in the public arena. Again continue to circulate your call for equipment lists in every media outlet possible. A makerspace got truckloads of equipment when a local manufacturer was purchased by an international firm and had to get rid of old equipment. Well that was new equipment to the makerspace and some of it was sold and generated over $20,000 in revenue.

7. Lifting Others Helps Lift Your Makerspace

Adopt a local STEM Sports Team. Robot clubs, Skills USA, and Shell Ecomarathon teams (for example) from area high schools need more mentorship, training classes, and funding to attend state and national competitions. A makerspace can provide the guidance and assistance to help these talent pools of potential engineers and technicians to compete at optimal levels. Also these community support activities can help justify receiving future grants and community support from your city. These kids and parents may also want to become official members of your makerspace.

8. Turn Fools into Geniuses

Host Inventors Lift Off Workshops — Inventors are called fools when they first get started, but once they make money they are often called geniuses. That is why I hosted a 3 day workshop starting on April Fools Day in 2015. By helping makers become in tune to patent laws, marketing strategies, business development and investment strategies, many were able to move to next level of their growth.

Makerspaces need not fear or be adversarial to manufacturing because manufacturers could become their supporters, sponsors, equipment providers, and perhaps employers to their members. They may even decide to subcontract technical projects to the makerspaces.

Hope this article helps more makerspaces flourish because the future prosperity of our nation’s economy greatly depends on the success of the maker movement!

Feel free to contact me at [email protected] to discuss ideas to grow further.