Vacant industrial spaces are reborn to support a new age of small-scale manufacturing

Reprinted from Center for Community Progress. 

There’s a myth surrounding post-industrial economies, Dan Kinkead, acting executive director of Detroit Future City, shares in conversation about the rebirth of small-scale manufacturing in his hometown of Detroit. View-of-Downtown-Detroit-from-Ponyride1“The myth is that we need to build new economies around technology and innovation completely divorced from industry,” said Kinkead. “But industry is actually evolving and is now highly innovative today.” It’s just on a different scale.

Detroit Denim workshop at Ponyride (Credit: MacQ)

Small outfits working on everything from 3D printing to furniture design are forming in cities like Detroit, and they are looking for space to work. Luckily, in most Legacy Cities, there is a surfeit of vacant industrial space that is proving ripe for rebirth as shared spaces for small-scale manufacturing, where entrepreneurs can rent space in common. Small-scale manufacturing is an umbrella term used for all small businesses producing tangible goods (You can find a full glossary of related terms here).

Dan describes it as “a circular moment where we’re reutilizing things that we already have. Cradle to cradle.” Many of the large-scale industries that once powered the rapid growth of Legacy City economies are now long gone. The entrepreneurial spirit that fueled that growth has not perished, though, and it is that ethos that is the driving force behind this new rise of manufacturing.

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