Large and small U.S. companies are “re-shoring” manufacturing in record numbers. Small urban manufacturing, in particular, is growing, thanks to advanced technology and devices.
Many urban manufacturers are small businesses—solopreneurs who outgrow their garage or home office “warehouse” and decide to scale up. In the process, they often go to places like TechShop, an advanced makerspace, for tools, Epilog laser cutter for equipment, or Objet for high-end 3D printers.
Though these small companies often face a lack of resources, financial and otherwise, they're still managing to create jobs in America’s largest cities.
The Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA) recently launched to help with this boom in urban manufacturing, and to assist in manufacturing job creation efforts in 16 cities nationwide, including SFMade and Made in NYC.
From Hobby to Small Business
SFMade's membership has grown to more than 400 companies, from bicycle builders to pet accessory makers to jewelry designers, all headquartered in and producing their products in San Francisco. This vibrant sector now employs more than 3,000 low-to-moderate income individuals.
Kate Sofis, executive director of SFMade, reports that manufacturing in San Francisco is growing dramatically. The sector added more than 12.5 percent of net new jobs in 2012, up from 10.5 percent in 2011.
In New York, the Pratt Center for Community Development has 850 member companies, which together employ more than 8,000 low-to moderate income individuals.
The UMA will build on the successes and expertise of SFMade and the Pratt Center as it implements focused regional initiatives in Chicago, Oakland and New York City and integrates the work of groups in a dozen additional cities ranging from Detroit and Philadelphia to Allentown and Atlanta.
Think about all those old industrial buildings in cities and regions that used to have strong manufacturing bases—those spaces are often available at affordable rates or have already been retrofitted to accommodate a range of small businesses. And those facilities will provide a home when jobs are re-shored.
"Revitalizing our manufacturing sector is at the center of our nation's economic policy," says Adam Friedman, director of the Pratt Center for Community Development. "Manufacturing is heavily concentrated in urban areas. The policy conversation about the role of manufacturing in our economy must address the particular needs of urban manufacturers in order to create jobs for a diverse workforce."
Just like the "buy local" campaigns that support local farmers and food producers, the UMA is an impressive effort to brand local manufacturing as the future.
Read more posts about manufacturing.