Things are Made Here

Columbia is home to makers, creators, and fabricators. People brew beer in their basements, roast coffee in their kitchens, or build furniture in their garages. Others work in textiles or bring garment construction to a new level with wearable electronics. School kids board the STEAM Bus to learn coding and engineering skills with a Raspberry Pi.

Small-scale manufacturing can bring innovation, creativity, and economic vitality to a long-neglected area like the Business Loop. So how can we identify and support these up-and-coming manufacturers with expert mentoring, funding, and marketing assistance? And how can we help them break ground here on The Loop?

Columbia has done this before. We’ve created an arts district alive with local creativity. We have a proud group of local farmers who are expanding their space to meet community demand. Now let’s take this DIY approach to the makers of Columbia and see what we can build.

About this Project

The Business Loop CID was one of six organizations in the nation to receive a Smart Growth America grant designed to encourage local, small-scale manufacturing as a way to revitalize an underperforming area of the city and create new economic opportunities.

In partnership with the U.S. Economic Development Administration and Recast CitySmart Growth America will provide free technical assistance to help us create an action plan to identify, support, and promote small-scale manufacturing along the corridor. The Business Loop CID will partner with Regional Economic Development Inc. (REDI) and other key stakeholders to move this project forward. The resulting action plan will be tailored to address the Business Loop’s specific needs by using existing resources and addressing potential obstacles to these local startups. It will also focus on inclusivity by creating pathways to include those left out of traditional funding processes, often women and minorities.

The immediate financial impact of this technical assistance is substantial but the true economic impact of the resulting action plan will be a revitalized, high-performing commercial corridor that fits with the character of the area.

What is Small-Scale Manufacturing?

We don’t talk much about small-scale manufacturing but chances are, you’re more familiar with it than you think.

This type of manufacturing is locally-based and focused on the production of tangible, artisan goods. This includes value-added agricultural products, breweries and distilleries, bakeries, coffee roasters, textiles, woodworking, metalworking, electronics, and 3D-printing.

These small manufacturing plants usually have between 1 and 30 employees and are focused on both retail sales and wholesale distribution. Picture a coffee roaster supplying local restaurants and markets but also operating a coffee shop on site.

These industries are typically low-impact so they can be located near neighborhoods rather than on the outskirts of town. This means that for people living nearby, it’s a quick walk to work or to shop.

Locating local manufacturing along the Business Loop corridor will improve the economic health of the area, provide jobs, and enliven the street—all while remaining true to the character of the area.


Loop Maker Fair

Mark your calendars now for Friday, September 6 from 5:00 to 7:00 pm for our Loop Makers Fair. We’re hosting a grass roots festival to celebrate local makers, artists, designers, and entrepreneurs–and we’re doing it at our new Community Pop-Up Park! If you are a maker or if you are a Loop Business, contact Rae …