Columbia is a creative city. People brew beer in their basements, roast coffee in their kitchens, or build furniture in their garages. Others sew quilts, make leather handbags, or create clothing with wearable electronics. School kids board the STEAM Bus to learn coding and engineering skills with a Raspberry Pi.
Small-scale manufacturing and small-batch production can bring innovation, creativity, and economic vitality to a long-neglected area like the Business Loop. We're expanding our view of what "retail" means and finding the hidden economy of diverse creators who may not have a place elsewhere. We're working to identify and support these up-and-coming makers with expert mentoring, funding, and marketing assistance--and are creating the space to help them grow into small manufacturers.
The Loop has always been a DIY type of street. Now we're taking this same approach to the maker community here in Columbia and Boone County to see if we can build something together.
The Loop Community Improvement District was one of six organizations in the nation to receive a federal grant designed to encourage local, small-scale manufacturing as a way to revitalize an underperforming area of the city and create new economic opportunities. Our goal is to identify local small-scale manufacturers and help them overcome obstacles to growing their business with shared spaces, pop-up markets, and promotional assistance. We're also focusing on inclusivity by creating pathways to include those left out of traditional funding processes, often women and minorities.
Most recently, we were named one of five Etsy Maker Cities and are teaming up with Jabberwocky Studios to create a one-stop shop of resources for makers including a shared branding program, a community-wide awareness campaign, and assistance locating manufacturing space along The Loop corridor.
And there are some exciting new spaces that came out of these planning processes, including a CoMo Cooks, a shared commercial kitchen, the MACCLab Makerspace at Parkade Plaza, and Vidwest Studios, a community studio for photographers, film makers, and more.