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 that 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.
We don’t talk much about small-scale manufacturing but chances are, you’re more familiar with it than you think.
This type of creative 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 operations usually have between 1 and 30 employees and can be 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. Or, imagine someone with a sewing machine set up in their guest bedroom who sells clothing online and at craft fairs. Simply put, if you’re a maker, you’re a manufacturer!
These creative 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.