Wichita Falls MakerHub Network Branding Underway

Wichita Falls MakerHub Network Branding Underway

The branding for the Wichita Falls MakerHub is underway and the logo has been chosen! Over the next few months, you will see accelerated marketing efforts promoting the network and encouraging people to learn about these spaces, what they are for, and how you can utilize them to further your own business or start a new one, and finally, to grow the network of makerspaces.

The Wichita Falls Chamber began the branding process, while working with a local advertising agency, and a volunteer group of Action Team members in February 2019 and have been continuing the process to include educational, promotional and insightful videos, posts and a website.

Keep your eyes open for the future of the Wichita Falls Makerhub | A Creative Alliance

Wichita Falls Makerhub- A Creative Alliance Logo

Makerspaces for business growth and education

What is a “Makerspace?”
Everyone is a Maker. The MakerSpace has tools, supplies, and people to help you work on assignments, research, and personal projects.

The focus is on various ways in which Wichita Falls can create an optimal climate for various types of business growth – including increasing the visibility of the community’s existing small business support services. Wichita Falls also has an additional opportunity to promote economic growth through small business and entrepreneurship.

The community can embrace the burgeoning “maker movement” and leverage its existing strength in small, custom manufacturing shops to produce strong “homegrown” manufacturing companies.

Crashworks ribbon cuttingDiscussions of “entrepreneurial ecosystems” and “startups” often evoke images of app development and efforts to disrupt existing business models with technological advances. While exceptions certainly exist, these activities are generally concentrated in a relatively small set of large metros where entrepreneurs can more readily access capital, talent, and support networks. It is important to note that firms with “high growth” potential do not necessarily need to be “high tech.” Successful entrepreneurial and small business support efforts are built around helping manufacturing firms – even ones that make decidedly “low-tech” products – to begin operations, scale up, improve processes, and gain access to new customers and markets.

Research and input suggest that the community has a strong base of engineers and mechanically inclined individuals who may have new product ideas as well as numerous smaller manufacturing firms with core competencies in customized and precision production. Accordingly, a range of programming to help establish Wichita Falls as a hub for “makers” and manufacturing entrepreneurship represents a promising niche opportunity for the community.

 

Crashworks STEAM Studio and Makerspace celebrated their grand opening in early November. The space is full of tools for kids (and adults) aged 7+. You’ll find everything from felt-paper projects, and cardboard architectural renderings to chemistry, and a 3D printers. Check out their website to get the latest classes, events and services!

Dexter Learning is another great space to learn digital skills and much more. You can find them in Big Blue in Downtown Wichita Falls.

CONNECTIONS TO COMMUNITY GOALS

Attract and retain residents and businesses: Services for entrepreneurs and small manufacturing firms could create strong incentives for these individuals and firms to remain in the community.

Increase prosperity for all residents: The ultimate goal of this portion of the strategy is to grow new businesses and help “homegrown” manufacturing firms thrive. Doing so would create jobs and bring new wealth to the community by exporting products to other regions.

Enhance the quality of life and quality of place: In addition to many indirect benefits, a Downtown maker hub could significantly contribute to the vibrancy of the area by bringing in new active users.

Promote inclusivity and equity: A makerspace can help lower barriers to entry for prospective manufacturing entrepreneurs, and steps should be taken to ensure equitable access to it.

Improve internal and external perceptions of Wichita Falls: A successful program would improve the community’s manufacturing reputation and could potentially attract more widespread attention.

 

Action Team

Vanda Cullar, Small Business Development Center at MSU
David Farabee, Boley-Featherston Insurance
James Frank, Sharp Iron Group
Kathryn Hager, Ramble & Company
Steve Haviland, Think of IT Computer Services
Mark McMullen, Production Machine & Tool LP
Margie Reese, Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture
Dr. Jeff Stambaugh, Midwestern State University – Dillard College
Marcela Trice, SLA Architects
Dr. Scott Manley, Midwestern State University
Richard Dowdy, Richard Dowdy
Leland Wetzel, Xylo Bats
Sean K. Egloff, Dexter Learning
Michael Olaya, Dexter Learning
Keith Weininger, The Burn Shop
Travis Haggard, Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce
Shauna LaRocque, CrashWorks STEAM Studio & Makerspace, LLC
Margaret Brown Marsden, Ph.D., Midwestern State University
Gary Cunningham, Wichita Falls Independent School District
Barry Donnell, Barry Donnell
Synthia Kirby, Wichita Falls Independent School District
Ronnie Thomas, Production Machine & Tool, LP
Carol Sales, Arts Council – The Kemp
Cody Magana, White Realty Management Company
Mark D. McBurnett, SAFB, 082 CES
Katie Britt, Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce

Establish a development plan for an entrepreneurial maker hub

Recommendations:

• Convene a range of public, private, and non-profit community partners including the City of Wichita Falls, Midwestern State University, the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce, Sarek Labs, and others

• Create a development plan for an entrepreneurial maker hub centered on an integrated makerspace and business incubator to develop homegrown manufacturing firms and promote entrepreneurship in Wichita Falls

• The development plan should do the following:

Inventory existing programs and capacity

Establish desired initial programming and potential opportunities for expansion

Assess physical space and resource needs

Identify potential locations and examine options to purchase, lease, or assume control of a viable space

Identify a desired business model and corporate structure

Develop an initial budget

Determine partner commitments and create a resource development strategy

• The development plan should also establish acceptance criteria and commitment guidelines for the business incubator; participants should be incorporated firms with products that are beyond the idea stage, are making sales or are ready to do so, and are willing to commit to a program lasting 9-18 months; task professional staff (see Tactical Recommendation 5.2) with providing coaching and mentoring to incubator participants and developing additional incubator programming

• When creating the development plan, evaluate whether additional entrepreneurial resources – e.g. a branch of the Midwestern State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) – could be co-located with the facility in order to increase their visibility

• Other initial programming could reasonably include the following:

A program to engage high school and college students in tinkering and creating at the makerspace – could develop partnerships with the Career Education Center, Vernon College, Midwestern State’s mechanical engineering program, etc.

Instructional classes and community workshops

“Pre-incubator” mentoring services for tinkerers and inventors seeking to turn ideas into workable prototypes

Programs or support for individuals and small firms in the aerospace parts manufacturing sector

Networking events for makers and entrepreneurs

Establish a development plan for an entrepreneurial maker hub

Recommendations:

• Convene a range of public, private, and non-profit community partners including the City of Wichita Falls, Midwestern State University, the Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce, Sarek Labs, and others

• Create a development plan for an entrepreneurial maker hub centered on an integrated makerspace and business incubator to develop homegrown manufacturing firms and promote entrepreneurship in Wichita Falls

• The development plan should do the following:

Inventory existing programs and capacity

Establish desired initial programming and potential opportunities for expansion

Assess physical space and resource needs

Identify potential locations and examine options to purchase, lease, or assume control of a viable space

Identify a desired business model and corporate structure

Develop an initial budget

Determine partner commitments and create a resource development strategy

• The development plan should also establish acceptance criteria and commitment guidelines for the business incubator; participants should be incorporated firms with products that are beyond the idea stage, are making sales or are ready to do so, and are willing to commit to a program lasting 9-18 months; task professional staff (see Tactical Recommendation 5.2) with providing coaching and mentoring to incubator participants and developing additional incubator programming

• When creating the development plan, evaluate whether additional entrepreneurial resources – e.g. a branch of the Midwestern State Small Business Development Center (SBDC) – could be co-located with the facility in order to increase their visibility

• Other initial programming could reasonably include the following:

A program to engage high school and college students in tinkering and creating at the makerspace – could develop partnerships with the Career Education Center, Vernon College, Midwestern State’s mechanical engineering program, etc.

Instructional classes and community workshops

“Pre-incubator” mentoring services for tinkerers and inventors seeking to turn ideas into workable prototypes

Programs or support for individuals and small firms in the aerospace parts manufacturing sector

Networking events for makers and entrepreneurs

Launch a pilot “economic gardening” program to assist promising “second-stage” manufacturing firms

Recommendations:
• Engage the Edward Lowe Foundation-led program to launch a pilot program

• Develop the necessary resources and staff capacity to support the program

• Identify and recruit five eligible second-stage firms to participate in the program

– According to the Edward Lowe Foundation, second-stage companies are those that have grown past the startup stage but are not yet mature. They typically have annual revenues between $1 and $50 million and likely do not have a full-scale professional management team.

• If successful, expand the program to additional community businesses

Provide affordable flex space to help small and startup manufacturing firms grow

Recommendations:
Work with the Wichita Falls Economic Development Corporation (WFEDC), economic development professionals, and other stakeholders to identify options for providing flex space capable of accommodating the production and business operations of startup manufacturing firms for free or at significantly below-market rates

• Evaluate the feasibility of converting an underutilized WFEDC-owned asset into a dedicated home for manufacturing firms that are startups or new to the community and working to scale up; could be operated as an extension of the business incubator

Expand access to capital for homegrown manufacturing firms with growth potential

Recommendations:

• Engage Texoma Angels, local financial institutions, and high net-worth individuals to increase investment in well-qualified Wichita Falls-based manufacturing firms with high growth potential

• Evaluate the feasibility of reviving the Wichita Falls Growth Fund with a focus on homegrown manufacturing

• Could identify firms through the business incubator and economic gardening programs established in recommendation above.

• Evaluate the feasibility of establishing small grants for firms with aerospace product ideas and veteran-owned businesses to leverage existing community strengths and activate new entrepreneurs