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

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UPDATES: 
Will be posted here as progress is reported

Retain professional staff to program and operate the makerspace and incubator

Recommendations:

• Retain one or more professional staff to operate the facility and work with partners to develop programming

• The business incubator component must be overseen by a proven entrepreneur and/or an individual with significant experience running an incubator or accelerator

• Operating the makerspace component will involve providing hands-on assistance to users with a wide variety of interests and skill levels; could be more flexible and could involve both paid and volunteer staff

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UPDATES: 
Will be posted here as progress is reported

Establish the facility in Downtown Wichita Falls

Recommendations:

• Purchase, lease, or assume control of an appropriate facility in Downtown Wichita Falls to take advantage of the area’s compact, amenity-rich environment that appeals to innovators

• Work with local businesses to donate depreciated or surplus equipment such as laser cutters, sign cutters, and milling machines to the facility

• Ensure that the facility has adequate co-working and meeting space to accommodate a business incubator; could also outfit the facility with a commercial kitchen to promote food-based businesses, and a common area for networking and social events to establish a more active gathering space for entrepreneurs

• Offer “scholarships” or other financial offsets for low-income residents, students, veterans, military spouses/partners, and other groups to ensure equitable access to the facility

UPDATES:

October 2018 – There are two makerspaces in the Downtown area. Dexter Learning & Crashworks STEAM Studio & Makerspace.

The task force is redirecting their focus to become a Hub for all spaces that currently exist or come into existence over the next few years. Our goal is not to compete with local business but to help promote them and ensure they flourish and have funding and resources they need.

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UPDATES: 
Will be posted here as progress is reported

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

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UPDATES: 
Will be posted here as progress is reported

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

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UPDATES: 
Will be posted here as progress is reported

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

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UPDATES: 
Will be posted here as progress is reported