Dexter Learning and Crashworks were both in attendance and showcased their current project completion and future plans.
Dexter has completed Phase I and are putting Phase II plans together with a list of equipment and renovation needs to present to the 4a/4b Board.
Crashworks has been growing steadily with many schools (in Wichita Falls and surrounding areas) exploring the facilities on Field Trips. Their next phase includes becoming a 501-3c entity to allow for grant monies to assist with expanding as well as opening up their facility to at-risk youth or those without the means to use their services.
The Wichita Falls Chamber has begun the process of Branding the Maker Network with the help of a local Advertising Agency, Designworks Group. Three members from the committee have volunteered to assist with the process and will be in attendance at the next agency meeting on February 4th, 2019.
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.
Discussions 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.
Establish a development plan for an entrepreneurial maker hub
• 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
• 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
– 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
• 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
• 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
• 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
Makerspace Action Team
Small Business Development Center at MSU
Sharp Iron Group
Ramble & Company
Think of IT Computer Services
Production Machine & Tool LP
Wichita Falls Alliance for Arts and Culture
Dr. Jeff Stambaugh
Midwestern State University – Dillard College
Dr. Scott Manley
Midwestern State University
Sean K. Egloff
The Burn Shop
Wichita Falls Chamber of Commerce
CrashWorks STEAM Studio & Makerspace, LLC
Margaret Brown Marsden, Ph.D.
Midwestern State University
Wichita Falls Independent School District
Wichita Falls Independent School District
Production Machine & Tool, LP
Arts Council – The Kemp
White Realty Management Company
Mark D. McBurnett
SAFB, 082 CES