While everyone in the city is obsessed with the traffic incurred by the arrival of our great POTUS, there is one group in town that will not be meeting with President Obama: several leaders from the Portland maker community. The online marketplace Portland Made (devoted to selling goods created right here) announced its excitement at an invite to a national Maker Movement roundtable at the White House. But when it comes to facetime with the Prez at Nike World HQ in Beaverton, the group has this to say:
“Portland Makers do not advocate for tax breaks and other government subsidies for companies that exploit labor and non-existent environmental regulation overseas, nor do we support secret trade deals that undermine our locally grown businesses. We are deeply committed to the long term economic viability of our community and support an economic system that values people, planet and profit equally. This is what Portland Made represents and we will continue to advocate on behalf of our local makers and artisanal manufacturers.”
The group says its agenda for the White House roundtable includes “seeking to engage in the national conversation on how to build a sustainable economy for Makers, and address critical issues such as local manufacturing and resources for small business."
Last summer President Obama held the first Maker Fair at the White House, declaring “every company, every college, every community, every citizen joins us as we lift up makers and builders and doers across the country.” Portland has increasingly gathered national attention for our hands-on creative community covering a wide swath from fashion designers to leather tanners to local manufacturing. “Visible American manufacturing is the wave of the future,” says Sara Tunstall of Spooltown. “Rather than hiding behind closed doors, manufacturers should be flinging their doors wide open, inviting the public in, and creating connections between consumers and the companies they’re supporting. That’s how we’ll create real social change and revitalize our local economies.”
Perhaps one of the most vocal members of this community is Kelley Roy, founder of the Portland Made Community (PMC) and collaborative maker space ADX. “The City of Portland, and the country for that matter, needs to support the local Maker Movement and artisanal manufacturing industry sector,” she says. “These small- to medium-sized manufacturers – more than five, but less than 150 employees – are the future of our economy...Supporting local artisanal manufacturers should be the city’s number one economic development priority.”
According to the PMC, a 2014 Portland State study found that over 90 percent of small-to-medium maker enterprises do not show up on national small business databases. While the businesses may be blipping off radar, they do have a large impact on the local economy, employing over 1,000 people, generating over $260 million in revenue, with an average revenue growth over a three-year period of 61 percent.
“The important point, which cannot be overstated, is that these results point to a strong need to nourish the maker and artisan community here in Portland,” says Stephen Marotta, PSU research assistant. “The survey results generally supported a need to further develop the systems of resources that will make this making community strong and make Portland an international leader in the maker movement.” The PMC states they are now over 500 strong and growing, with 2015 survey results to be published later this summer. It is estimated that about 70 percent of every dollar spent on locally made goods stays in the local economy, which means support for local schools, community infrastructure and thriving communities.
“This band of bold entrepreneurs has been quietly building a resilient ecosystem to support Portland makers,” says Katrina Scotto di Carlo, Co-founder of Supportland. “It’s time to share this ecosystem with the rest of the country and, in exchange, learn from the brilliance happening in other communities. Our only message to government on this trip will be to stop trying to dismantle American manufacturing through the TPP and start being proactive in supporting the Maker ecosystems in this country.”
The PMC community says they are excited to be included in the event hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy which will gather business leaders, city officials, and other key players to share successful models of partnership for makers around the country and build a national network of makerspaces and manufacturers.