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Portland Made: Save the Central Eastside

Monday, July 13, 2015

 

The following views are those of Portland Made

Portland Made is experiencing in the Central Eastside what many industrial neighborhoods have experienced time and time again. Will we follow the wise words of Jane Jacobs and grow and support the businesses we have? Or will we sell it to the highest bidder and create yet another soulless place where only the wealthy can play.

Save Portland’s Makers. Save the Central Eastside.

3D Printers do not define the Maker Movement

Developers and tech companies are lobbying the Portland City Council pretty hard to turn the manufacturing warehouses in the Central Eastside into creative office. And they are trying to co-op the term “Maker” to get away with it. Yes anyone can be a maker, but it is the production of physical goods that distinguishes a maker from other creative groups like software and app developers. Makers include producers in fashion and apparel, food and beverage, home goods and more (for examples of makers and their companies read feature stories at portlandmade.com).

Why Techies can work from anywhere

The simple truth is that software and apps can be developed from anywhere. Just because the cool aesthetic of the warehouses in the Central Eastside are more appealing, does not entitle software developers to them. Makers and manufacturers MUST have space, tools (think large CNCs not 3D printers), and the infrastructure needed to produce goods (like A LOT of distributed electrical, air lines, lighting, plumbing and more). Most of the warehouses in the Central Eastside have this type of infrastructure because of the areas long history of manufacturing and it would be a shame to just give it away to tech companies because they like the way they look.

For example, Sara Tunstall and Dana Hinger of Spooltown were able to move right in to their 5,000 square foot space because it had everything they needed to start production immediately. They also found an enlightened landlord that appreciated their businesses’ focus on small batch manufacturing and sewing production. They are already looking for more space, but are having a hard time. They can’t move to the cheaper districts outside the city because their workers will not commute that far and they would lose access to the vast maker ecosystem in the Central Eastside (see below). So Spooltown would likely go out of business. Which means 80-120 of their clients would also go out of business because there is nobody else in the nation doing what they do. 

I hear this story on a daily basis, which is why Portland Made is advocating on behalf of makers to SAVE THE CENTRAL EASTSIDE.

Despite technologists dreams about a world without work and physical labor, we are VERY far away from a world where no physical goods are made. 

We still need people who know how to make things, from food, clothes and shelter to furniture, transportation and lifestyle goods. Making is not lower class work. It is a noble profession that requires incredible intellect paired with physical strength. A good design eye matched with the know how to run a complicated business with multiple vendors. 

And Portlanders are hungry to support local businesses and locally made goods.

Makers are part of a manufacturing renaissance and Portland is leading the nation…for now. If we displace our makers and disrupt the incredible ecosystem in the Central Eastside, we lose our competitive edge and the jobs and the cache that go with it.

The Central Eastside has a vast maker ecosystem

Some of the makers and artisanal manufacturers in the Central Eastside include:

Stumptown Coffee, New Seasons Central Kitchen, Olympia Provisions, Eastside Distilling (major expansion), House Spirits Distillery (major expansion), Ancient Heritage Dairy, Jacobsen Salt Co., Baerlic Brewing, HouseSpecial, Nicky USA, Artemis Foods, Aybla Mediterranean Grill, Steve Smith Tea Headquarters, Commons Brewing, Mt Tabor Brewing, Carmen Ranch, My Bartender Catering, Base Camp Brewing, Elephant’s Deli (Expansion), Spooltown, Fieldwork Design, Plywerk, Woodblock Chocolate, Ota Tofu, Franz Bakery, Simple Bicycles, Isla Bikes, Vanilla Bicycles, B-Line Bikes, Siteworks Construction, Surface Floor Coverings, Cascade NW, Rose City Storage, ADX, SK Northwest, Pacific Expositions, Next Adventure (Expansion), Cooper’s Hall Winery, Make it Good/ Nell and Mary, Shwood, NAU, Grove Made, Caravan Pacific, Pratt & Larson, Hammer and Hand, Portland Razor Co, Plywerk, The Plant, New Space Center for Photography, Radius Studios, Shop People, NW Woodworking Studios, Fab PDX, Ear Trumpet Labs, Renovo Bikes, Veteran Bikes, Simple Bike Co, IPRC, Pinball Publishing/Scout Books, Dennis Uniforms, Portland Powdercoating, Sustainable Woods NW...(email [email protected] if you are not listed here but are a maker!)

Some of the support businesses for the maker and manufacturing economy include:

Winks, Ankeny Hardware, Creative Woodworking NW, Woodcrafters, OCAC/PNCA, Machine Shops, Oregon Carbide Saw, Chas Day, Mcquire Bearing Company, Hall Tool Company, PCC Climb Center...(email [email protected] if you are not listed here but are a business that supports makers!)

Portland Made did a study with PSU professor Charles Heying in 2014 that showed that the 126 members of Portland Made generated 1,083 jobs and $273 million in revenue. With their membership now over 500, the numbers start to become quite impressive, and if you add the economic multiplier effects of buying local and locally made, these numbers would start to show that makers and artisanal manufacturers are the backbone of our thriving local economy and the thing that is drawing hundreds of thousands of tourists to Portland (people are not coming here to tour tech companies).

The city, after two years of working on the SE Quadrant Plan, never bothered to do a study about the economic potential of the maker and artisanal manufacturing sector. And it is not for a lack of knowing it exists. We have been in constant contact with our elected officials and the Portland Development Commission, and our requests are falling on deaf ears. 

Take a look at the businesses above and start crunching some numbers. We are talking hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions in economic activity.

The motivator behind all of the recommended zoning changes is Cold. Hard. Cash. 

Developers, real estate agents and the city stand to make a considerable amount of money off of the new Employment Overlay Zone expansion, but at the expense of what? 

Companies that have been pushed out of the Central Eastside include Krown Lab and Schoolhouse Electric. Stefan from Krown Lab tried to buy the Equal Exchange building, but was beat out by someone who turned it into creative office. He is now in the NW Industrial District, which has very few support businesses for makers. I have been trying to expand ADX and recently tried to rent the building next to me. The owner had recently purchased it for over the real market value (because of the coming zoning changes) and therefore was demanding rents 3x my current rent rate. Nobody I know can absorb 3x rent in such a short period of time (except newcomers from more expensive markets). This is the rub. People are paying way too much money for land/buildings and then demanding way too much for rent. The only people that can afford those rents are tech companies. Investors are buying buildings knowing that the zoning changes are on the table and so they are just waiting for the SE Quadrant plan to be approved.

The cold hard truth is that the Employment Overlay will displace many makers and manufacturers. If developers and other monied interests think otherwise then I recommend we hire someone like Joe Cartwright to analyze it and present some actual data.

Why do we care?

During my twenty years of living in Portland (excluding a few stints in Austin, Brooklyn, and Seattle), I have seen the city grow and attract creative people from all over the country. There is something really incredible happening in our city right now and the world is watching. The Maker Movement is gaining momentum across the globe, and everyone is looking to Portland to uncover the who, what, why and how of this critical resurgence of artisanal manufacturing. Through the creation of beautiful and thoughtfully produced goods—from food and fashion to housewares and craft brewing—Portland is showcasing the city’s deeply embedded values and playing a lead role in shaping the fast-growing manufacturing renaissance. Portland is at the forefront of a New American Manufacturing Revolution, and ADX and Portland Made have been an important catalyst in shaping the handcrafted goods movement. 

We are experiencing in the Central Eastside what many industrial neighborhoods in the east have experienced time and time again. Will we follow the wise words of Jane Jacobs and grow and support the businesses we have? Or will we sell it to the highest bidder and create yet another soulless place where only the wealthy can play.

Save Portland’s Makers. Save the Central Eastside.

To get involved or for more information contact [email protected].

Kelley Roy is the founder of ADX, a 14,000 square foot Makerspace where artists and designers work along side each other to prototype and launch new product lines. ADX is also open to the general public and teaches people of all ages how to make. And if you don't want to do it yourself, you can hire ADX to make it for you. For more information check out adxportland.com. 

Portland Made is a digital storytelling platform and advocacy center for Portland's Maker Movement. We do 2 features a month on Portland Makers; connect makers with more local, national and international markets; connect makers with local professional and manufacturing resources; advocate for makers with politicians at all levels of government; work with PSU on an annual survey that captures the economic power of the Maker Movement; help makers find real estate; and promote Portland makers with local and national media.

 

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