Downtown: Tinkerers look to create a maker space workshop in Concord

  • The front of Manchester Makerspace on Old Granite Street in Manchester. A group, Making Matters NH, is trying to bring a similar maker space to Concord. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Two projects, a motorcycle and a collapsible boat, members of the Manchester Makerspace are currently working on. A group is trying to bring a maker space to Concord. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • A motorcycle a member of Manchester Makerspace is currently working on. A group, Making Matters NH, is trying to bring a similar maker space to Concord. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Manchester Makerspace co-founder and board member Steve Korzyniowski operates a laser burner. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

  • Andre Bertolino sits in the wood shop of Manchester Makerspace. A group, Making Matters NH, is trying to bring a similar maker space to Concord. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Monday, March 05, 2018

Concord has been called many things in its 250-plus years – the Capital City and New Hampshire’s Main Street are perhaps the most recent and well-known slogans.

But the dozens of people gathered in a Red River Theatres auditorium last week had probably never heard the city referred to as an item off the Dunkin’ Donuts menu.

That is, until Gary Miller started speaking.

The city resembles the hole in the middle of a doughnut, he said, because it lacks one element surrounding communities have – a maker space, or an incubator. That makes us the hole in the doughnut, he said.

But Concord won’t stay that way forever if Making Matters NH – a group of local businesspeople looking to bring a maker space to the Capital City – can get off the ground.

“I encourage you to be the Munchkin, and fill the hole,” Miller said, standing before the audience. “Dunkin’ Donuts made millions of dollars off the idea. ... Be the Munchkin.”

Being the Munchkin would mean carving out space – think industrial, with plenty of space, studios, materials and tools – where local creators could come and hone their craft or build a business for a monthly fee.

In exchange, they wouldn’t have to worry about all the overhead that can hamper innovators from pursuing their goals. Miller said a maker space can include a commercial kitchen, a wood shop, a metal shop, artist studios and much more, which can be cost-prohibitive for creators set up independently.

Maker spaces can also offer incubation spaces for people who want start their own business and classes, often led by other members, Miller said.

Members of maker spaces in Manchester and Nashua said these factors all create something less tangible, but just as sturdy, as a workbench: A sense of community that shapes the maker space and keeps it afloat.

“The biggest thing is the community we’ve created,” said Jonathan Vail of MakeIt Labs in Nashua, the first and biggest maker space in the state. He clicked through his PowerPoint presentation to show a mosaic of clubs’ logos that he said grew up out of the maker space.

A maker space wouldn’t just make a strong community within itself, said Steve Korzyniowski, Manchester Makerspace co-founder and board member. They also foster economic development and make communities more attractive to live in, including for those elusive millennials.

But really, maker spaces are for everyone, Korzyniowski said. “Everyone loves it – millennials, Generation X, baby boomers,” he said.

Making a maker space happen isn’t easy: Korzyniowski and Vail said both of their spaces are completely volunteer-run, and sponsors help keep them afloat along with membership fees. Korzyniowski said Manchester Makerspace was particularly lucky to have a landlord who gave them several months of free rent while they were starting out.

And then there’s the matter of space. Miller said they’ve already looked at a few places, including the state Department of Transportation’s garage on Stickney Avenue (although that may go away when the state widens Interstate 93), some industrial spaces on Storrs Street and Village Street and maybe some Concord Center warehouse space.

But before they can even seriously consider moving forward, Miller said they need a material money can’t buy – people willing to invest in a space.

From, there, everything else will follow, said Andrew Pinard, who handles logistics for Hatbox Theatre. He noted the 99-seat theater in the Steeplegate Mall is a maker space of sorts: a cooperative, volunteer-run community theater where people can go to learn about stage design and pitch their production visions.

“It happened because of people like you who were willing to commit to a space and provide equipment,” Pinard said. “Don’t worry about who the market is for – start it. ... Just do it.”

The Making Matters NH team includes Laura Miller of Marketplace New England, Jessica Livingston of Creating Community, Gary and Wayne Miller, and Jim Milliken, according to the group’s website.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)