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“Makers” eyeing a move to Leesburg: Nonprofit to spark creative interests in Loudoun

In the early part of 2015 a space in Leesburg will be inhabited by a group of makers.

Makers are a group of technology-based do-it-yourself individuals from all manner of disciplines like contemporary artists, defense contractors and tinkerers.

The movement is at the same time complex and quite simple. Fundamentally it asks people to start making physical things again.

Makersmiths, a community-led nonprofit led by Patrick Scannell, has plans to stake its flag in Leesburg next month with a 4,000-square-foot facility.

Interest swirls around the movement, which is relatively nascent in Loudoun.

Makersmiths recently completed a successful round of funding on Kickstarter, a popular crowdfunding website, where individuals donate to causes they believe in with the incentive of receiving rewards from that organization at a later date.

Makersmiths also received a donation of equipment worth around $100,000 from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

On Dec. 1, Scannell stood before a group of elected officials and interested observers to explain Makersmiths' plans to open a makerspace in Leesburg.

Makerspaces are physical locations where makers can congregate, use communal tools and learn from each other.

The nonprofit will be run, as Scannell explained at the meeting, like a health spa. Members will pay monthly to have complete access to use the facilities and equipment.

Because the organization would be run as a nonprofit, the building would be operated by an all-volunteer staff, initially by the members themselves.

The evolution of making things

The industrial revolution for the early 20th century saw people creating products in an assembly line.

Then the means of production moved away from industrialized hand-made goods toward a more mechanized form of manufacturing and distribution.

In the last decade and a half, the Internet has made America a knowledge-based economy mostly operating online. Machines operated by software took over the means of production.

Recently, major leaps in technology has democratized, so much so that the phone most carry around is 10 times more powerful than the most expensive computers of just 10 or 15 years ago.

Coders are now creating companies with no clear business model, but giant consumer bases that sell for billions.

Makers are trying to move to somewhere in the middle where they can use powerful technologies and cheaper means of production in order to build physical products.

"Maker: The Movie," a documentary about the movement was shown at a Dec. 1 meeting at Ida Lee Park in Leesburg.

The movie laid out a few success stories of past makers.

The biggest success of the era is Pebble, a smartwatch that was hacked together by a guy who didn't want to have to pull out his phone while he was biking to work.

His first stage of Kickstarter funding gained a record $10 million.

Another example was a bit more modest, a consumer underwater drone camera, which made more than $100,000 in funding from Kickstarter.

Each of these examples followed a popular model where entrepreneurs learn what their interests and ideas for a product are, take that product to prototype stage, crowdfund to gain capital and then begin light manufacturing.

Leesburg officials hope the movement can bring creative entrepreneurs with great products to the historic town.

One way the movement has already begun to make an impact on the area is by leasing pesky commercial space, which lately has been difficult to fill due to federal cuts and a workforce moving away from large commercial spaces.

Comments


A fine idea for Leesburg and if anyone should want to visit a local example of a healthy makerspace then look no further than Nova Labs in Reston.  They’ve been around for three years, have just moved into a large 10,000 sq ft facility and their community is doing great things.


This sounds like a scam.  The whole story seems to be about people not involved in what may happen in Leesburg, but dressed up to make it look like it is.  So, what Leesburg officials are we talking about.  Since we have seen the severely disadvantaged intellects known as Tom Dunn and Katie Hammler in the past do things there were a bit questionable, are either of these two involved now?  If so, this is really a scam.

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