$1 million federal grant awarded to Lacey MakerSpace

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Lacey MakerSpace received $1 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration (EDA) to help retrain workers and business owners who were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Lacey MakerSpace serves as an innovation lab for local businesses and artists in Thurston County. The program was developed in collaboration with the Thurston Economic Development Council Center for Business & Innovation (CB&I), the City of Lacey and St. Martin’s University, on whose campus the facility stands.

Most of the federal grant funds are earmarked to purchase state-of-the-art fabrication equipment, according to Michelle Pope, who joined Lacey MakerSpace as its new director in June.  A portion also will provide funding to train workers and business owners.  The non-profit organization is raising funds separately to improve existing electrical and plumbing systems. 

Goals for 10 years

Overall, the project aims to train at least 355 entrepreneurs and workers, create 2,322 direct or indirect jobs within the region, and generate $1.4 million in private investment over the next 10 years. Currently, the program had also received $251,700 in local funds.

Washington's junior U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, the Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation initiated the grant. In a press release, Cantwell shared that she had written a letter of support to the EDA to secure the necessary funding for the Lacey MakerSpace. “This $1 million grant will help spur innovation and support small businesses in South Puget Sound,” the senator said.

She continued, “Lacey MakerSpace aims to build a diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem that provides local artists and small businesses access to highly technical fabrication tools and educational resources.”

Two tracks for Lacey MakerSpace 

"We expect to keep growing on two tracks," Pope explained. "The first is supporting local community members, artists, makers and innovators," to expand their skills, she continued.  The other is workforce training, helping workers and business owners learn how to use fabrication and technical equipment.

Pope said that Lacey MakerSpace is developing "more classes to capture the more timid maker as well as support more people who want to develop more skills to get a leg up in the workforce." 

A public innovation lab 

Members of the public can participate in Lacey MakerSpace programs by enrolling in a class on a particular subject or by signing up for a monthly membership like they would at a health club. 

Classes are on subjects such as woodworking, 3-D printing, laser engraving, stained-glass construction, resin molding and more. 

The membership gives individuals access to tens of thousands of dollars of machines that cut, form, sew, engrave, weld, 3-D print and more, both manual and software-driven.

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