Making Brookings Even Better
Imagine a 2,475 square foot building filled with all the tools, resources and technology necessary to build, design, create and invent to your hearts content. Your key card gives you full access to the building from 6 am until midnight, seven days a week. You’ll often find workshops, classes, demonstrations and great networking opportunities inside.
If this sounds like a dream come true, that’s because it is.
The Brookings Area Maker Space celebrated its third birthday this month and is just one more example of the endless possibilities available to an innovative rural community.
The Maker Space got its start through a USDA rural development grant used to help purchase equipment and tools. Empty warehouse space in the Brookings Innovation Center houses the project. The maker space is also supported by the Brookings Office of Economic Development.
“We wanted a way to help people bring great ideas to life in order to cultivate a pipeline of entrepreneurs, new products and potential new businesses,” explains Jennifer Quail, Director of Entrepreneur Support at the Brookings Area Development Corporation. “The Maker Space has gained traction within our existing business sector and has a lot of community support.”
Maker Space members are trained to use the building’s advanced technology, which includes a laser engraver, 3D printers and a 3D scanner, an industrial sewing machine, a CNC router table, precision tools, computer workstations with design software and many other tools. Membership is $25 a month for community members and $15 a month for college students.
“We have seen some really cool things happening here,” says Jennifer. “We’ve had several businesses test out new ideas before investing in their own equipment. We’ve had makers connecting with other makers. My favorite part has been the Maker Festival each fall, where we celebrate makers of all kinds.”
The Maker Festival promotes a vast number of “made things,” whether it’s pickles out of cucumbers, canoes out of trees or art out of rocks. Nothing at the Maker Festival is for sale and there is no entry fee or admission charge.
“This is just a place where people can share and celebrate ideas and have some great conversations,” says Jennifer. “A lot of the exhibits are engaging. Sometimes we see capstone projects from SDSU students who are looking for feedback. We hold the event outside the Children’s Museum so it’s a really fun mix of all kinds of people.”
The primary goal of the space is geared toward future economic development. By fostering budding ideas, the hope is that some of these will develop into actual products and new or expanded businesses. Because the current Maker Space has been successful, the Brookings Area Development Corporation obtained another USDA rural development grant and is now partnering with a local developer in town to start a new “maker” venture that will launch this summer. “We are partnering on a shared commercial kitchen space that will help local food entrepreneurs try their hand at new products and ideas. We are also partnering with the SDSU Extension office and Mitchell Technical Institute’s culinary arts program to do some unique things,” explains Jennifer. “It is all really exciting and it’s something I think will benefit our community in so many ways.”