Funding Received: 2011
Detroit, MI
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
September 10, 2011

Fabricating in Detroit

The all too familiar story of industrial America is apparent in Detroit. The city’s storied past as the birthplace of the American automobile industry led to its growth and ultimate decline as an industrial powerhouse. While the weakening of the automobile industry lead to a loss of jobs and population, the industry left Detroit with an array of useful old buildings and, more importantly, a culture of making things.

Today, in the former factories that once built automobiles, this gritty city is starting to become an entrepreneurial hub – a new city of opportunity that fosters the creative spirit of the many young, creative people who are flocking here. Today, Detroit is still a place where things are made.

Over the coming months, our team (including myself (Alex Feldman-U3ventures), Jeff Sturges from OmniCorpDetroit, and Meredith Kerekes from TechTown) will explore the possibility of continuing to foster this creative and industrial movement through the creation of what we are calling (for now) the Detroit FAB Lab.

The Detroit FAB Lab is envisioned to be a multi-use space that will incubate artists, startup businesses and small companies while providing a cooperative working and social environment that will foster innovation. The FAB Lab will feature strong connections to TechTown – an entrepreneurial community providing guidance, resources and unique access to Wayne State University’s assets – and will provide businesses services such as coaching, networking and mentoring through a strong connection to TechTown’s THRIVE program.

Core to the facility would be the FAB Lab itself. The space, envisioned as a production center catering to artists and fabricators, will offer access to high-tech equipment such as 3D printers, computer controlled machine tools, software and electronic workbenches aimed at aiding digital fabrication.

In addition, the FAB Lab will provide workshop space for artists working in more traditional mediums such as woodworking, photography and metal working, among others—a space like the one pictured above from the 3rd Ward in Brooklyn, which allows shared access to normally expensive equipment.

In order to better understand the possibilities of developing such a space, we plan to visit successful Fab Labs, Hackerspaces and other community workshops in places like New York City, Philadelphia, San Diego and the Netherlands, as well as exploring what is happening in Detroit today. This blog will be used to document our work, the places we visit, and ultimately the final vision and plan that we hope will become the Detroit FAB Lab.

While there is much to be explored, we believe the Detroit FAB Lab will allow artists and entrepreneurs to do what they do best: create. Ultimately, the FAB Lab will enable businesses to be started, jobs to be created, and the overall creative economy of Detroit to flourish. Most importantly, it will help continue the city’s legacy as America’s maker space.