In Spring 2016, TechShop kicked off a market assessment study for a potential Grand Rapids, MI location. Start Garden serves as the on-the-ground liaison for the TechShop assessment team.
TechShop is an open access, membership based, for-profit maker space that houses do-it-yourself (DIY) workshops and fabrication studios. Currently, there are nine locations in the U.S. and three locations worldwide. Multiple new stores are at various stages of development in locations around the world. Each new location requires a preliminary market assessment study.
Market assessment studies are funded by stakeholders from within each respective market. The Grand Rapids market assessment kicked off in Spring 2016. It is funded through public and private funders. All funders enter into the agreement knowing that any and all site locations are on the table until the completion of the study. TechShop chooses the most viable location based on the long-term sustainability of a store.
LOCAL FUNDERS FOR ASSESSMENT STUDY
Grand Rapids SmartZone
Grand Valley State University, School of Engineering
STEPS OF THE PRELIMINARY ASSESSMENT
Proposed Integrated Plan
Financial & Operational Model
The market assessment is a four to six month process that involves approximately five visits from the TechShop assessment team. Each visit includes stakeholder meetings. Each subsequent visit includes more and more stakeholders.
The assessment process is crucial to the placement of a TechShop location because any location requires a vibrant community of creative makers and millions of dollars of equipment and facilities. Each location is a long-term piece of infrastructure to benefit the entire community.
Currently, TechShop is in the Stakeholder Feedback phase. No formal decision has been made and no formal statement can be given about a Grand Rapids location until the assessment is complete.
The first part of the process narrows potential locations to a few possible sites, then focuses on a frontrunner site. After some very initial concepts are sketched, broader feedback from stakeholders is sought. A plan is developed that is as realistic as possible based on thier findings. Finally, TechShop makes a decision as to if the market is a viable option for a new store. No formal commitment is made until that determination is made.
TechShop anticipates a completed market assessment in Q1 2017.
Regarding site selection, several sites have been considered immediately adjacent to downtown Grand Rapids in the near south, north and west sides. These sites have included both existing buildings and new construction sites.
Currently, the westside neighborhood of Grand Rapids is a frontrunner. No final decision has been made about location. Concepts are being developed to generate feedback using the westside. This is due to availability of infrastructure requirements, walkability, diversity of neighborhoods, a mix of affordable and market rate housing, proximity to downtown, proximity to tech companies, access to public transit and the freeway. Critically important is proximity to potential partners, such as WMCAT, that have capacity to serve a broad base of aspiring makers of diverse ages, genders, socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds.
A TechShop opening in Grand Rapids is positive affirmation and validation of a community’s startup and maker ecosystem. Their incredible community of members and staff provide inspiration and support for creating projects. With TechShop’s classes, workshops, instruction and training for people of all ages, the West Michigan community can continue to build upon the assets that have made us a destination for advanced manufacturing, building the skills for the next generation to build whatever they can dream.