Pratt Center Research

Urban Manufacturing

Policy Brief: From Making to Manufacturing: A New Model for Economic Development in Cities and Towns

Report  |  January 17, 2017

Urban manufacturing is being reborn in the United States. New small-batch producers are creating well-paying jobs in many cities that were once abandoned by more traditional manufacturers. Greater access to production technologies is making it possible for designers and entrepreneurs to innovate and create jobs by producing small runs, testing markets, refining designs and then launching new businesses. “Making,” “producing” and “manufacturing” are becoming more valued and respected activities. That renewed interest is stimulating the growth of a new wave of maker entrepreneurs, inspiring new curricula to support our next generation of manufacturers and encouraging consumers to look for locally made products.

In 2011, Pratt Center formed the Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA) based on our belief that cities and states are laboratories for testing new programs and policies and that their on-the-ground problem-solving vitality can be used to create new models for capitalizing on the resurgence of making and urban manufacturing.

“From Making to Manufacturing: A New Model for Economic Development in Cities and Towns” outlines strategies that are being developed, piloted and tested at the local level and which the federal government should help support and replicate. It also includes a new process to measure success through the creation of a Resilient Jobs Index developed by the Brookings Institute.

The success of this “cities as laboratories” model rests on (1) the diversity of local economies; (2) their ability to coordinate efforts and services to capitalize on local resources and strengths; and (3) the type of comprehensive approach that builds long-term competitiveness. Federal agencies will have to collaborate to ensure that cities have both the resources and the flexibility to implement their strategies in a holistic, impactful manner.