The Initiative

Past

For the past century and a half, the United States has been a country that makes things. Through the 19th century, we transitioned from an agrarian economy to an industrial one. It began with cotton textiles and wooden products, and with emerging technologies grew into an economy of railroads, steel, automobiles, and heavy machinery. The Great Depression was a blow to manufacturing and the economy as a whole, but during the World Wars, the economy shifted from peacetime to wartime production and back again. We’ve made everything from locomotives to airplanes, food products to precision-machined components, microprocessors to farm equipment. Our cities were the centers of manufacturing through most of this time, and they are planned and built for manufacturing. Manufacturers chose to locate in cities because they had access to a large and able workforce, a huge market of potential customers, and various modes of transportation for their goods. Manufacturers in cities benefit from the proximity to other firms and build meaningful relationships with local partners.

For the past few decades, manufacturing employment in the United States has been declining, but manufacturing remains a central part of the economy. Many people talk about the damage done by offshoring, but America has never stopped making things. The Urban Made Initiative exists to bring attention to the things we make, and encourage this vital economic activity to happen in our cities.

Present

Unfortunately, manufacturing is not often enough seen as an urban activity. Today, a great deal of industries have adopted the model of suburban sprawl and moved to single story, clear span warehouses with thirty foot ceilings while former industrial buildings and brownfields in urban areas remain underutilized. With the desire to “go green,” it is a much more environmentally sound option to repurpose these brownfield sites rather than continuing to devour open space. Further, air pollution and other negative consequences of our car culture can be mitigated by reducing the need for lengthy worker commutes.

However, some manufacturers still call cities home. Artisanal food businesses, computer component manufacturers, and furniture and cabinet makers are just a few examples of the many kinds of urban manufacturers. A recent study by the Brookings Institute and Pratt Center for Community Development identified the importance of these manufacturers to our economy.

These urban manufacturers can provide a model for new manufacturers. We hope that business firms will give serious consideration to the benefits of an urban location when selecting a site for their manufacturing operation. Urban manufacturing creates a win-win situation in which inner city neighborhoods receive an economic boost and manufacturing companies have the opportunity to be more sustainable, access an underutilized workforce, and tap into valuable markets for their products.

In business, location is key. It’s not just about the easy access for customers, partners, or suppliers; being an urban manufacturer means having a built in workforce. Many residents of urban areas don’t drive or prefer not to, so they are eager to find good jobs within walking distance or close to public transportation.

There is also a demand for urban made products. Concerns over social justice and product quality have caused a surge in the public’s desire to buy locally produced goods. With the Urban Made logo, manufacturers can show their pride in their community and tap into this market.

View the Urban Made poster

Future

The future of manufacturing in America is bright. In the wake of the Great Recession, there is great potential to return to prosperity as a country that makes things. Though there are challenges to bringing manufacturing back in America, sound public policy and pioneering businesses are leading the way. People are seeking a better way of life, and this often means walkable and livable neighborhoods where they have easy access to shopping, entertainment, recreation, and jobs. This type of environment can be found in cities, and urban manufacturers are a major way to provide jobs in such places. With a strong urban manufacturing economy, Americans can find homes in more livable neighborhoods and commute less. Urban manufacturers will reduce costs by locating near their suppliers, customers, and workers, the negative environmental impacts of industry will be lessened, and inner city neighborhoods will reap the benefits of economic development. Urban manufacturing is a path to healthier, happier neighborhoods and a strong and prosperous economy.

Member Directory

oiled-900x357

ClankWorks

Ben and Drew combined a love of design and bicycling while at Carnegie Mellon University and opened ClankWorks after graduating. Their shop is in the heart of Steel City and well integrated into…

View Member
p3_top

Skybrush

Once in a great while, innovation changes the way we interact with everyday objects. The results from these changes not only make our lives easier, but enable us to forever change the standards…

View Member
© Calderon AEDC Brewworks Allentown 04212011 (33)

Fegley's Brew Works

The Fegley family has been brewing beer since 1998, when they opened the Bethlehem Brew Works at the crossroads of the city of Bethlehem’s Historic District. The brewery at Main and Broad is…

View Member
member-mts

MTS Ventures

Matt Sommerfield founded MTS Ventures, LLC in 2005 to provide comprehensive product design and development services. MTS focuses on helping clients take their products to a higher level of success through better designs,…

View Member
Bicycles, Handmade in New York City

Bowery Lane Bicycles

Founded in Manhattan in 2008, Bowery Lane Bicycles is committed to making affordable bikes in America that meet the actual day-to-day needs of urban cyclists. We actively support urban cycling and the goal…

View Member
lightweight-mfg-cutter

Lightweight Manufacturing

Lightweight Manufacturing serves the fabric structures and tent rental industry with manufacturing of fabric panels and specialized engineering & design services. Lightweight Manufacturing provides over 20,000 sq ft of manufacturing space and has…

View Member
Like the colors

Rickshaw Bags

Rickshaw is a new San Francisco-based bag company. Inspired by the creative energy of our city, urban cycling and an intense desire to make great products, we started Rickshaw to satisfy our own…

View Member
bradley-shop-floor

Bradley Pulverizer

Producers of ores, coal, clays and cement – of fertilizers and agricultural limestone – of slags, pigments and other minerals – have depended on Bradley technology, engineering and equipment for over 100 years.…

View Member

Blog

Plant4ALCabAssembly

Manufacturing and Jobs

Perry Sainati, founder and president of manufacturer Belden, Inc. wrote in this article for Industry Week that manufacturing is alive in America, and it is vital to our long term economic health.  There…

Read More
© Calderon AEDC Brewworks Allentown 04212011 (24)

Urban Microbreweries

One of the fastest growing trends in food and beverage is craft beer.  Microbreweries have experienced double digit growth and rapid expansion, owing in part to consumers’ desire to consume locally and sustainably…

Read More
4601300379_79e897df2e

Manufacturing and Education

Bert Maes, an expert in technical education, came up with this useful multi-part guide on how to convince youth to pursue careers in manufacturing.  He raises excellent points on how much manufacturing means…

Read More
4764176921_52df7ed373

Walkability + Manufacturing

A recent article on Slate.com reiterated what many of us already know:  our commutes are killing us.  Recent research has indicated that longer commute times are associated with spending less time sleeping, less…

Read More
3347740790_db68f36e8f

Manufacturing and Recovery

Economist Paul Krugman recently wrote for the New York Times about the recent growth and success of the manufacturing sector in the United States.  He calls manufacturing “one of the bright spots of…

Read More

Join

Are you an urban manufacturer? Do you know a company who makes products in the city? We’re looking for your favorite downtown manufacturer. Please fill out our form to let us know about these companies so that Urban Made can feature them on this website. Thank you!

Scroll Back To Top