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First Impressions Innovate! Wraps up a Successful Pilot

Volunteer teams of economic development staff, innovators, business and community leaders from Hartford, New Haven Stamford and New London/Groton wrapped up the pilot year of the First Impressions Innovate!  program this fall. As a part of this partnership with CTNext, UConn Extension faculty Laura Brown and Miriah Kelly provided education and facilitation among communities chosen as “Innovation Places” (New Haven, Hartford, New London-Groton) and Stamford to understand best practices in creating entrepreneurial ecosystems at the community level, establish meaningful evaluation, monitoring and assessment approaches, and engage peer learning between entrepreneurial innovation related programs and communities through the First Impressions Innovate! – a “boots on the ground” audit that allows communities to understand their entrepreneurial assets.  UConn’s work impacted over 40 community leaders involved in the program steering committees (city officials, planners and economic developers, representatives of major employers, directors of incubators and accelerators) with an investment of 13.9 million dollars (50 state funds and 50% leveraged at the community level) in place and capacity based programming in the four designated communities.  Read the Executive Summaries from each of the communities here. 

Below:  Debrief luncheons involving the teams from the First Impressions Innovate Communities.

New Webinar Series: Reuse, Recycle, Rejuvenate! Register Now!

We’re excited to announce this year’s CEDAS Academy Webinar Series: Reuse, Recycle, Rejuvenate! 

In these slim budget times, the three webinars in our series ask: how can our communities make best use of the physical infrastructure we already have?

  • March 28, 2018:  Brownfields from Start to Finish
  • July:  Reurbanization of Manufacturing
  • September: Adaptive Reuse

In each webinar you’ll hear examples from around the Nutmeg State to inspire and help you avoid pitfalls from an economic developers perspective, get a taste of best practices and community successes from other practitioners and community leaders, and access local resources relevant to your community.  

CEDAS Academy is a web-based educational learning series developed by CEDAS in partnership with the University of Connecticut-Extension Program in Community & Economic Development.

Register for the upcoming webinars here.

Collaborative Downtown Market Analysis and Benchmarking Workshop Held in December

Screen Shot 2017-02-03 at 1.51.06 PMAs a partnership between the Connecticut Main Street Center, UConn Extension and the University of Wisconsin Extension six communities and several state agencies attended a workshop on December 2, 2016  to learn how to conduct a downtown market analysis.  Nationally known downtown expert and Community Business Development Specialist Bill Ryan and UConn Extension Educator Laura Brown co-presented the morning agenda which included an overview of ways to use existing data to better understand downtown trade areas and market potential.  John Simone, from the CT Main Street Center led a discussion in the afternoon about what data might be needed to benchmark success and demonstrate how downtowns are changing statewide.  Based on an evaluation of the 14 participants many felt the most effective part of the workshop was learning about new online tools like the Downtown Market Analysis Toolbox, Canva & On The Map.  If you weren’t there, you can explore the tools presented in the workshop here:

 

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Celebrating Connecticut’s Makerspaces

 

Spark Maker Space, New London March 2016
Spark Maker Space, New London March 2016

Over the past several years I’ve had the opportunity visit several “makerspaces” and “makerlabs” in both Wisconsin and Connecticut and have been eyeing this growing movement from the sidelines. Just a couple of weeks ago I visited the new Spark Makerspace in New London as well as some downtown highlights including the funky freewheeling performance art venueHygienic Art and Fiddleheads Natural Food Coop.  My tour was organized by  colleagues Hannah Gant of Spark, Anna Perch from New London Main Street and Tammy Daugherty from the Office of Development and Planning.  The galleries, murals, theaters and coffee shops tucked into New London’s charming main street district are evidence of a long lived and growing creative culture here.

Maker spaces seem to have their origins in the cooperative hacker movement in the 1990’s in Europe primarily for computer programmers to share information and ideas.  Over the years maker spaces evolved from these origins to include spaces or organizations that share tools and technology such as 3-D printers, software, craft or hardware supplies, tools, as well as resources and and infrastructure like meeting and work spaces.  Also called “techlabs” or fablabs”   these spaces are governed by their own set of rules but, according to  www.makerspaces.com, “…at the core, they are all places for making, collaborating, learning and sharing.”  Maker spaces have been promoted as a strategy for entrepreneurship  to reduce the costs of startup, product  development and design.   As centers of research, innovation and creativity, many libraries have even joined this movement to offer permanent or temporary maker labs for children and adults.

During my visit to Spark in New London I was greeted by three lively young men who were busy renovating the former El n Gee nightclub into a community run workshop. A brightly lit room was filled with wood working equipment and tools, much of which had been donated or procured from basement clean-outs and yard sales.  While the learning center is open to the general public, members pay monthly dues and may access a wood shop, commercial kitchen, 3D printers, CNC machine and laser cutter, robotics lab, screen-printing equipment, shared office space, and retail space.  Spark acquired the space in October 2015 and hopes to open  in the Spring of 2016.

Spark is not the only makers space in Connecticut and I hope to have the opportunity to see how other spaces are building a creative culture in Connecticut’s communities!  Read a 2013 article on the rise of the Maker Space movement by Hartford Courant’s Matt Pilon  or check out whiteboardct which also maintains a list of co-working space, incubators, and maker spaces.  Here are links to other Connecticut maker spaces (don’t see your link here?  Let me know!)

  • Spark Maker Space – New London, CT https://www.sparkmakerspace.org/ “Spark Makerspace is a community run workshop and learning center open to the general public. Members pay monthly dues and get access to a full woodshop, commercial kitchen, 3D printers, CNC machine and laser cutter, robotics lab, screen printing equipment, shared office space, retail space and much more.”
  • CT Hacker Space – Watertown, CT http://www.cthackerspace.com/- CT “Hackerspace is a DIY and Technology oriented group located in the US State of Connecticut.  Our Mission is to provide a physical location where community members interested in technology can gather to collaborate on projects both physical and conceptual.”
  • MakeHartford – Hartford, CT http://www.makehartford.com/ “It’s a gym for geeks and creative people. Instead of free weights and dumbbells we have 3d printers, CNC machines, and a wood/metal shop to build and create in. MakeHartford is Hartford, CT’s first maker space, i.e. community of artists, technologists, and entrepreneurs for hands-on innovation.”
  • MakeHaven – New Haven, CT http://www.makehaven.org/ “MakeHaven works to educate the community through interest-driven projects and hands-on skill building experiences in mechanics, electronics, crafts, art, design, programming, cooking, biology, chemistry, fabrication, metalworking and woodworking.”
  • Westport Library Makerspace – Westport, CT “The MakerSpace opened July 2012 as a place for people to connect, invent and create. It’s a great way to use your Library, in addition to finding books and movies, working, viewing art, meeting friends and attending programs. Stop by and learn about the 3D printer, which prints physical objects from digital files. People of all ages have come to watch demonstrations of the printer, and to learn how to design and print their own creations! See the calendars below for all of the Maker events.”
  • Danbury Hackerspace – Danbury, CT https://danburyhackerspace.com/ – “The Danbury Hackerspace @ the Innovation Center is a hackerspace and co-working facility at 158 Main Street, connected to the Danbury Library. The City of Danbury has graciously provided the space to help launch the hackerspace and build a community of entrepreneurs, makers, craftspeople, & artists. We are now open for membership.”