Manufacturing has always been a path to economic success. Many would even argue it’s what created the middle-class.
As the sector has yet to bounce back to the numbers employed before the recession in 2008, innovative plans have emerged across the country to strengthen the industry and add jobs.
One of those programs is CoMADE, which is based in Cincinnati. However, creating new jobs is only part of the story for Rich Kiley, president of the project and Ed Riguard, a board member.
“CoMADE captured my interest as it’s at the heart of what inclusive capitalism is all about,” explained Rigaud, a former P&G executive who currently owns EnovaPremier, which operates tire and wheel assembly plants serving customers such as GM, Hyundai and Toyota.
Inclusive capitalism is a “global movement to engage leaders across business, government, and civil sectors and encourage them to practice and invest in ways that extend the opportunities and benefits of our economic system to everyone.”
And that concept is the foundation of why Kiley, Riguard and others decided to create a 100,000 square foot facility located in Avondale, Cincinnati.
“This city has a 150-year track record of leadership in the manufacturing of products,” says Kiley. “In addition to P&G, the region is home to GE Aerospace and other large companies like Macy’s and Kroger’s. This city has a well-established ecosystem for the design and production of goods and we can continue to build on that.”
Developing talent for these industries has been made especially easy given the top program in industrial design, called DAAP (design, art, architecture and planning) is located at the University of Cincinnati.
And manufacturing, while currently strong accounting for 20% of the region’s economic value, still has room to expand. So, Kiley devised the idea for CoMADE based on his experience in economic development. After he retired from P&G in 2002, he founded CincyTech, was involved in creating the Ohio Capital Fund and the Ohio Third Frontier, which funds tech entrepreneurs. While it was important to build up the tech sector Kiley felt it wouldn’t rise to the level of Silicon Valley or Boston, but if they focused on product manufacturing, the specialty of the area, the city could become the “global center of growth” for that sector.
Creating A Vision
As research is the first step of any development program, he traveled the country to see how other cities created innovation hubs.
This list includes:
- Baltimore Openworks, Station North Tool Library, City Garage
- Boston FastLabs
- Brooklyn Brooklyn Navy Yard
- Chicago ICNC, Mhub, UI Labs
- Cleveland ThinkBox (Case Western), JumpStart
- Columbus Idea Foundry, Rev 1 Ventures
- Indianapolis Riley Development Area
- Louisville First Build
- Montreal Made in Montreal
- Pittsburgh 7800 Susquehanna Street, AlphaLab Gear, Carnegie Mellon, R.K. Mellon Foundation
- Portland ADX
- San Francisco Pier 9
- St Louis Brick City Makes, Rankin Community College
- Washington, DC White House – Manufacturing Conference
- Youngstown America Makes
“What we learned in evaluating other programs is that people were doing interesting things with specialty products,” Kiley said. “They connect in different ways and it’s not necessary to have a graduate degree to create new products. A variety of people can come together to create.”
And that was that was the foundation for CoMADE whose aim is to foster innovation, entrepreneurship, manufacturing and workforce development in order to create economic and personal growth. And all of this will occur under one roof. The vision was to both increase manufacturing activity and to provide opportunities for populations that were underserved. The city where CoMADE is located will enable people in the community to work where they live and thus remove transportation issues which are often the problem in finding work.
Scale is an important issue as well given the goal of the project is to create 100 new companies within five years adding about a thousand jobs. Riguard points out that firms with less than 20 people create 63% of new jobs. Following the lead of software companies where focused entrepreneurship produced thousands of new software companies, a similar focus is needed to start firms and train people to create innovative manufactured products and new manufacturing jobs, says Kiley.
Vision Becomes Reality
So, the decision was made to build the $26 million facility which will be comprised of three stories. It has the support of many area companies including GE Aviation, Casco Manufacturing, Intelligrated, Nehemiah Manufacturing, TechSolve and others.
Fundraising for the project which includes $21 million in land costs and $5 in operating costs is underway. However, with Kiley’s background finding funds shouldn’t be that difficult. Previously he joined with P&G to establish a venture capital group that invested in technology companies for the Cincinnati-based maker of consumer goods such as Swiffer sweeper. He also helped found several companies, including Assurex Health, and is a venture partner with Blue Chip Venture Co.
The building will house a hardware accelerator, product prototyping workshop, and 21st-century manufacturing incubator space. Workshops and workforce training will be conducted there. Community meeting space will be included and reduced rent for tenants based on community hiring is part of the plan. In addition to proving local jobs, there will be an effort to reach out to alternative workforce populations including workforce development programs for men and women returning from prison.
Having resources all located in one location will be the key to success says, Kiley. “It helps everyone meet their individual challenges, communicate and collaborate with others and generate innovation and productivity with improved big-picture perspective.”
As any project must look at a return on investment the fact that the building will be paid for will take a lot of pressure off the project. Rigaud points out that most return on capital is based on recovering the cost of the physical structure. “Instead of the usual focus on short-term return, we can take a long-term view of the project,” says Rigaud. “This allows us to offer more opportunities.”
And one of those opportunities is to offer lower rent to companies and people who could otherwise not afford to become involved. Which of course is the idea behind the inclusive capitalism that was the reason the project was developed in the first place.
Rigaud says it best. “We are on the ground changing lives from a practical standpoint.”