The Possibility of Urban Manufacturing

February 1, 2013

Adapted from a blog post by Kate Sofis, Founding Executive Director, SFMade

This is one in a series of The Weekly articles drawing on the resources and successes of NLC's Corporate Partners.

In communities across the country, local manufacturing is once again taking its rightful place as a powerful actor in the urban fabric of cities, as this recent post by Kate Sofis of San Francisco-based SFMade reflects. Recently released data from SFMade's 2012 State of Local Manufacturing Report reveals that San Francisco's manufacturing sector alone added over 700 jobs in the past year, reflecting a more than 12.5 percent employment increase. Moreover, the jobs supported by urban manufacturers in San Francisco represent the diversity of the city - providing employment for veterans, working families, and immigrants alike. From 12 founding manufacturers, SFMade membership has grown in just two years to more than 400 companies - all located and producing product within the city limits of San Francisco.

The trends observed in San Francisco are observed in cities across the country - from neighboring Oakland, to Philadelphia, to Detroit and others. To bridge the learning from one city to the next, including sharing best practices case studies, developing a working national network of manufacturing practitioners, and helping cities better partner with each other, the Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA) was formed in 2011 by SFMade and The Pratt Center in New York, supported by a $300,000 grant from Citi Community Development, an NLC Capstone Corporate Partner.

Over the next 18 months, the UMA and its more than 20 participating cities will hold working sessions, an annual convening, publish toolkits that will replicate powerful best practices and inform national economic policy, and deploy three innovative regional manufacturing initiatives in San Francisco and Oakland, Chicago, and New York City. Through UMA, cities will learn how to replicate each other's successes and lessons learned.

"Local manufacturers are here and growing, powered by a robust local consumer base, the energy of our neighborhoods and other proximate companies and sectors, and most of all the creativity and the craft of the people who lead and work for them." said Kate Sofis, Founding Executive Director, SFMade, "In turn, local manufacturers give back to our neighborhoods by creating jobs, adding vibrancy, and driving economic opportunity."

Best of all, the trend to reclaim a place for making in our cities can be observed across the country - from a growing food manufacturing cluster in Boston, to a vibrant apparel design and garment manufacturing sector in Manhattan, to what remains one of the most significant tool and die manufacturing bases in the country, in Chicago.

In addition to these opportunities, growth in urban manufacturing is opening new career pathways reimagining what "making work" can be. In all this, cities have such a powerful role to play - by linking young people to apprenticeships at local manufacturers that are transit accessible; through expanded "maker" education which include self-taught skills gained in one of many urban "maker/hacker" facilities; and by creating innovative programs to support both vocational and traditional education.

"Our support for SFMade and the Urban Manufacturing Alliance reflects our recognition of the excellent potential in urban centers to expand economic opportunity and job growth at a large scale," said Bob Annibale, Global Director of Community Development and Microfinance at Citi. "Many American manufacturers are small businesses, which we know are primary engines of job creation, and reports indicate that as many as a third of the nation's small manufacturers are located in the 10 largest cities."


About the NLC Corporate Partners Program
The NLC Corporate Partners Program promotes the exchange of ideas between corporate leaders and the leaders of America's cities in order to strengthen local government, encourage economic competitiveness and promote corporate civic engagement. For more information, visit www.nlc.org. 

About Citi Community Development
Citi Community Development (CCD) is leading Citi's commitment to achieve economic empowerment and growth for underserved individuals, families and communities by expanding access to financial products and services, and building sustainable business solutions and innovative partnerships. Our focus areas include: commercial and philanthropic funding; innovative financial products and services; and collaborations with institutions that expand access to financial products and services for low-income and underserved communities. For more information, visit www.citicommunitydevelopment.com.

About SFMade
Founded in 2010, SFMade is a non-profit organization uniquely focused on building San Francisco's economic base by developing the local urban manufacturing sector. SFMade's programs - spanning industry-specific education, business advising, industrial real estate assistance, hiring assistance and youth apprenticeships, and a nationally recognized local brand platform - currently support more than 400 local manufacturers who collectively sustain more than 3000 jobs for diverse residents of San Francisco. For more information, visit www.sfmade.org.

About the Pratt Center
The Pratt Center for Community Development works for a more just, equitable, and sustainable city for all New Yorkers, by empowering communities to plan for and realize their futures. As part of Pratt Institute, they leverage professional skills - especially planning, architecture and public policy - to support community-based organizations in their efforts to improve neighborhood quality of life, attack the causes of poverty and inequality, and advance sustainable development. For more information, visit www.prattcenter.net.