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Coppin State report: Open Works could be an economic engine

Makerspace's economic impact highlighted

Open Works' Will Holman. (Submitted photo)

Open Works’ Will Holman. (Submitted photo)

Open Works hopes it can be an economic engine for people from all backgrounds in Baltimore and a new report from Coppin State University could back up the makerspace’s ambition.

The 2019 Assessment Report of Open Works, conducted by Coppin State University’s Center of Strategic Ingepreneurship, found that Open Works is larger than most makerspaces and has a greater economic impact while also providing an opportunity for entrepreneurship to people of all backgrounds.

The Station North makerspace could grow even further, said Ron Williams, a professor at Coppin State’s school of business and the report’s principal investigator.

“I think there’s a lot more that they can accomplish … because the makerspace movement is relatively young,” he said. “Open Works is a trailblazer in that regard. There’s a lot of exploratory kinds of accomplishments that we haven’t even really thought of yet.”

The Open Works makerspace opened about three years ago. The makerspace’s abilities include woodshop, metal shop, laser cutting, 3D printing, sewing and graphic design facilities.

Open Works offers space and time for its member entrepreneurs and hobbyists to use its equipment, including the type of equipment that could be prohibitively expensive for one person to own. The makerspace also offers storage space for members to keep their projects.

“The U.S. maker movement is entering a new phase, making the leap from a primarily hobbyist activity to an engine for grassroots economic development,” Will Holman, Open Works’ executive director, said in a statement. “Open Works not only gives small companies access to tools and a place to work, we are also training their future workforce, providing access to investment capital, and building markets for our makers’ products.”

The makerspace also has classes so members can get certification and general education on the different resources available.

A basic Open Works membership starts at $70 a month, increasing depending on what a member wants to use and how often. Classes are often between $55 and $85.

The Coppin report found that Open Works has a couple of things going in its favor, including its size — at 34,000 square feet, Open Works is a very large makerspace. Most makerspaces are between 500 and 1,000 square feet, the report said.

Another advantage Open Works has is the wide variety of its available tools, Williams said.

He thinks Open Works and makerspaces can help create opportunities for potential entrepreneurs, regardless of their background.

“It lowers the barrier to entry and participation,” he said. “Someone starting out, if it were not for an Open Works, would not be able to afford the types of equipment and the availability of industrial grade equipment that you have available to you at Open Works.”

The Coppin report also looked at the economic return Open Works has already provided. The makerspace itself has 33 employees, including six full-time employees. Most makerspaces employ only about 10 people, the report said.

Through the businesses that use the makerspace, Open Works also contributes 138 jobs to the Maryland economy, including $8.5 million in state and local income, the report said.

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