It started as “tool town” – but got stuck in the muck for so long that we outsourced our whole tool and die industry to China.
The next shot was “tech town” a government-sponsored subsidized office complex with better branding. It screwed local real estate owners by offering ridiculously low rents in a market that’s already overbuilt.
But- if we were really creating something in line with our history of inventors and tinkerers- like the “barn gang” of Kettering and Deeds- we’d have something more like a Front Street for Geeks- a “hacker space”- as this new chain from the West Coast is creating:
TechShop represents an inevitable, corporatized version of the “hacker spaces” that have risen in popularity over the past couple of years to cater to people who like to hack things open and see how they work.
The typical hacker space consists of a few dozen people who share the costs of renting a work area and buying tools. There are spaces that lean toward robotics, some that specialize in software and others that generally encourage the melding of metal, electronics and plastic in artful forms.
TechShops offer more structure and a grander scale. Each has hundreds of members who pay a $100 monthly fee for access to a workshop and $500,000 of equipment. The members sign up for time on a machine or for a class and pop into the TechShop to do their work.
Instead of investing in a business- or in bricks and mortar- we’d have been investing in the proverbial fishing rods to hand to people to fish. Considering the geek factor of WPAFB, UD, WSU etc. A hacker space may give some people the tools to really build something amazing. Maybe this is what we should add on to the Engineers Club in the space where the former “Kettering Center” of WSU is?
Instead of talking about “Get Midwest” – let’s show off Midwest- with a little bit of vision – creating a playground for the next generation of Wright brothers. This sounds like a much better investment than $500K to Teradata to move a few blocks.[Update 10am] Jstults connected me to Hive13  in Cincinnati- est. in 2009. They have this explanatory video on the site: [vimeo]http://vimeo.com/9478832[/vimeo]