While these unusual times propel so many of us into challenging circumstances regarding work, school, and home, the Makerspace & Vocation Hub – aka Makers Mill – is well positioned to help people overcome the hurdles ahead. At the heels of extensive layoffs and businesses downsizing, the Makers Mill will engage and support the growing number of people in a career change, businesses needing workforce training, and families looking for a place to connect and create.
And now, our community has never been closer to bringing this vision to life. Just last month, after two years of grant writing and fundraising, G.A.L.A. officially reached 80% in committed funds of the $1.35 million renovation budget that will transform 23 Bay Street into the county’s first dedicated Makerspace & Vocation Hub.
“The current state of affairs has shifted what the makerspace has to offer from important, to imperative, so yes, I’m incredibly excited to think how close we are to breaking ground.” said Josh Arnold, GALA Executive Director. “The final 20% of this campaign equates to approximately $250,000, which may sound like a lot, but I remind supporters this is not toward an operating budget that will be expended in a year or two; rather this is an investment in a facility that will serve our community for many generations to come. We are in the homestretch now and need all hands on deck to hit our target, which finally feels within reach.”
A large portion of that 80% (approximately $1.1 million) that has already been committed comes from a variety of grants including a Community Development Block Grant, Northern Borders Regional Commission Grant, and tax credits from the NH Community Development Finance Authority. All of these grants are highly competitive, the latter of which is a unique state program that allows businesses to invest their tax liability dollars into GALA rather than sending them to the general fund in Concord. Participating businesses so far include Meredith Village Savings Bank, Keller Williams Coastal Realty, Made on Earth, Bradley’s Hardware, PSI Plastics, Healing Frontiers, Wolfeboro Family Dental, Mill Street Meat Market, Carroll County Landscaping, Green Mountain Communications, and Stanley Elevator. These large grants from state and federal agencies, as well local business support, demonstrates their confidence in the important role makerspaces have in building economic and community resilience.
In addition to these grants, local contributions from individuals, family foundations, and donor-advised-funds have been committed in amounts ranging from $5 to $100,000. Contributors include Biber Foundation, Vanderheiden Family Foundation, Wolfeboro Fund, Hussey Family Foundation, and many others to be listed in GALA’s annual report. These donations are yet another indicator of the need and desire for a community makerspace and vocation hub.
Barring these final fundraising efforts, the project is shovel-ready. With architectural designs in hand, a green light from the town’s planning board, and all necessary approvals from the NH Dept. of Environmental Services, construction documents are now underway, aiming for an early spring 2021 renovation start. The Phase 1 investment will result in a fully code-compliant building ready for programming with new mechanical systems, fire and safety upgrades, ADA compliance throughout, and energy efficiency upgrades. The long-term building plans incorporate the sustainability values of the organization through a solar array, efficient heating and cooling systems, and stormwater mitigation via green roofs and rainwater collection.
Like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, the new building will be a lofty and light place, an inspiration for the creative process where people have access to tools and equipment for tinkering, fixing, repairing, inventing, building, cooking, crafting, iterating, and innovating. There will be dedicated work spaces for woodwork, metalwork, fabric and fine arts, jewelry, culinary arts, media/AV as well as a FabLab for digital fabrication and rapid prototyping.
Partnerships are being developed with the Community College System of NH so the space can serve as a satellite classroom offering credentialed courses that meet local workforce needs. For example, Goodhue Boat Company is excited about the prospect of developing a local Marine Mechanic program so they don’t have to send their employers out of state to keep warranty certifications updated. Hosting programs like Camp Invention will prepare young people to thrive in a rapidly changing workforce environment by strengthening creative problem solving, emotional resilience, and agency.
Time is of the essence to raise the $250,000 by the end of this September so that construction can begin in the spring. While upfront donations are always helpful, in this situation, so are pledges that can be paid over the course of up to three years. G.A.L.A. also accepts stocks, bonds, bequests, and other planned giving options. Contributions can be made online at galacommunity.org or mailed to PO Box 2267, Wolfeboro NH 03894.
In the wake of COVID, makerspaces around the world have recently shown how adaptive and responsive they are to community needs as they emerge, underscoring their value in community emergency preparedness and resilience. Nearly on a dime, makerspaces pivoted their operations to serve as a stop-gap to the disrupted supply chain of PPEs for local hospitals and health care workers until larger manufacturers could catch up with demand.
Makers Mill – our very own makerspace here in Carroll County – will help us overcome challenges and changes like these current times in the future. Let’s not allow the uncertainties of these times delay the very thing that will help us adapt and thrive in the face of such challenges going forward.
“Investing in the makerspace is seeding fertile ground for the reimagining and rebuilding of an economy that is more resilient than the one we are watching buckle under pressure,” Arnold elaborated. “On the other side of this, we have an opportunity to build – to make – a society that reflects our deepest values, and I see the Makers Mill as the perfect vehicle for that shift.” For details on how to contribute to the homestretch fundraising efforts through donations, pledges, or tax credits, contact Josh or Carol at 603-569-1500 or firstname.lastname@example.org. GALA is a registered 501(c)3 chartered organization.