Concord will soon be joining the ranks of New Hampshire cities with a community do-it-yourself center known as a makerspace.
A nonprofit that has long been working on bringing a makerspace to the city has signed a lease on a portion of the former Beede Electric building in Penacook, and hopes to open the doors this coming January.
“This is a community resource for people who want to create,” said Laura Miller, president of the board of directors for Making Matters N.H.
Makerspaces are sometimes described as membership gyms for do-it-yourselfers. They hold a variety of tools, instruments and work spaces that can be used by members, providing both equipment and community for hobbyists and businesspeople.
At least six makerspaces are operated by various non-profit groups in New Hampshire, ranging from Portsmouth to Nashua to Claremont, with more in the works. (Here’s a list but I know of one that’s not on it.) Each differs in expertise of the membership and types of equipment available. Many offer classes and sometimes act as a place for entrepreneurs to try out technologies before starting a business.
“We want to have a much stronger arts space than many of those spaces have,” said Miller. She noted that Nashua’s MakeIt Labs – the state’s first and largest makerspace – is more focused on technology while Manchester Makerspace is more industrial.
“When we open, we will have textiles, jewelry, digital photo, multimedia, rapid prototyping, robotics, woodshop, and classroom,” she said. “Within the first few months we’ll have the metal shop open.”
“We want to provide different learning opportunities for all ages, all skill sets, as well as opportunities and mentoring support for people who want to start businesses. … That includes the new American community, folks with disabilities, at a customized pace,” Miller said.
Further down the road, the group’s goal is to have a commercial kitchen for rent that can be used both for caterers and as a training area for people who want to open a restaurant or other business.
“This would be for how to start a food business, go from ‘I have a great recipe’ to distribution,” she said.
Beede Electrical Instrument Co. was one of the major employers in Concord for almost a century until it closed in 2014. It was founded in 1917 and built the Fisherville Road plant in 1957. At its peak it had more than 700 employees making precision industrial instrumentation. When the plant closed after years of decline, it had just 35 employees.
The building was empty until last spring when Regal Auction Services moved there from Franklin. Other tenants also occupy the back of the building, while the makerspace will occupy 8,500 square feet in front that was once the Beede Co. office space.
The start-up is funded largely through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Business Development fund, with another grant from the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation to do educational programming.
“We have applied for more grants, also looking for donations,” Miller said. Memberships and class fees should be a source of income, and they plan to rent some space out as studios.
Making Matters is asking people to help clean, paint, and update the new building on Sunday, Nov. 10 and Monday, Nov. 11 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Visit https://www.makingmattersnh.org/ for more information.