Backyard Economy: The Rise of Local Manufacturing

Goods that are made in the neighborhood, but not necessarily by hand

While supporting artisans and craftsmen is certainly not waning in popularity (nor are we discouraging it), a new, larger-scale force is emerging to keep capital circulating within city limits. It’s no secret that a large number of American manufacturing jobs have been claimed by foreign economies or lost altogether. Thankfully, however, the allure of Made in USA hasn’t disappeared along with them. Increasingly, consumers want even greater geographic specificity when it comes to purchase decisions.

As consumers become more aware of things like supply chains and product origins, the appreciation for local goods has begun to fuel a resurgence in local manufacturing. With traditional outlets like farmers markets and platforms like Kickstarter already inviting individuals to invest in their backyard economies, the support network for local manufacturing industries is growing. This is an inspiring reality, and proof that people want to put their spending power to use in shaping their community’s identity.

Consumption is a powerful tool when it comes to cultivating a sense of place, and two grassroots organizations—SFMade and Made in N.Y.C.—are harnessing it to bolster their respective local economies. Nurturing the development of a lively manufacturing sector is a win-win: Manufacturers develop a network and learn from each other, while consumers are encouraged to identify with and purchase products made in their communities.

Recognizing that this type of support is also needed among existing manufacturing sectors in cities across the country, SFMade Executive Director Kate Sofis and New York-based Pratt Center Director Adam Friedman launched the Urban Manufacturing Alliance in June 2011 to expand the concept to other urban locales in the near future.

Big-box retailers, be warned.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user Nat W.

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