Northern Door County could get makerspace; public input needed

Monday April 25, 2016
Door County residents are asked to provide public feedback about a proposed high-tech, all-ages maker space for the Door Peninsula. Northern Door County business leaders and Northeast Wisconsin Technical College are seeking feedback about possibly establishing resources to support inventors who want to build a new product, residents who want to sell goods or services and kids interested in STEM exploration.
A makerspace, according to the web site, is “a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools.  These spaces are open to kids, adults, and entrepreneurs and have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, cnc machines, soldering irons and even sewing machines.  A makerspace however doesn’t need to include all of these machines….  It’s more of the maker mindset of creating something out of nothing and exploring your own interests that’s at the core of a makerspace.”
View of a farm through an orchardThe idea arose from discussions among leaders in the Liberty Grove area who were looking for ways to spur economic development and retain young talent in the area. They approached NWTC President Dr. Jeff Rafn to outline a proposed collaboration. Rafn brought in Dean Stewart, Dean for Corporate Training and Economic Development for the NWTC District, who now facilitates the group. They are considering the idea of providing additional programming to Northern Door and bringing in equipment that could support new product development and exploration.
Now, the group of local officials, business owners, residents and NWTC are seeking public input regarding creating a small regional learning center in Northern Door County. Residents living in and near Gills Rock, Fish Creek, Ephraim, Bailey’s Harbor, Sister Bay, Gibraltar and Liberty Grove are being asked for their ideas to help shape the facility and the offerings available there. The public is asked to participate in two upcoming feedback opportunities:
  • Please complete the survey posted at Survey questions will help community leaders determine what services and equipment would be most useful to residents in Northern Door County.
  • Please come to the Open House at the Liberty Grove Town Hall on Saturday, May 7, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Activities will include:
    • Mobile learning labs
    • Tech Camp (hands-on technical education) activities
    • Local food vendors
    • Regional learning center information
 Depending on community comments and other arrangements, work on the Northern Door learning and business hub could begin in fall 2016.
“The committee is primarily people from the area—the economic development director, WPS, small business owners, town board members; it’s a really diverse group,” Stewart said. “We established a charter that outlines what they want to get out of this center. But we want the community to tell us what they need. It could be a culinary kitchen, a maker space where you’re doing prototyping and getting access to equipment that most individuals would not have access to. It could also offer courses and small business support.”
Stewart encouraged community members to bring their comments and questions to organizers now and turn the center into what they most want and need.
“Learn about what we’re doing, some of the ideas we have, and ask questions,” he urged. “We really want this to be a collaboration between the communities and the College.”

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