Two meetings on June 27 gathered business owners from two different (but not completely separate) areas, creative businesses and urban manufacturers (including makers and artisans) to strengthen their networks.  In both groups, knowing where to find help, and money, are major unfilled needs.

Creatives: I attended Tether Cincinnati’s meeting of creatives. Founder Tamia Stinson has collected a group of over 130 local ‘creatives’, with big help from a $100,000 grant from People’s Liberty. Tether’s goal is to network these creatives so that they can collaborate on projects, from video shoots to wedding photography to making cool t-shirts (and lots else).  I met several freelance graphic artists, photographers, models, and a few Makers such as Stacey Sparks-Huff, who’s launching a new line of vegan foods soon. Many of the folks there have a lot of experience and expertise. Find out more on Tether’s website.

Urban Manufacturers: At exactly the same time the Town Hall event was held for the manufacturing, maker and artisan community, to analyze and discuss manufacturing in Urban Cincinnati. I couldn’t be there of course, but I’ve read the extensive report that the sponsors have written about lessons learned from the 40+ manufacturers at the event. The Urban Manufacturing Alliance sponsored the event; it has held similar events in 13 cities. And Matt Anthony of Cincinnati Made did a great job of organizing this event. Thanks, Matt.

The UMA sought to understand with greater precision the manufacturers’ day-today experiences and to spur new thinking about how service providers and local officials can support these firms.

Here are some key takeaways:

In a Nutshell, the newer/smaller businesses need better support from local officials, and from a startup community that is over-focused on pure technology businesses. The larger, more established firms don’t need that kind of outside support; they are focused on getting more customers and profits, and would be helped by support from professionals like Katie Kinnemeyer, who did a great workshop for just this purpose at Flywheel Social Ventures in June. 

Here is more detail from the report:

The focus group had:

  • larger, more established manufacturers,
  • newer, smaller ones, &
  • service providers

These service providers support manufacturers by facilitating connections to financing, market development, workforce development, business acceleration, affordable real estate, and assistance with navigating regulations. Community partners recruited the focus group participants.2

A total of 103 firms participated in the survey, and representatives from 14 companies and other organizations came to the three focus group sessions.

While the manufacturing sector in the Cincinnati MSA lost a lot of jobs from 2007 to 2016, of the 19 employment sectors, manufacturing remained the region’s second-largest employment sector (behind Health Care and Social Assistance), with 114,370 jobs – 11.2& of the total. But at $8.10 billion, the manufacturing sector had the highest share of total wages.

Many of the participants were smaller manufacturers:

  • 87% of the businesses have annual revenues of less than $1Million, and
  • 65% have less than $100,000 per year.

But The survey results indicate a business-growth mindset among many of these firms, including the sole-proprietorships: • Seventy-nine percent of those firms providing two years of revenue data grew between 2014 and 2016.

  •  63& of responding firms expected to be in larger space in the next two years.
  • 96% of responding firms expected to be larger businesses in two years, with 69% saying they expect to be significantly larger.

Notably, more than half (56 percent) of survey respondents reported that limited production capacity had forced them to forego sales or business opportunities in the previous 12 months, suggesting firms may be facing unmet demand for their products.

In focus groups, participants cited many advantages to being in Cincinnati:

  • • There is a sense that the community is invested in, and supportive of, local makers; that it has a good start-up culture; and that businesses can leverage local creativity.
  • • The city has a low cost of living, which allows entrepreneurs to “make some mistakes, and learn” without being financially ruined.
  • • The city has a strong network of designers, engineers, and project managers from the University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, and several community colleges.
  • • Being located near other manufacturers and industrial suppliers provides opportunities to partner on large projects.
  • • The city’s location is central; this is important to larger manufacturers for national distribution.

Challenges specific to being located in Cincinnati included the following:

  • • Finding affordable, available space inside the city is a particular challenge for manufacturers.
  • • Lack of support among neighborhood stakeholders for zoning that attracts manufacturers.
  • • There is a perception that city and regional officials do not hold manufacturing in the same regard as other sectors, such as technology, making it a challenge to attract investment.
  • • The lack of public transportation creates access challenges for manufacturing workers.
  • • There is an insufficient number of direct flights between Cincinnati and key hubs. • It is challenging to compete with states that have wellsupported campaigns to promote manufacturing (e.g., Go Build Alabama).

To read the Full Report, visit This Site – and click on “download the city snapshot”.