Epicenter

Making Space for New Activities

What does it look like when a vision that has been two years in the making begins to take form? In any given project there are so many interconnected and interdependent parts that all need to fall into place at the right time to ensure the desired effect. Business startups need to navigate their business model and brand identity while securing seed money, developing a product prototype, establishing a customer base, starting production runs and so much more. For Don Godfrey, these moving parts are vastly different and in many ways less complicated—yet they may still never come together.

Don spends his days entrenched in the world of academe, introducing a spectrum of generations to writing rhetoric, world mythologies and great stories of fact and fiction. Between time with the family and inevitable errands and chores, his evenings are largely filled with grading, responding to student inquiries and managing the upcoming assignments and lessons for an array of classes. Teaching college is a fulfilling career for Don—one that allows him to use his education to inspire others. While not every student that passes through Don’s class is destined to come away with a new found love of English, literature or writing, they do come away with something. Teachers touch the lives of countless people in untold ways. Yet sometimes, a fulfilling career and a loving family are not quite enough and beneath the surface simmers a desire for something altogether different.

In contrast to this academic lifestyle, Don wishes to explore something active and hands-on that has a direct, tangible result. Ever the educator, the aspect of learning something new is still important, yet for this hobby, the main goal is to create. For several years now, Don has devoured everything he could about beginning blacksmithing. From setting up your own DIY home forge, to tool making, working with scrap metals and even apprenticeships. Such a hobby, however, is not inexpensive.

When your livelihood does not depend on learning a new skill or creating a new item, it can be difficult to justify the expense of a new hobby. Having less at stake also makes it easy to put your interests on the back burner for ‘sometime later.’ Just like entrepreneurs and small business startups, crafters and hobbyists depend on having the necessary education, training, equipment, location and materials in order to make things.

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Two years ago, the Building Bridges to Careers Epicenter, a comprehensive, entrepreneurial education center currently located inside the Marietta Armory, began working on a solution for all of the area’s potential makers. On Wednesday, November 15, Building Bridges to Careers announced their exciting expansion to the former Tenney & Associates building on Lancaster Street in Marietta. The larger location enables the Epicenter to expand their offerings and introduce a new makerspace to the area as well as learning labs.

Makerspaces provide a place to experiment with a new hobby that would typically require a hefty investment in both equipment and space. They let you try a new skill without a huge upfront cost, benefit from professional instruction and practice in a safe environment. Through numerous partnerships with area non-profits, including the Marietta Community Foundation and local colleges, the Epicenter expansion is poised to allow scores of makers and would-be hobbyists like Don the chance to experience traditional skills like woodworking as well as new technologies like 3D printing. This new addition to the Mid-Ohio Valley gives community members of all ages a new range of activities to enjoy as a family. In addition to simple tinkering and exploring, such spaces allow you to create a one-time project, like a dining room table or a bookcase, without investing in all the tools you need upfront.

Don Godfrey is not an entrepreneur, but he is still a maker. Like so many of us he feels deeply the desire to create something real and, perhaps, unique. Our diversity of talents and interests are the very things that make us well-rounded individuals and lead to satisfying lives.

While the concept of makerspaces has been around for some time now, the Epicenter makerspace is an entirely new endeavor for Building Bridges to Careers. The matching grant provided by the Marietta Community Foundation, coupled with additional support through other partnerships, has enabled the kick-off of this new project and location, yet they still need community support. It is now time for the would-be makers to join together and help shape their space however they are able. Contact the Marietta Community Foundation to learn how you can help.

Supporting the Growth of Innovation

The Marietta Community Foundation has made a matching donation of $15,000 to Building Bridges to Careers for the expansion of their Epicenter. This expansion will include an all new location, in the Tenney building located on Lancaster Street in Marietta, OH. The new location affords the Epicenter enough space to introduce a larger incubator space for entrepreneurs as well as a new makerspace that is open to the community.

Currently located in the Armory on Front Street in Marietta, the Epicenter includes an incubator space with around 1200 sq.ft. Used as a shared office space by startups and small businesses, the incubator space provides entrepreneurs with a physical business location where they share equipment and split overhead costs with other entrepreneurs. Businesses in the incubator space benefit from these lower costs but also give back by working with area students to fulfil the overall Building Bridges to Careers mission of creating successful students and prosperous communities. This incubator space is the first of its kind for the Mid-Ohio Valley area.

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The Epicenter has received a tremendous amount of support from numerous area partners from its opening in January 2017 to its current expansion. The Marietta Community Foundation, Voinovich School and Alex Bandar (founder of the Columbus, Ohio makerspace, the Idea Foundry) have all been instrumental in securing the new Epicenter location. The family run Ross Foundation has been one such supporter. Through their own initiatives with Innovate MOV, the Ross Foundation identified the importance of support systems for up and coming entrepreneurs. Though their primary focus is on the revitalization of Downtown Parkersburg, the Ross Foundation identified the benefit a larger incubator and all-ages makerspace would bring to the entire Mid-Ohio Valley.

Though a newer concept for the area, incubators and makerspaces have been popular in larger cities for several years now as a way to stimulate the economy through support of small businesses. The spaces allow small businesses and entrepreneurs to use shared equipment while creating product prototypes or even small production runs. These spaces can run from basic to advanced, housing equipment like sewing machines or 3D printers, and be centered on specific age ranges, like pre-K to 20 years, or open to all.

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“The introduction of an incubator and makerspace for the area allows us to be more competitive with larger cities. Akin to the Idea Foundry in Columbus, Ohio, our makerspace will provide a shared workspace for a wide variety of makers, crafters, hobbyists and aspiring entrepreneurs of all ages,” said Tasha Werry, Building Bridges to Careers Director. “We hope to continue receiving community support for our efforts to provide a unique community outlet for creativity and innovation.”

The Epicenter is still seeking funders to ensure the success of this new expansion. Interested parties can help by spreading the word to generate additional community interest, donating materials or supplies directly to Building Bridges to Careers, or providing sponsorship or funding to the center through the Marietta Community Foundation.