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Top 10 Ways Fab Lab ICC Impacts the Local-Area Economy-2021

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas

A lot has happened since I first wrote this piece back in 2016. A new building has been added to the north end of the Lab, infusing nearly $350,000 in Federal money into the local economy. We’ve helped many businesses either start of grow and provide maker experiences to hundreds of youth. Then, of course, came the pandemic of 2020. Even through the shutdowns, we’ve stayed busy and did our part to help several businesses make it through this tough economic year. As I review the list from 2016, I realize most remain applicable as we move into a new year as the new vaccines and herd immunity close the door on COVID-19.

Many understand that Fab Lab ICC is available to community members, entrepreneurs and small business owners for a small annual membership fee. Membership information is available at www.fablabicc.org. Many understand that Fab Lab ICC is a place where things can be created and made for fun, learning or business purposes. Here, we explore some of the ways the Fab Lab ICC experience impacts our local and area economy. Some of these items are happening now, while some will happen as we continue to grow.

  • 1.)    We work toward a continuous flow of new business start-ups while existing entrepreneurs and small business owners learn that they can use the Lab to develop new products and services. This adds jobs as some grow to need help. Every entrepreneur that becomes a start-up business is either a part-time or full-time job created.
  • 2.)    We inspire an Entrepreneurial Mindset through everything we do, including the Mindset class and the initiation of the Youth Entrepreneur curriculum in area high schools. As this culture of Entrepreneurial Mindset develops, our communities become better at solving the problems facing rural communities in Southeast Kansas.
  • 3.)    We can facilitate the infusion of grant money for product development. Eight to ten federal agencies are mandated to promote small business development by dedicating 2% - 3% of their budgets to that end. There is development assistance available for entrepreneurs and small businesses that have product ideas of interest to one or more of the agencies. The funds can be substantial--$200K to $300K—and part of the funds go to the assisting research institution; i.e. Fab Lab ICC.
  • 4.)    We can help challenged individuals improve their quality of life. We discovered this by accident. Some will become entrepreneurs, experiencing for the first time in their lives, the joy of providing a product or service in exchange for money. We have one autistic young man on his way to opening a computer repair and networking business. Government and foundation agencies around the U.S. are looking for quality of life solutions for these populations. We are working with two local agencies to develop solutions through the Fab Lab experience.
  • 5.)    We connect our Fab Lab ICC members with agencies to provide business development assistance. Examples are the Innovative Business Resource Center, Northern Montgomery County E-Community, Montgomery County Action Counsel, Network Kansas and Kansas Small Business Development Center.
  • 6.)    We’re creating the work force training (we like to call it “Fab-Force”) that is required to thrive in the coming age of customized manufacturing made possible by automation, robotics and advanced electronics. We believe the training for the employees and contractors of the future should consist of an approach where participants receive an introduction to a variety of disciplines rather than the singular disciplinary approaches of the past.
  • 7.)    We strive to function as a type of advance manufacturing Lab where existing businesses can learn about new techniques in customization and automation.
  • 8.)    Fab Lab ICC does a share of the heavy lifting in making Independence Community College strong. A strong community college helps build a strong community.
  • 9.)    The Fab Lab culture has a positive effect on attracting youth to the area. That kind of Entrepreneurial-Fab Lab culture based on technology and innovation never gets old or goes out of style. Young people like that kind of environment and will be attracted to return to the area as the quality of “city life” continues to deteriorate.
  • 10.)     The Fab Lab and related culture become destinations that out of town visitors and guests want to come to see. We’ll continue to make headlines, host events and offer our assistance around the country to communities who are building their Fab Labs. That will attract people to come to Fab Lab ICC to see “what we’ve done with the place”.

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349 or by email at jcorrell@indycc.edu. Archive columns and podcasts at www.fablabicc.org.


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