A makers’ culture can be described as a “learn-through-doing” culture that breeds an entrepreneurial innovation spirit with an emphasis on an informal, networked, peer-led, and shared learning community. Such cultures include artisans, software developers, food producers, researchers, and those interested in open technology. The City can help foster a successful climate for entrepreneurs and makers to create an innovation identity for Trenton by providing new companies the necessary resources to develop their products, creating opportunities to interact with potential investors and grantors, and offering affordable rental space.
The first step in developing this initiative should be the creation of a Startup and Maker’s Plan that would identify current conditions, opportunities, and specific implementation actions to foster a startup and makers’ culture in Trenton. Next, the City must identify and establish partnerships with regional universities and research centers to develop and facilitate start-up businesses. These partnerships can be the basis for creating a mentorship program that will attract entrepreneurs as well as business incubators and accelerators. Moreover, the City must create opportunities whereby potential makers can be trained in the required skills and given access to the necessary means of production. As such, this initiative must be coordinated with the Job and Career Pathways Initiative
identified in the Education and Workforce Development Report.
Such an effort would be supported by a partnership with local companies that have an interest in entrepreneurship. At the same time, makers cultures are often grown from the ground up, and the City should support community groups focused around making and the arts.
Finally, the City should utilize incentives and leverage partnerships to encourage the creation of a collaborative lab for prototyping, testing of products, and educational opportunities. This could be done by offering tax credits to for-profit companies that operate within specific targeted industries in a specific location, similar to Pennsylvania’s Keystone Innovation Zone program. This should be complemented with efforts to provide development bonuses to private developers who create co-working spaces near transit. As a result, the City must align the updates to the Land Development Ordinance as well as its redevelopment plans with this initiative.