Published Aug 28, 2020 by Javier Vargas
Phase I is nearly complete on the East End Maker Hub, a 300,000-plus-square-foot industrial makerspace in Houston's East End that will house startups and the innovation arms of major corporations like Waste Management.
The Hub, which will be equipped for prototyping, testing, small-batch manufacturing and more, will also house and support entrepreneurs, artists, crafters, innovators and legacy manufacturers who are looking to scale their businesses.
The first-of-its-kind project in Houston, and one of only a handful in the nation, has come to life through a partnership between TXRX Labs and Urban Partnerships Community Development Corporation (UPCDC).
The project is focused on equitable innovation and bringing back Houston's East End as a manufacturing hub.
To hear more about the project, we spoke with Jaime Herrero, Executive Director of UPCDC.
What is the East End Maker Hub and why is there a need for it in Houston?
The East End Maker Hub is a 300,000-square-foot industrial makerspace and manufacturing center with flexible commercial leasing options for small business owners. As companies move to reduce overhead costs, our space offers Houston’s crafters, innovators, fabricators and manufacturers a physical environment geared toward their specific business needs at a price they can afford.
Once completed, the industrial makerspace will be the first of its kind in Houston and one of the largest in Texas. A complete overhaul of a former Baker Hughes facility, the East End Maker Hub drew inspiration from projects like the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center and the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York, and 7800 Susquehanna in Pennsylvania. The Maker Hub will generate an estimated $153 million in annual economic impact and will help to reinvigorate small-batch manufacturing in the East end and further diversify Houston’s economy.
How did the Maker Hub project come to fruition?
Urban Partnerships Community Development Corporation (UPCDC), an experienced nonprofit developer, and TXRX Labs, a manufacturing and hardware innovation incubator, formed a joint venture, leveraging $1.25 million in equity to raise $37 million in capital through New Market Tax Credits (NMTCs), funding partners, the City of Houston, and the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
UPCDC specializes in community wealth building projects and established the Maker Hub commercial development with the aim of generating employment opportunities and economic stimulation in Houston’s East End. Funding partner TXRX will be the anchor tenant at the new facility, located at 6501 Navigation Blvd. Houston, TX 77011.
How has the history of the Second Ward shaped the East End Maker Hub’s mission? And how will the Hub work to amplify the culture of the East End?
The Maker Hub aims to harness the East End’s manufacturing reputation to create equitable economic impact and job growth in the area. The Second Ward’s immigrant and Latinx influences drive a major thread of our mission—ensuring access to production space for local business owners, particularly business owners of color. We’ve established several key partnerships with the East End District and Council Member Karla Cisneros to engage the neighborhood and ensure that the Hub’s programming is inclusive of the area’s diverse business community and public workforce.
Why is the East End a hotbed for small-batch making and manufacturing?
The East End is a major manufacturing zone thanks, in large part, to the Port of Houston. The area’s numerous industrial properties support production and logistics companies in addition to shipping and procurement operations along the ship channel. The rail line is another option for cargo shipping needs.
Historically, the East End has supported businesses spanning a wide spectrum of industries, from a coffee manufacturing plant to concrete manufacturing and textile factories, and, more recently, small and midsize woodworking and fabrication shops. These companies benefit from physical spaces conducive to their production needs in a convenient location where they can easily receive supplies and fulfillment shipments.
Additionally, the neighborhood’s vibrant art scene is a magnet for makers and artisans. The East End supports 30+ arts and culture organizations which showcase the wealth of creative talent in the area and help to preserve the community’s character.
Why are small businesses crucial to Houston’s economy?
Nationally, small businesses are the leading source of job creation. In Houston, 97 percent of businesses have fewer than 100 employees and make up more than 50 percent of the city’s workforce. These small businesses can move quickly and adapt to a shifting market or change in industry and workforce demands. They can also more easily serve consumer needs—which is critical in times of economic downturn. The East End Maker Hub hopes to enhance this agility by offering startups and small businesses the ability to prototype, test, small-batch manufacture and mass produce, all under one roof.
How will the Maker Hub foster collaboration between corporate innovation teams and small businesses?
Leasing space side-by-side, corporate innovation teams will connect with leading hardware innovation startups developing industry-altering products. Maker Hub tenants are part of the Hub Collective—a collaborative community that fosters grassroots innovation facilitated by local companies and supported by corporate resources. This tight-knit community of makers and manufacturers is plugged into the wider Houston startup ecosystem, thanks to the Maker Hub’s anchor tenant TXRX Labs and our relationships with Houston Exponential, The Ion, the Greater Houston Partnership and more. The goal of bringing corporate innovation teams, like Waste Management’s Research & Development division, to the Hub is to create new pathways for partnership for our tenants.
How will the East End Maker Hub create equitable economic growth in the Second Ward, and how will the local community be included in this growth?
By offering sliding scale rent based on what small business owners can afford, the East End Maker Hub aims to increase access to production space for women and minority business owners specifically. Community outreach and involvement are a central part of this project and are a major focus of the Hub’s programming, which will include job training as well as gallery shows where crafting tenants will be invited to highlight their work.
Additionally, the Maker Hub will strengthen Houston’s East End by creating 400+ local jobs directly along with 200 induced jobs annually, providing the area with long-term employment, business and retail opportunities. Through partnerships, the Hub will also provide job training to 75 adult Houstonians and welcome over 500 young people for hands-on project-based learning annually.
What are some of the Maker Hub’s top facility amenities?
The Maker Hub offers several different options for creators, from white box studio space to innovation lab space to fabrication and manufacturing shop space. Our industrial amenities are a big draw for tenants and include features like 15-ft-wide hallways and 18-ft industrial height ceilings, nine semi-truck loading docks, seven shared exterior grade roll up doors, heavy electrical service and access to TXRX Labs’ innovation and manufacturing equipment and staff expertise.
What types of businesses belong at the Maker Hub?
At their core, makers are creative problem solvers. This might look like making art to evoke a message or emotion, building furniture that fits a certain function or aesthetic, prototyping and testing a product or device, 3D printing, manufacturing and fabricating, welding, glassblowing, ceramics work—and so much more. The Maker Hub welcomes all crafters, innovators, fabricators and manufacturers in need of production space.
Visit EastEndMakerHub.org for more information about leasing space at the East End Maker Hub, Houston’s industrial makerspace and manufacturing center.