CERTAIN PEOPLE are just natural organizers. Years ago, Katrina Scotto di Carlo recognized the importance and potential of supporting local business, and so she created Supportland, a locals-only rewards card that also provides useful metrics to participating businesses. Meanwhile, Kelley Roy was starting ADX, a 10,000-square-foot event space and workshop that houses a variety of makers, with access to communal tools, expertise, classes, and more. So when Scotto di Carlo and Roy got together on a project to further bolster locally made products, it could only be a good thing. The result, launching officially this week, is Portland Made, a concept strong enough to have caught the attention of the city and state's politicians—exactly the people the manufacturing community needs to have paying attention.
Like Supportland, Portland Made is a multilayered affair. Most people will access it as an online, centralized resource for finding locally manufactured goods—not just crafty items like jewelry and tea towels, but practical everyday products like mattresses and bicycles too. You can read profiles on the makers, find out where to buy their products, and eventually, be able to purchase them on the site. (There's even a new Portland Made version of the Supportland card.)
The member-facing side of the site is for makers and designers, retailers who carry local merchandise, and larger-scale manufacturers, with corresponding levels of membership. For them, it will function somewhat like a social networking site, focused on fostering networking and collaboration. Roy uses the example of a bike builder to illustrate: The builder may be assembling bikes locally, but with components made elsewhere. Portland Made would connect them with a local fabricator who can make the same components here. Say the fabricator is large scale, and the bicycle builder can't afford or otherwise meet the volume of a minimum order. Portland Made can then help group similar bicycle builders together to meet that minimum.
Additionally, Portland Made is partnering with the Portland Development Commission, to consult with members as to how to take their business plans to the next level. Under consideration is the development of a "boot camp" type program where, through an application process, one small business enrolls in an intensive mentorship, from which they would "graduate" with a clear plan on how to scale up.
"We wanted to start with manufactured goods because there's not much in place for them," says Roy, who sees a direct comparison with the widely celebrated and supported local food industry. "There are a lot of groups that are already doing a lot of coordination on that front. Eventually we will integrate it so that over the years it will become a main hub for everything coming out of Portland. We want to capitalize on the work that's already been done."
Perhaps most significant is Portland Made's relationship with Portland State University associate professor Charles Heying, who specializes in researching "alternative economies of the post-industrial age" and wrote the book Brew to Bikes: Portland's Artisan Economy. Together they're working on producing metrics that track the job creation of the small-scale manufacturing community, thus giving them the tools to bend the ear of politicians and other decision makers who tend to set their sights on big guns like Vestas and Nike. Portland Made is also in communication with development companies to scout potential spaces for more manufacturing collectives for businesses that grow out of smaller spaces like ADX. In short, they're all over it.
If you need any more evidence that Portland Made is being taken seriously, just check out the list of speakers for Thursday's official kickoff, including Mayor Charlie Hales, State Representative Jules Bailey, and, potentially, an emissary from Congressman Earl Blumenauer's office. It all points to an exciting time for Portland to become a leader in the effort to return manufacturing to the United States at a localized level, something that just about everyone can agree is the path to long-lasting economic health and a source of that famous "livability" we keep getting complimented on.
If you want to plug into what's happening, get involved, and get inspired, Thursday's grand opening festivities—augmented by local food from Salt, Fire, and Time and beer brewed for the occasion by F.H. Steinbart Co.—are the perfect point of entry. The program also includes a screening of the Portland Made launch video, DJ Leftovers' party sounds, and lots and lots of excitement. Portland Made launch party at ADX, 417 SE 11th, Thurs April 18, 7-10 pm, free
THIS WEEK'S STYLE EVENTS
Mrs. Oregon Globe 2013 Nicola Lewis and Jewel Mignon host a showcase of local designers like Tiffany Bean and Stephanie D. Couture as well as Skull Sugar Cosmetics to raise awareness for the W.I.N. Foundation (that stands for Women in Need). Thurs April 18, Mabel & Zora, 748 NW 11th, 5-8 pm
Mag-Big is hosting a birthday party that spills over into the Hazel Room with live performances from Later Dudes, Luz Elena Mendoza, and more. Thurs April 18, the Hazel Room/Mag-Big, 3279 SE Hawthorne, 7 pm, free
Retail space and maker hive Beam & Anchor celebrate their first successful year with live music and a flea market in addition to the regulation snacks and bevies. Sat April 20, Beam & Anchor, 2710 N Interstate, 3-9 pm
Fascinators occupy a space somewhere between a hat and a headband, and today you can try your hand at making your own headgear flair for the summer schedule of weddings, baby showers, and garden parties. Sat April 20, Elizabeth Rohloff Design, 1323 SE 15th, 1-4 pm, $42, email@example.com to reserve