Thursday, May 04, 2023

Bringing our communities two makerspaces together: TinkerMill and Longmont Public Media

Over the last 10 years of living here in Longmont, my home town, I've been lucky enough to do a few public good things that are still giving back to the community. 

The first was TinkerMill. A makerspace that I created along with a couple of dozen other very enthusiastic founding members in 2013 because I wanted to see if a place like Longmont could support the concept of a makerspace. It did. TinkerMill is now one of the largest and some would say best Makerspaces in the country.

Then, out of a desire to have actual local news that reflected the community I lived in, I created a local non-profit news room called the Longmont Observer with a couple of co-founders (Sergio Angeles and Macie May) which went on to become the Longmont Leader, which Macie continues to run as the primary editor and overall manager to this day.

While still operating as the Longmont Observer, we bid on a contract that the City of Longmont had put out to run our local Public Access TV station operating 3 channels on the Comcast video network. To our surprise, we won that contract and created a new kind of public access TV that was also very much a Media Makerspace. We call it Longmont Public Media (LPM). Sergio has been running it as the Executive Director during most of that tenure (2020- present). Even with the pandemic and flagging pubic access TV budget dollars due to less people paying for cable TV, it's managed to continue to grow and prosper.

Sergio's decided that it's time to move on to what's next so that left us with the question of: what's next for LPM? I'm actively working on being retired, so I didn't want to run it. We looked at hiring from within LPM, as well as potential candidates from outside, and we looked at potential parternships with other similar non-profit entities like KGNU, The Firehouse Art Center and TinkerMill, the Longmont Makerspace.

We came to the conclusion that a partnership with the other makerspace in town was the best overall fit from a timing, capability and compatibility perspective. 

So, over the next few months, we'll be figuring out how the two organizations can be linked in partnership. Erin Hoard, the Executive Director of TinkerMill will be the ED of both organizations and Sergio and I (the current board of LPM) will join TinkerMill's board.

The details are still being worked out, but, for me, it's a natural. When we started TinkerMill one of the shops we wanted (and for awhile had subsets of) was photography, video and audio studios. 

LPM's mission is education about how to learn, create and distribute media with pro-level equipment, studios and expertise. TinkerMill's mission is also about education on how to learn and create throughout a broad range of areas from welding to 3D printing to circuit design to creating all kinds of different forms of art. LPM can create media around classes and projects at TinkerMill, which does over 100 different kinds of classes every month, and distribute it on LPM's 'educational channel' on Comcast (Channel 14). This supports TinkerMill's mission of education and helps to provide educational content for Longmont's public access TV system. That's just one area these two makerspaces can synergistically help each other.

TinkerMill is also an innovation center and dozens of company's as well as hundreds of product ideas and prototypes have emerged from the space over the years. Helping to document and promote those products and businesses is another area LPM can be leveraged for the Longmont community of entrepreneurs and creators with LPM using the content created for it's general community TV station (Channel 8) on what's going on in Longmont and Longmont's businesses.

There's so many ways a media entity like LPM and an innovation center like TinkerMill can work together that it's likely we'll be discovering all the possibilities for years to come.

I'm very much looking forward to watching these two incredibly dynamic organizations learn how to work together over the coming months and years. I also know the real winner here will be the residents of Longmont, and the entire region around Longmont.

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