The Maker Economy: The Growing Demand of Small Urban Manufacturers in Houston


With guidance, funding, and technical support from TX/RX Labs, the Houston office of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), and BeehiveFund/TMAC Gulf Coast, the Kinder Institute team set out to raise awareness around small urban manufacturing in Houston, culminating in this report.

From April 2019 through August 2019, the Kinder Institute surveyed and collected data directly from 69 small urban manufacturers, artists and makers operating in the Houston region. Findings from the survey were supplemented with one-on-one conversations with a selection of small manufacturers operating in neighborhoods directly adjacent to downtown. The intent was to gain a better understanding of the small urban manufacturing sector to help facilitate a clear strategy for the sector's future. 

On the whole, small manufacturers contributed 28% ($33 million) to total manufacturing sales volume in 2018. Although structural challenges remain, 79% of all survey respondents are optimistic about growth opportunities for small manufacturers operating in Houston and 84% have a desire to remain in their city. Significant barriers include space affordability, difficulty in finding sufficient capital to scale operations, difficulty in finding qualified workers in Houston and inadequate marketing and branding resources, among others. The report suggests local and state policymakers strengthen the networks supporting small manufacturing through targeted programming, robust funding opportunities and strategic long-term planning. 

man takes photo of plant
Houston small-business survey reveals how city and state can better support manufacturers
RESEARCH :  Nov. 21, 2019

Small businesses are only as successful as the policy, investment and regulatory environment they operate in. For small enterprises especially, flexibility and nimbleness are critical to growth. To thrive, clear pathways must exist for firms, regardless of size, to effectively scale, expand operations and further contributions to the economy, through new jobs, tax revenue streams and technological innovation. 

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