Survey aims to help small manufacturers, artists succeed in Houston


Houston's economy is known for oil, gas and energy, but the local economy is built on much more, including small manufacturers.

Woman working on jewelry

Photo by Kyle Frederick on Unsplash

Houston's economy is known for oil, gas and energy, but the local economy is built on much more, including small manufacturers.

Through the Houston Small Urban Manufacturers Survey, the Kinder Institute, TX/RX Labs and BeehiveFund hope to influence policies and enact change to benefit Houston's small manufacturers.

"When you boil it down, there are a lot of smaller urban manufacturers that are supporting the supply chain to a lot of our larger industry partners, but there isn't really a lot of focus on the needs of these small urban manufacturers to help them to scale and grow and stay in the Houston community," said Lauren Caldarera, development director of TX/RX Labs. "The goal of this survey is really to be able to better understand both the barriers and the needs of small urban manufacturers and to help identify what their workforce, their transportation, their facility needs, etc. are so that we can start to advocate on their behalf."

Caldarera hopes respondents will vary in production types, size and structure. She said potential respondents could vary from a single artist producing handmade jewelry or artwork to a couple producing their own honey to a company staffing dozens of factory workers producing a supply-chain product, and everyone in between.

The data from participants' responses will be used to pave the way for greater investments in:

  • Connecting urban manufacturers in our city
  • Bridging advocacy for urban manufacturers with empirical data
  • Technical training and apprenticeship programs
  • Real estate to support manufacturers of all sizes
  • Business assistance geared towards manufacturers
  • Local branding to help manufacturers demonstrate their products were "Made in Houston"

The survey, which was inspired by a similar survey conducted in Indianapolis, recently opened but closes, depending on response rates, sometime in June. Caldarera hopes to get as many responses as possible in order to determine the best ways to help Houston's small manufacturers. Naturally, the more responses, the more information and the more Houston's small urban manufacturing industry will be represented.

Following the completion of the survey, the information will be collected and presented with actionable strategies to best help the smaller manufacturing community.

"We definitely want to present this information back to the city. We want to present it to chambers. We want to present it to economic development partners. We want to be able to say, 'How can we come together to better support our smaller manufacturing community in Houston?'" Caldarera said. The data might help policymakers adjust zoning, incentives and training programs so that they support the everyday realities of small, local businesses.

Potential changes to Houston's economy could be taken from other projects around the country in support for local manufacturers and artists, Caldarera noted. For example, Pittsburgh's Monmade connects residents with producers making specialty goods locally and targets corporations in the city, like Anthropology or Crate & Barrel, to allow a section in their stores for locally-made goods. Another example is found in Nashville's city government. City officials started the Nashville Made program for local goods by creating a business accelerator and developing local branding awareness and initiatives. The Urban Manufacturing Alliance also works with cities and companies to elevate their "Made in [CITY NAME]" brand.

"To me, there are many different ways that we can start to look at these models nationally, and start to bring some of these best practices to Houston," Caldarera said. "I think it can come through the city, but it can also come through an economic development committee or entity or a group of different stakeholders that want to work on this initiative."

To take the survey or for more information, visit the website here.

Heather Leighton


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