CLAREMONT – The Claremont Makerspace formally opened Friday with a new twist on ribbon-cutting.
“I’ve been at a ribbon cutting where they used a plasma cutter,” said Sen. Maggie Hassan. “This is the first one where they’ve used a laser.”
Co-founder Steve Goldsmith said, “We didn’t want to use the comically large scissors, but we did find a comically large ribbon.”
While Hassan and Rep. Annie Kuster stood by, the laser cutter etched the Makerspace logo into the cloth. Hassan pressed a button, and with a soft “tzing” sound, the red ribbon in the machine was severed.
Hassan and Kuster received many thanks from Goldsmith, cofounder Jeremy Katz and director Josh Bushueff, as their work helped funding for the project go through. The Makerspace provides a member and volunteer-supported place for creative work from welding to quilting to computer-aided design, with instructional help, storage and work space, and access to tools.
The Northern Border Regional Commission, a federal-state partnership that works toward economic development of an area from Upstate New York to Northern Maine, supplied $250,000 grant funding to the Makerspace. Kuster said she is committed to keeping the NBRC going.
“There’s a history in Claremont of making things, and it’s great to see it come back,” said Kuster, who’s been involved in the project since it was just the shell of an old factory, with a tree growing through the floor.
“I’m focused on any kind of federal funding we can get for rural New Hampshire,” said Kuster. She noted that the current administration’s first draft of the farm bill cut all funding for the NBRC, but the second round, which is the one that passed, actually expanded its funding.
The Makerspace project has taken 10 years to happen, from being the brainchild of Goldsmith, Katz and Bushueff, to its soft opening six weeks ago. The formal opening on Friday drew not only Hassan and Kuster, but state Sen. Martha Hennessey, Claremont Mayor Charlene Lovett , City Manager Ryan McNutt, Christine Frost of the Northern Border Regional Commission and a representative of the Community Development Finance Authority, which provided help in the form of tax credits.
Katz especially thanked Hassan. “We first started working with her when she was Gov. Hassan. Every single meeting started with her asking, ‘How can I help?’ She was an incredible support. In the end the biggest help we could ask was, ‘Which box does this go into?’”
In order to qualify for federal funding, Katz said, it’s important to check the proper boxes on grant applications, such as downtown revitalization, workforce development, community development.
“We checked all the boxes, but on federal forms you can only check one box.”
“It is your vision, your collaboration, and your idea of what it means to be a Granite Stater than has made this possible,” said Hassan to the audience. “It is so important we continue to move forward.”
“I try to reflect as best I can the work of entrepeneurship in the Senate,” she said. Hassan’s Reigniting Opportunity for Innovators (ROI) Act would provide incentive for startup companies in economically depressed communities, in part by providing up to $20,000 in student loan forgiveness to would-be entrepeneurs.
When Kuster rose to speak, she dubbed the Makerspace “the ultimate expression of STEAM — science, technology, engineering, art and math. “You’ve already got one of the best one of the best career and tech high schools in the state,” she told the audience.
Kuster spent some time walking around the space talking to various makers: Susan Parmenter, who does mosaic work, a guy named Dave who makes designs with a thing like a spyrograph on steroids, and Michelle Goldsmith, who teaches quilting. “I love the tall windows and the open feeling, the space. Who would have thought they designed it all those years ago to let in natural light?”
“I’m a little disappointed they didn’t save the tree,” she said.
Like Katz and Michelle Goldstein, Borshuah remembered the genesis of the makerspace. For him, he was living on the West Coast and building something with his hands, and a friend said, “Whoa, you’re a maker.”
“I thought it was the oddest thing,” said Borshuah. “I said, ‘I’m from New Hampshire. We have garages, and it’s what we do in them. We make stuff.
“Welcome to your new, incredibly outfitted garage,” he told the audience. “Your new sandbox, your new social spot.”
Once the speeches were over, everyone was invited to walk around the work stations and learn about the tools, and contemplate whatever it is they might want to make.