First Public Meetings Scheduled with Feasibility Study Consultants

The public is invited to participate in one of three meetings scheduled with Creative Startups to learn more about and weigh in on the Incubator/Makerspace Feasibility Study project being managed by the Southwest New Mexico Arts, Culture and Tourism board.

These will be held Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, October 8th - 10th in Western New Mexico University’s Seminar room on the third floor of the Student Memorial building.

Pre-registration is required. To register, and for more information, please go to the registration form.

Incubators and Maker Spaces for the Creative Community

Many small businessmen are aware of the concepts of incubators and maker spaces for high-tech businesses.  There are many operating around the state of New Mexico, including Albuquerque and Las Cruces.  In recent years, these concepts have been translated into the creative economy space specifically to deal with the special challenges that creatives have in setting up successful businesses, challenges that are exacerbated in rural areas with small local markets.

Incubators provide business training and assistance with the development of business plans, as well as financial advice and introductions to potential investors.  They also provide low-cost space for business operations, co-working, video conferencing, and networking.  In many cases, they also provide low-cost access to high-speed broadband, computers, printers and other equipment.

Maker spaces are facilities with equipment that can be shared among all the "member makers."  In the high-tech arena, these frequently include 3D printers, laser cutters, and a wide variety of computer-assisted fabrication machines.  These are frequently managed by nonprofits and receive grant and outside support in addition to member rental fees.

Not all creative makers are high-tech, particularly in rural New Mexico, where creatives include artists, weavers, potters, blacksmiths, printers, food producers and photographers, among many others.  Knowledge about markets and marketing, business and financial planning, laws and regulations, and technology are not usually high priorities for creatives trying to start a small business.  That's where an incubator focused on creatives can make a difference.

Likewise, shared "low-tech" equipment such as kilns, looms, printing presses, wood and metal fabrication tools, and low cost space with the appropriate safety, ventilation, electrical and plumbing systems can provide a significant boost to the creative economy.  

It is critical to the success of such maker spaces and incubators that both the demand for space and for business assistance exist in sufficient quantity to make the facilities economically sustainable.  Many rural communities will not be able to sustain such a facility out of local resources.  However, other resources may be available, including federal, state and local government grants, contracts and loans; private and corporate foundation support; commercial contracts and sales; and educational and training services for schools and university students.

Promoting the development of the creative economy in rural communities will frequently require investment in both capacity building and physical infrastructure.  A combined incubator/maker space can provide both.

USDA Rural Business Development Grant

Press Release from Southwest New Mexico Arts, Culture & Tourism (Parent of Silver City Arts & Cultural District)

Study will analyze the Feasibility of a Combined Small Creative Business Incubator & Maker Space

Silver City— August 24,2018 — Southwest New Mexico Arts, Culture and Tourism (SWNMACT) is pleased to announce that it has received a grant from the Rural Business Development Grant program of the US Department of Agriculture. This grant will be utilized to carry out a feasibility study for a combined incubator and maker space facility serving the Silver City and wider Grant County creative community.

Lee Gruber, Chairman of the Southwest New Mexico Arts, Culture and Tourism board said, “Rural communities face particular challenges in maintaining a healthy, diverse and sustainable economy that provides a future for its youth and jobs for its current workforce. We have a bounty of creative opportunities here in Silver City and Grant County; our cultural history and wilderness, along with a strong artistic and artisan presence, which can only prosper and be supported by the grant that we have received. Thanks to Colleen Morton at SWNMACT and the USDA for helping to make this grant possible.”

The consulting firm that will be carrying out this work is Creative Startups of Santa Fe and Albuquerque. The team will be headed by Dr. Alice Loy, who is well known in Silver City for her work with several local small businesses and with WNMU. Dr. Loy and her team will begin work in September with research on all aspects of incubators and maker spaces in rural areas, and follow up with a trip to Silver City to conduct surveys and interviews. They will be assisted by the staff of SWNMACT and our in-kind sponsors, WNMU and the Carter House.  The study is expected to last eight months.

The Town of Silver City and Grant County have both signed on as supporters of this project as it fits well with their goals of building the creative economy in this region. The Southwest New Mexico Council of Governments (COG) was also critical to the success of this application to USDA. Priscilla Lucero, Executive Director of the COG said, “I am excited about the USDA award and look forward to the opportunities it can bring to the area.”

Jane Janson, Director of the Small Business Development Center at Western New Mexico University, said that the SBDC will serve as a resource by contributing knowledge of the local business environment to the feasibility study.

Create Startups is planning to engage deeply with small businesses and “makers” in Silver City and other towns throughout the county. Public announcements will be made well in advance of the arrival of the consulting team in Silver City. In the interim, if you are interested in learning more about the project, please do not hesitate to contact SWNMACT at (575)538-5560 or at