April 2021 Newsletter

Urban Mfg Alliance
10 min readApr 18, 2021


Equity, manufacturing as national priorities

On March 31, the Biden/Harris administration released The American Jobs Plan, part two of their three-part Build Back Better plan to “rescue, recover, and rebuild the country.” The American Jobs Plan identifies a six-part plan to support the repair and development of infrastructure and spur new innovation — highlighting manufacturing as a key element to the future of our country’s economy and safety. Not only is manufacturing called out as one of the six priorities — revitalize manufacturing, ensure products are made in America, and invest in innovation — but it can be found at every level of the plan from the call to produce new buses, rail cars, and electric vehicles to new elements of our electric grid and digital infrastructure. What is even more compelling is how diversity, equity, and inclusion is embedded in many aspects of the initiatives. We can already see the new administration’s priorities at work at the agency level.

While the plan has yet to pass Congress, it’s exciting to think about the opportunities that lay ahead. If passed, federal funding could be provided to support:

  • R&D investment at HBCUs and other minority-serving institutions to help make up for persistent inequities in access to R&D dollars and to careers in innovation industries.
  • UMA co-authored the Equitable Innovation Economies Initiative with PolicyLink and Pratt Center for Community Development, a project which helped four cities — Indianapolis, New York City, Portland, OR and San Jose, CA — pursue more inclusive growth strategies in innovation and manufacturing.
  • Community-based small business incubators and innovation hubs to support the growth of manufacturing and innovation entrepreneurship in communities of color and underserved communities.
  • Check out UMA’s chapter about makerspaces as entrepreneurship centers in “Launching A Neighborhood Place-Based Entrepreneurship Center,” written in partnership with InBIA.
  • Job training for formerly incarcerated individuals and justice-involved youth in clean energy, manufacturing, and infrastructure.
  • In the newsletter below, we share our learnings from a webinar we co-hosted with What’s Next Washington called “How to Train, Hire, and Retain Formerly Incarcerated Talent(TM).”
  • A new financing program to support debt and equity investments for manufacturing to strengthen the resilience of America’s supply chains.
  • UMA’s Pathways to Patient Capital program explores how community-based lenders can support scaling makers and manufacturers, particularly those of color.

These are just a few highlights from the whole plan which can be read in full at Fact Sheet: The American Jobs Plan. While there are many steps between a proposal and actual change, knowing the nation’s leaders are talking about how to leverage the intersection of manufacturing, infrastructure, equality, and climate change to tackle many issues at once is a welcome shift and (fingers crossed) provides a glimmer of things to come.

Thank you, as always, for being a part of the movement to grow more equitable economies through manufacturing. If you have news you would like to share with the UMA community please send us a message and let us know what you are working on!

In partnership,
The UMA Team

Research and Programming News

In February UMA co-hosted a conversation with What’s Next Washington about ways to remove barriers, create training programs, and write policies that help connect people with conviction histories to manufacturing jobs. Panelists included:

Visit UMA’s website to read the conversation takeaways.

UMA’s Pathways to Patient Capital group explored Private Sector Guarantees and Guarantee Pools as Risk Mitigation Strategies in a recent meeting. Serving as subject matter experts, Vickie Lakes-Battle, executive director of IFF Chicago; Cate Fox, senior program officer-Chicago Commitment of the MacArthur Foundation; and Fran Lutz, intermediary specialist of Community Investment Guarantee Pool, shared their experiences working with guarantees and discussed how these tools opened the door for loan recipients to access technical assistance and stable funding. Allison Kelly, chief executive officer of ICA, moderated our conversation, guiding the discussion how guarantees work as a risk mitigation strategy for CDFIs and other nonprofit lending institutions supporting small businesses, such as manufacturers.

Visit UMA’s website to read the discussion takeaways.

In the final webinar for UMA and The Century Foundation’s Industry & Inclusion cohort program, I&I cohort members Catrina Crane, director of workforce development and business solutions at Menomonee Valley Partners in Milwaukee and Stephen Tucker, president and CEO of Northland Workforce Training Center in Buffalo, as well as I&I advisory board members Héctor Huezo, senior workforce equity coordinator at Jobs to Move America, and Jason Drake, executive director of WorkRoom Program Alliance at Dan T. Moore Company introduced innovative partnerships they have forged with unlikely entities to build race-conscious training programs. These partnerships build relationships with community, form trust, and create new opportunities for neighborhood residents and manufacturers alike. Our presenters discussed why partnerships were formed, the processes they went through, and the outcomes that demonstrate the power of partnership.

Visit UMA’s website to read the webinar takeaways.


Thursday and Friday, April 15 and 16
9:00am to 1:00pm ET
Virtual Conference

Economic Inclusion Conference 2021
@Coppin State University

“Coppin State University, College of Business, Center for Strategic Entrepreneurship (CSE) will host the 2021 Economic Inclusion Conference at Coppin (EICAC). The theme of the 2021 EICAC is The New Academic Innovation Hub: Entrepreneurial Practices for Post-Pandemic Prosperity, focusing on emerging trends in entrepreneurial ecosystems and critical roles of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the economic well-being of the nation, especially in sectors where people of color have historically been underrepresented in leadership and ownership positions. The event will be a fast-paced learning and networking experience with concurrent sessions, panel discussions, individual interviews, stakeholder highlight segments, and more. Join us as we chart an equitable, inclusive courses with productive intent and value for all.” UMA’s own Lee Wellington is giving the opening keynote on Friday, April 16th.

Register to attend.

Monday to Friday, April 26 to 30
Varying Times
Virtual Conference

InBIA Conference of Business Incubation

“For 35 years, InBIA’s annual conference — the International Conference on Business Incubation (ICBI) — has been the primary venue for incubation and other entrepreneurial support professionals to share best practices, proven strategies, effective tools and relevant insights with an audience of peers. As the world recovers from the impacts of a destructive global pandemic, connecting with peers and sharing information is more important than ever before.” UMA will be presenting on Monday, April 26 from 1:30–2:30pmET on Racial Equity and Advancing the Future of Manufacturing. Join us!

Register to attend.

Wednesday, April 21
1:00pm to 3:40pm ET
Online Symposium

Midwest US Biodesign Hub Launch

“Biodesign is finding its way into education institutions all over the world. It bridges art, design, and biotech to reimagine a more sustainable and thoughtful future. Biodesign Challenge, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Toledo are hosting an online symposium to bring together the biodesign community across the Midwestern United States. The event will kickoff a regional Hub for biodesign practitioners, research institutions, and students to share resources, collaborate on projects, and develop new teaching practices. Experts from across the Midwest will speak about their work and ambitions for biodesign. BDC alumni will offer short talks about their projects and design processes.”

Register to attend.

Monday to Friday, May 17 to 21
Varying Times
Virtual Conference

IRI’s 2021 Virtual Conference

“Innovation Research Interchange’s (IRI) 2021 Virtual Annual Conference will draw from the lessons of 2020 to present new strategies for companies to adapt and grow in the post-COVID world. Organizations forced to pivot quickly have now turned to considering what pandemic-driven changes will become permanent, how to develop a strategic plan that is both stable and agile, and best practices for this new era of innovation management. Featuring a variety of session formats, this event will provide attendees with a roadmap for the future. We are pleased to partner with the European Industrial Research Management Association for Wednesday, May 19th, to explore sustainability topics such as circularity, clean air, the future of sustainable mobility, and more. We also welcome the Manufacturers Alliance for Innovation and Productivity (MAPI), who will present their latest studies on collaborative research on ecosystems for smart manufacturing.” UMA will be presenting on Monday, May 17 from 11:10am-12:00pmET.

Register to attend.

News from the Community

Forward Cities Launches New Webinar Series

“Forward Cities’ Promising Practices webinar series explores the challenges and opportunities most top-of-mind for ecosystem builders, economic development practitioners, community foundations, entrepreneurial support organizations, and other stakeholders interested in creating Equity for Every Entrepreneur (E3) in their community.

This series highlights the impact of this emerging field on a national scale, promoting learning within and between communities. Bringing Forward Cities’ experience and expertise gained from years of collaborating within and between communities across the country, we facilitate a dynamic dialogue around well-informed, tested, and scalable ideas with partners and practitioners steeped in this challenging but rewarding work.

The second event, in a four part series, will explore two powerful ways Entrepreneurial Support Organizations and communities can catalyze and accelerate the potential of PROGRAMS in their ecosystems: through accessible on-ramps to launching a new business and by clear pathways to growth in various sectors.”

Register here for the May 12th virtual discussion!

The Industrial Commons in North Carolina Announces the Industrial Commons Campus

The Industrial Commons’ plans for a democratic, industrial commons campus are coming to fruition! TIC is very excited to announce that The Industrial Commons has purchased a 27-acre tract of land in the heart of Morganton, NC to build out a dynamic shared use space for innovative, values-aligned, small to mid-size manufacturers.

In 2021, TIC will focus on cleaning up the property and conducting a master planning process with community allies, workers, students and community members. Construction will start (fingers crossed) in 2022.”

RSVP for TIC’s ribbon cutting event and to tour the new campus.

Please share your news with us! If you have something you would like UMA and our network to know about, please contact Eva, UMA’s Community Leader to share details to include in next month’s newsletter.

What We’re Reading

MEP Centers — On the Frontlines of
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

By: Matt Fieldman
April 2021

“You may not hear their names on the evening news, but MEP Centers like Polaris are actively working “from K to Gray,” a holistic approach to education throughout a person’s life, to develop a more diverse, inclusive advanced manufacturing workforce of the future. The case for improving diversity in every industry is clear: as McKinsey has written extensively, “Companies in the top quartile of gender and ethnic diversity were 25% and 36% more likely to financially outperform those in the bottom quartile, respectively.” Moreover, the pandemic has disproportionately displaced workers of color, and connecting displaced workers like Craig to higher-paying job opportunities in advanced manufacturing is a win for the worker, for the company, for our economy, and for our society overall.

To be clear, diversity takes many forms — race, ability, age, gender, nationality, socioeconomic status, and more — and MEP Centers are offering programs in every area. In fact, America Works is actively tracking the vast array of programs offered by MEP Centers that increase diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) across the spectrum. For this article, we’ll give some well-deserved shout-outs to Centers that have best-in-class programs in diversifying the American manufacturing workforce.”

Read the Full Article at: Nist.gov

Rebuilding U.S. manufacturing is the only path to an economic renaissance
By: Tom Conway
April 2021

“The nation’s prosperity depends on ensuring the ready availability of all of the raw materials and components that go into the products essential for crises and daily life.

That will mean ramping up domestic production of the semiconductors — now made largely overseas — that serve as the “brains” of automobiles, computers, cell phones, communications networks, appliances and life-saving medical equipment.

But it will also require building out supply chains in other industries. For example, America needs to produce titanium sponge for warplanes and satellites, pharmaceutical ingredients for medicines and the bearings that keep elevators and other machinery running.

The failure of just one link in a supply chain — as the semiconductor shortage shows — has the potential to paralyze huge swaths of the economy. That’s why it’s crucial not only to source components on U.S. soil but also to incorporate redundancy into supply lines so that an industry can survive the loss of a single supplier.”

Read the Full Article at: Salon.com

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Since 2015, UMA has grown to encompass 900+ members in more than 200 cities — and counting. Whether you’re a city council member, an urban planner, the executive director of a kitchen incubator, or a small artisan jewelry maker, UMA’s goal is to design a network based on your feedback, expertise, and questions about the future of the industry. Your individual tax-deductible contribution will empower us to bring our members together to learn from one another (online and in person), to tell stories showing the value of manufacturing to a city’s economy, and to document and replicate promising practices with city-based partners. Make a donation today!



Urban Mfg Alliance

The Urban Manufacturing Alliance is national nonprofit organization focused on building a sustainable, inclusive urban manufacturing sector.