UMA’s February Newsletter

Urban Mfg Alliance
8 min readFeb 20, 2021


Black History & Manufacturing

Black Americans and immigrants have a long and complex history with manufacturing. UMA Board Director Bernadine Hawes outlined this in a recent Industry & Inclusion webinar, where she talked about the role of enslaved Black labor in building the cotton, tobacco, and textile industries, and described how the great migration of Black and brown people leaving the rural south for manufacturing jobs in northern cities fueled America’s second industrial revolution, especially the Midwest. These jobs supported families, neighborhoods, and communities and created new opportunities for economic growth. Unfortunately, systemic racism influenced factory owners to marginalize their Black and brown workers, ultimately leading to valuing cheaper labor and other policies over all workers’ rights.

Painting by Jacob Lawrence

UMA is fortunate to be working with leaders across the country that are striving to learn from and repair the damage done to the Black workforce in manufacturing. Across the country we are seeing manufacturers learning about the untapped innovation, drive, and leadership that Black communities have to offer. Organizations are creating new succession planning initiatives to increase the amount of manufacturing businesses owned by Black and other people of color entrepreneurs. Education and career pathway leaders alike are helping manufacturing businesses understand their own internal bias in order to build new hiring practices opening doors for the next generation of talent to the future of manufacturing. And local brand initiatives are creating new platforms for Black manufacturers to access new markets and expand their sales to increase employment opportunities. UMA knows collectively there is a lot of work to be done and we will continue to work towards integrating equity and inclusion in our work and across our community.

Also this month we have a new administration. President Biden and Vice President Harris entered the White House with a “Plan to ensure the future is ‘Made in All of America’, by all of America’s workers.” This plan outlines six ways to support manufacturing across the country, including: creating incentives, additional resources, and new financing tools, with a particular focus on smaller manufacturers and those owned by women and people of color; funding new investments in industry-specific research and development; and re-shoring supply chains. President Biden began implementing this plan with an executive order in the second week of his presidency. The order outlines closing loopholes in the federal procurement process, establishes new methods of measuring how much of a product is Made in America, creates a new position in the Office of Management and Budget titled Director of Made-in-America to oversee new developments, and recommends new relationships and collaborations between federal agencies and the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership network to source contract manufacturers and finished goods.

Both Black History Month and the new administration’s plans for manufacturing offer us a reminder that there is a lot of work to be done, particularly when thinking about the intersection of racial equity and manufacturing. Our partners and members are doing the work day in and day out. In the newsletter below we share takeaways from a recent panel discussion about the role ecosystem builders play in creating resilient and accessible economic systems; two events about the role of manufacturing in creating racially equitable community and economic development; a new book about designing new strategies to foster and grow urban manufacturing; and research that is helping breakdown what issues under-resourced communities are facing.

In partnership,
The UMA Team

Research and Programming News

UMA and the Initiative for Competitive Inner City (ICIC) hosted a panel discussion featuring Steve Heath from FabNewport in Newport, RI; Robin Haynes, Business Advisor for the 10KSB program in Baltimore; Shawn Thomas from Bridgeway Capital in Pittsburgh; and Lee Wellington and Katy Stanton from the Urban Manufacturing Alliance to address the challenges and shifting needs of nonprofits serving manufacturing companies and communities due to COVID-19.

The panelists talked about the benefits of programs such as Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses and investments from Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) to support nonprofits during recovery. The conversation also touched on many issues that nonprofits face and how COVID and increased awareness of systemic racism is increasing the rate of change. Panelists highlighted Pony Ride (in Detroit, MI), FabNewport (in Newport, RI) and Bridgeway Capital (Pittsburgh, PA) as examples of non-profits that are building resilient urban manufacturing ecosystems by creatively leveraging relationships and resources, while opening up their programming to new audiences.

Some of the panel’s takeaways include: aligning nonprofit services with the changing needs of the businesses due to COVID-19; “nonprofits need to get out of their lane;” and nonprofits should leverage existing economic development services to build their own resilience.

Listen to the discussion and read the full takeaways here.

Calendar of Events

March 22, 2021–2:30pmEST
UMA Online Event
Register to Attend

Partnership and Relationship Innovation to Build Race-Explicit Advanced Manufacturing Training Programs

The future of the U.S.’s industrial sector relies on finding a new generation of workers to replace a rapidly aging one — estimates have told us that an additional 2.4 million manufacturing workers are needed in the next decade. Further, these new workers will have to be skilled at managing the technologies that are radically changing how we manufacture. To achieve these goals, manufacturing will need to take on the challenge of incorporating diversity, equity, and inclusion into how it composes its workforce.

In UMA and The Century Foundation’s final webinar of our Industry & Inclusion cohort program, we will explore the innovative partnerships that our participating workforce training organizations have forged with unlikely entities in their communities. These partnerships build relationships with community, form trust, and create new opportunities for neighborhood residents and manufacturers, alike. Our presenters will discuss the partnerships they’ve formed, the strategies behind them, and the outcomes that demonstrate their power.

Register to attend.

February 18, 2021–12:00pmEST
Partner Online Event
Register to Attend

Power After The Pandemic:
How can institutions embrace racial equity to support community development?

Association for Neighborhood & Housing Development and Urban Design Forum are hosting their fifth “Power After The Pandemic” dialogue. Brandee McHale, Head of Community Investing and Development at Citi and President of the Citi Foundation, and Maurice Jones, LISC’s President & CEO, will share their perspectives on how Black Lives Matter and the COVID-19 pandemic have laid bare the deep structural inequalities among our cities. Many individuals and companies have been activated in new ways towards creating an equitable path forward, centering and prioritizing targeted investments to communities of color.

Citi’s Action for Racial Equity and LISC’s Project 10X both commit hundreds of millions of dollars in investments aimed at closing the racial wealth gap by re-imagining and adding to how their institutions support community and economic development.

Register to attend.

News from the Community

Nina Rappaport, urbanist, curator, and advocate for urban manufacturing, author of the book Vertical Urban Factory, presents the second phase of her ongoing film interview project, “A Worker’s Lunch Box.” Her interviews with factory workers explore their role in the urban life and captures workers’ dedication to their jobs, skills, pride in work, motivations, and dreams.

On February 25, join us for a film showing and panel discussion! A Worker’s Lunch Box: The Garment District event will feature four of 12 interviews with garment factory workers and a panel discussion moderated by Nina. The film explores the worker’s role, the value of work to the worker, and the meaning of urban production. By focusing attention on the individual factory employee, these personal narratives demonstrate the importance of urban production spaces and their social significance. The interviews featured in A Worker’s Lunch Box depict workers on the manufacturing floor as they describe their responsibilities and what they do in their free time. This group of films was made in 2019. In 2020 many of the companies quickly converted to PPP manufacturing as they could not sustain their primary role as costume producers since Broadway had shuttered. Panelists Katie Sue Nichols, Brian Blythe, and the Costume Industry Coalition will share how they have maintained their businesses and converted their factories in face of the pandemic crisis.

Register to attend.

Initiative for a Competitive Inner City in October 2020 released The New Face of
Under-Resourced Communitie
s by Peter Eberhardt, Howard Wial, and Devon Yee. This report examines the current state of under-resourced communities — defined as relatively heavily populated areas of high poverty and low income located in metropolitan areas. ICIC’s research is working to better understand the characteristics of under-resourced communities in order to dispel any false beliefs or ingrained bias. The report brings together demographic, geographic, and economic data to explain the truth about under-resourced communities across the country. The findings show a more complex situation then is being discussed and explain the history and origins of why some communities are under-resourced, how not all all under-resourced communities are equally disadvantaged, and what strategies and policies community leaders and local governments can employee to right long standing inequalities.

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

Gearing Up: MEP Center Responses
to the COVID-19 Pandemic

By: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Center for Urban and Regional Studies
Jan. 2021

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on U.S. manufacturing over the past year. In the short term, the pandemic has curtailed demand for many manufactured goods and interrupted supply chains en masse. The scale of these manufacturing gains or losses have not rested entirely on the decision-making capacity or resourcefulness of a few individual firms, but also relied on that institutional support and coordinated assistance that manufacturing operations receive now and throughout the post-pandemic recovery period. The 2020 CARES Act recognized the potential of manufacturers to implement creative strategies in response to the pandemic, and distributed $50 million in support to manufacturing adaptation efforts coordinated by the U.S. Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).”

Read the full article at
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Center for Urban and Regional Studies

Chicago needs an ambitious industrial policy — “Inclusion & Industry 4.0”
By: Dan Swinney,
Manufacturing Renaissance
Jan. 2021

“‘Equitable prosperity; can only happen if we rebuild our manufacturing sector. Without rebuilding manufacturing, we will continue to increase our ‘equitable pain.’ It’s about the math. A typical manufacturing salary, including benefits, is around $84,000 a year, whereas the service sector typically sees wages around $30,000, and retail around $20,000. The most important figure is the jobs multiplier. Each manufacturing job generates, on average, five other jobs in the economy. Each service sector job generates one other job in the economy. Each retail job generates 25% of a singular job in the economy. Manufacturing is the key sector in building a broad-based middle class.”

Read the full article at
Metro Planning Council

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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.