A new non-profit society wants to open a community hub in Port Alberni. The society already has a space—but now it needs capital funding to bring the building up to code.
The Alberni Valley Makerspace aims to provide a public space where people can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment and knowledge. The goal of the Makerspace is to provide access to affordable tools, resources, lessons and a shared workspace for Alberni Valley residents.
Michael Moore, the president and founder of the Makerspace, works in software development. He and his family moved to Port Alberni eight years ago from the Lower Mainland. Over the past eight years, he has met a number of fellow developers and electrical engineers in Port Alberni, and the Makerspace was born from these partnerships.
“We have some amazing makers in the Valley,” he said.
However, most of these makers don’t have access to expensive and specialized equipment. The Makerspace could provide that.
It was while Moore was hosting a booth at the 2019 Alberni District Fall Fair that he was invited by the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) to rent the space above the Recycling Depot on Third Avenue.
The location provides 3,300 square feet of space, including offices and a common area. Unfortunately, said Moore, it requires “a lot more” construction work. Over the past two years, volunteers have managed to get part of the electrical work done and constructed a bathroom, but they have now hit a standstill.
“It turns out it costs quite a bit of money to do it yourself,” said Moore.
Funding spaces like the Makerspace requires upfront capital. Although the society has received grants to provide programs, funding for capital expenses is harder to access.
“It’s frustrating, because to finish the space right now is in the neighbourhood of $50,000,” said Moore. “We can’t feasibly pay for it out of our own pockets. While we can get funding for programs, there’s no funding for capital expenses. It’s a catch-22.”
When the Makerspace opens, Moore hopes to fund it with memberships. Members will pay a monthly or annual fee to access the space, services and classes provided at the Makerspace, as well as access to mentorship and support.
But right now, says Moore, he can’t accept any memberships, because he can’t provide members with a service.
“If you have a space where you’re not taking money, how do you get income?”
Moore has no interest in running the Makerspace as a business. He sees it not as a private clubhouse, but a resource or community centre that provides access to tools, resources, support, mentorship, collaborators and community. The Makerspace can benefit almost anyone, said Moore—whether it’s entrepreneurs hoping to launch into production and manufacturing, crafters hoping to run a quilting bee or kids looking for somewhere to hang out after school.
“We’re not in the business of making money,” said Moore. “We’re also not in the business of fixing people’s electronics—we’re in the business of teaching people how to do it themselves.”
The Makerspace can provide 3D printing, programming, woodworking and plastic recycling. The facility is even set up for an e-waste up-cycling program that can repurpose old computers.
So far, the Makerspace has formed successful partnerships with Literacy Alberni and the local Salvation Army. But Moore is hoping to entice more private partnerships with companies and organizations in the Alberni Valley to help with the capital costs required to launch the Makerspace.