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(NECN: Jack Thurston, Burlington, Vt.) - Burlington, Vt. city officials and others celebrated the grand opening of Generator Thursday. Housed in a previously underutilized basement in Memorial Auditorium, Generator is a new "maker space." Part of a growing movement nationally, maker spaces are machine shops, art studios, and classrooms all in one. Creative types can sign up for memberships at Generator, starting at $50 a month, and work around other entrepreneurs.
"It's been missing until now," observed Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington.
Matt Flego was one of Generator's earliest members, and is using his designated workspace to help him become his own boss. "The space really affords me a place to set up shop," he said.
Flego told New England Cable News he wants to fabricate parts and offer design services to companies that have such specific needs that it takes an inventor to get the job done. "I just don't have the kinds of resources I need in order to jump-start the business," he noted.
While he's getting going, Flego said he needs somewhere to tinker: to use a 3-D printer and other tools affordably, as he develops his first few clients. "This is a crucial segue for me becoming a new business owner," Flego said, describing Generator.
Lawrence Miller, the secretary of the Vt. Agency of Commerce, praised the space. Miller said many big enterprises started incredibly small, first needing a support network or access to technology. "This could pay off long-term in a big way," Miller said.
The pre-startup phase of a new business is critical, Miller said, because good ideas build from interactions with other people. "This will provide a space and a tool for bringing experience together with innovation," Miller said of Generator.
Burlington has been trying to increase awareness of its tech sector, built upon the availability of some of the fastest internet speeds in the entire country. Last fall, the city declared itself "New England's Gigabit City," after the non-profit US Ignite selected Burlington as a partner community. For more on that project, read or watch this October 15, 2013 report.
Mayor Weinberger said he sees the technology sector as critical to the city's economic growth and community vitality. "I think there is a sense you can succeed at innovation and creativity here in Burlington," he said. "There is an enormous amount of innovation and entrepreneurial energy that is pouring into Burlington."
Weinberger applauded the city, Champlain College, the University of Vermont, and donors for shaping Generator.
Matt Flego said he is sure Generator will help him build what he needs and hopefully land face-to-face meetings with customers and investors. "It's great," the entrepreneur said. "And there's this whole sequence where the dream sort of becomes reality-- but it all starts here."
Click here for more information on Generator.