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Group makes pitch to bring tool library, makerspace to Orillia

'We’re very excited to get this project off the ground (and believe this) facility would be a great benefit to the city, says project proponent

Orillia could soon be getting a second library.

A movement is afoot to bring a tool library and a makerspace to the Sunshine City.

“We’re very excited to get this project off the ground (and believe this) facility would be a great benefit to the city,” Braeden O’Neill said this week during a presentation to city councillors.

He was joined by the group’s president, Matt Thomson, and Ryan Dibisch, president and executive director of NewMakeit, a successful makers studio and hub program in Newmarket.

A tool library, O’Neill explained, is much like a book library. A person pays a membership - expected to be about $70 a year - and receives access to borrow tools.

He said it’s ideal for homeowners who may need an air-nailer or a belt sander.

“A tool library gives you access to tools you may not be able to buy or don’t need to own,” said O’Neill.

Already, the group behind the emerging non-profit group has amassed more than $10,000 worth of tools and equipment they hope will someday be available to library patrons.

In addition to the library, their goal is to have an adjoining makerspace.

O’Neill said a Kitchener facility sums up the concept well, describing it as a “physical location where like-minded people get together in a collaborative environment and pool their knowledge, experience and physical resources with a goal to bring into reality the projects about which they have been dreaming.”

O’Neill said “the sky is the limit” for potential projects.

He said there is a real need for such a space, which he likens to an incubator. He referenced a friend who recently decided to create a harvest table out of hickory studs from his historic home. The process meant stops in Barrie, Oro-Medonte and Coldwater.

“Wouldn’t it be great to be able to do it all in one place?” he asked.

He said a makerspace gives people access to “machinery, to space and tools without having to burden the cost and spatial demands of owning” it all.

He said tiered memberships will be offered; a person pays based on how much he/she uses the facility and equipment.

“It will also provide access to skills and experience and knowledge across a wide range of disciplines, organically,” he said.

He noted the goal would be to host classes and workshops in a number of different disciplines and said the space would be set up to accommodate traditional fabrication processes - such as wood and metal - in addition to digital fabrication such as CNC milling, laser cutting and 3D printing.

The concept has worked elsewhere, city councillors heard.

Dibisch provided an overview of NewMakeit, its evolution, its successful and growing programs and its journey.

Dibisch said the Newmarket group started in 2015 and opened its first location a year later.

“Our main focus is to provide a place for the community, providing support and education to hobbyists, artists and entrepreneurs,” said Dibisch, who added the enterprise has received support from the Town of Newmarket, the Region of York and the Province of Ontario.

“In the 3.5 years we’ve been operating, we’ve generated $3.1 m in economic development for the community and created over 100 jobs in the area,” said Dibisch.

He said when he was approached by O’Neill and Thomson, he was eager to help.

“Our goal has been, since our inception, to bring this to other communities in Canada that could benefit and help those communities to put something like this in place,” he told city councillors.

He said NewMakeit has become a business incubator of sorts. Since opening its doors, 74 businesses have “started and grown just because NewMakeit exists.” He said 94 per cent of those businesses have been successful and are still operating.

Having a makerspace removes “a lot of the barriers to entry for small businesses and enterprises to get started,” he said.

“We allow them to focus on building their business while providing support needed to take that first step,” Dibisch said.

Over the past year, NewMakeit has hosted 108 workshops and training sessions and provided 1,450 hours of training to 483 individuals, he noted, stressing this educational component is an important feature of such a facility.

City councillors lauded the idea.

“There are many, many things I like about this concept,” said Coun. David Campbell. He said he loved the idea of “people fixing something rather than throwing it out.”

Coun. Rob Kloostra agreed.

“It’s a great idea,” said Kloostra.

But the Ward 2 councillor wondered about challenges of finding upwards of 5,000-square feet of space - which the proponents are hoping to secure - and where that space might be located.

“It is challenging,” said Dibisch, noting it’s not really something that works in a retail environment.

However, such an enterprise is also not considered a manufacturer.

“Accessibility is a key,” said Dibisch, noting it’s important to have a facility on a bus route and where the majority of people can easily access it.

“We would like, from the city, to be recognized not as a factory but a mixed-use custom workshop,” said O’Neill, who is hopeful the enterprise could be allowed to locate in an area with a C4 zoning “to stay fairly accessible.”

Mayor Steve Clarke said he would connect the group with staff from the city’s economic development department who can share an inventory of potential locations and help them in their quest.

For more information and updates, visit the group’s Facebook page.

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Dave Dawson

About the Author: Dave Dawson

Dave Dawson is community editor of
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