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Urban Manufacturing Alliance National Gathering

Building New Narratives for Manufacturing

Menomonee Valley Partners is excited to partner with the Urban Manufacturing Alliance to hold their 2019 National Gathering in Milwaukee. Held in a different city each year, the fifth Gathering will highlight how makers, manufacturers, and practitioners are rewriting the narrative around manufacturing.


Attendees from Milwaukee and around the country will explore and share how organizations are creating impactful community connections, and how we can best document these successes to update the narrative about the value of manufacturing.

As practitioners, we know that manufacturing holds the promise of economic mobility for communities. The sector can provide family-sustaining wages and, with the right training partnerships, help lift individuals into enriching career paths. But the stigmas surrounding manufacturing still abound, like that its jobs are dirty, boring, and don’t provide career ladders. On the other end of the spectrum are those who think manufacturing careers require a more traditional, costly degree.

Photo: Lohmann & Rauscher

Photo: Lohmann & Rauscher

At the same time, millions of manufacturing jobs will go unfilled over the next few years, and cities are struggling to prevent manufacturers from getting pushed out of urban cores by mounting market pressures. Over the past decade, mega manufacturers have left cities and towns across the United States, devastating local economies and neighborhoods in the process.

Now more than ever, we need new kinds of exposure to how manufacturing and communities are connecting and benefiting from each other. Beyond manufacturing’s economic role, our practitioners can attest to the way people and places are incorporating manufacturing into their lives and histories.

Photo: All Hands Boatworks

Photo: All Hands Boatworks

This Gathering will provide the space and interactions to spur greater documentation and storytelling of these relationships, but also our daily role as practitioners, and why it is that we dedicate ourselves to the work we do.

Building new narratives will help us build more bridges—not just with local communities, but with new partners who can help refine and scale our work and its benefits, like elected officials, funders, and stakeholders outside of manufacturing.

Who attends these Gatherings?

Attendees include individuals representing city, county, and state economic development agencies; city planning, workforce and sustainability departments; affordable housing developers; academic institutions from K-12 through university and technical schools; makerspaces; CDC's; mission-driven real estate developers; lenders, such as banks, CDFIs, and philanthropies; students and faculty; business improvement districts; neighborhood associations; designers and artists; faith-based institutions; elected officials; and manufacturing and making businesses themselves. We take a very broad definition of who is connected to manufacturing and invite anyone to come.

Wednesday, June 5

  • Welcome Reception, 5 - 6:30pm, The Twisted Fisherman

  • Menomonee River Valley and Harbor District Boat Tour, 6:15 - 7:45pm

Thursday, June 6

Gathering Day, 10am-6:30pm, Bradley Technology and Trade School

  • 9:00am – Registration Opens

  • 10:00am – Event Begins; Welcome Remarks

  • 10:30am – Welcome Address: "The Role of Research in Building New Narratives" by Professors Laura Wolf Powers (Hunter College) and Greg Schrock (Portland State University)

  • 11:00am – Local and National Rapid Share Presentations: Through lightning-style presentations, we will hear from local and national organizations who have created programs that connect manufacturing to diverse types of communities, and how they are telling their story of why these connections provide mutual benefit to each other. Specific presenters to be announced soon.

  • 12:00pm – Networking Break + Lunch

  • 1:00pm – Interactive Storytelling Workshop: Stories are what make us human. They engage our deepest emotions, connect us more deeply to each other, and open doors to new possibilities. In Milwaukee, we’ll use the power of stories to build narratives that shape who we are and where we’re headed as manufacturing community leaders. During our afternoon breakout sessions, we'll use design thinking to help each other craft and workshop new stories about our industry, our individual services, and our manufacturing businesses, using what we’ve created to construct new narrative maps that can lead us forward as we leave the Gathering and go back to doing our work at home, in our own city. Session will be led by Milwaukeeans, Coe Douglas and Kim Beckmann.

  • 4:00pm – Closing Remarks

  • 4:30 - 6:30 pm – Happy Hour with Makers Market **Sponsored by Square**

Friday, June 7

  • 10am - 1pm: City-Wide Manufacturing Bus Tour with Adam Carr

  • 10am - noon: Riverworks Walking Tour with Riverworks Development Corporation

About the Urban Manufacturing Alliance

The Urban Manufacturing Alliance is a coalition of organizations and individuals working together to grow more equitable and prosperous economies in cities by building robust, environmentally sustainable, and inclusive urban manufacturing sectors. In everything we do, we are vigilant to ensure that the new urban manufacturing economy reflects the diversity of our cities and offers environmentally sustainable and inclusive equitable employment, ownership, and innovation opportunities to residents of all urban communities.

About Menomonee Valley Partners

MVP’s mission is to revitalize and sustain the Menomonee River Valley as a thriving urban district that advances economical, ecological, and social equity for the benefit of the greater Milwaukee community. MVP envisions a thriving Valley with a well-balanced mix of industrial, recreational, and entertainment uses that strengthen Milwaukee.