Public Meeting for NWTC Learning, Innovation Center Oct. 5

What would create more jobs and more small businesses in the Door Peninsula? A place to build prototypes? Classrooms that would support everything from CNA classes to business seminars? Commercial kitchen facilities? Opportunities for kids to explore STEM skills?

The public will wait one more day to provide ideas and feedback that can shape the new makerspace in Door County. The next public meeting about the NWTC Learning and Innovation Center will be held Wednesday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. In the Sister Bay Nicolet Bank site.

Local partners and NWTC are getting closer to creating a high-tech, all-ages makerspace to support job creation in the Door Peninsula. NWTC is finalizing the purchase of a site, the former Baylake Bank building on Wisconsin Highways 42 and 57. Organizers plan to meet with residents to learn more about what the facilities should offer and who would use them.

What the Learning and Innovation Center is

The proposed makerspace would be an NWTC-furnished facility to support inventors who want to build a new product, residents who want to sell goods or services, and kids interested in STEM exploration.  According to the web site, makerspaces typically “have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, soldering irons and even sewing machines.” But the heart of a makerspace is not technology. “It’s more of the maker mindset of creating something out of nothing and exploring your own interests that’s at the core of a makerspace.”

Current direction and ideas

Based on input so far from more than 250 Northern Door residents, employers and community leaders, NWTC and Nicolet Bank are finalizing NWTC’s purchase of the Baylake Bank building in Sister Bay on Wisconsin Highways 42 and 57. Possibilities currently under consideration include a culinary lab with commercial kitchen facilities; a fabrication lab with shared equipment and tools for prototype development; and a lab for information technology and related skill development. The College would also provide online courses in business, health sciences and more at the site via videoconference.

However, no final decisions have been made. The center is intended to meet needs identified by the communities themselves, and to focus on what is most important to the region’s residents.

There are no current plans for the Learning and Innovation Center to replace any similar facilities in the region. Community leaders want to create a new resource that would serve multiple industries.

Background on the Learning and Innovation Center

The Learning and Innovation Center idea arose from discussions among leaders in the Liberty Grove area who were looking for ways to spur economic development and retain young talent in the area. They approached NWTC to propose a partnership. Dean Stewart, NWTC’s Dean for Corporate Training and Economic Development, now facilitates the group as it works to provide more programming and equipment in Northern Door to support new product development and exploration.

Estimated timeline

Depending on community comments and other arrangements, work on the Northern Door learning and business hub could begin in fall 2016.

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