Eye On Mining: Iron Range Makerspace hopes to diversify economy
Andrew Hanegmon has always had a knack for creating things.
"The best nights that I can remember are out in the garage working on things."
So it was a match made in heaven when he discovered the concept of a Makerspace.
"People from all different backgrounds working together, sharing, and building things creatively. Doing something really productive and I thought that was the coolest thing I've ever seen."
In an area like the Iron Range, diversifying the mining-based economy is easier said than done.
"We think that we really have the potential of making a huge impact if the mines ever go down or if we finally run out of resources here, we would have other businesses to sustain us after that and we think we can make a very tangible dent in that."
The Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board agrees. The agency granted Iron Range Makerspace $100,000 which will be distributed through the Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency for purchasing equipment for the space.
"The Iron Mining industry doesn't spin out entrepreneurs like some other industries do," said IRRRB Commissioner Mark Phillips. "But the mining industry is an area of high skills. So if these people have a place, an infrastructure, a place they can go to and invent things and fabricate things and have the technology and equipment available to do that, we think there could be new business start ups generated from this activity."
Hanegmon hopes the space will inspire people to get out of their shell, and shine a light on their creativity.
"The Iron Range is full of talent, and not all of it is utilized to the best of it's ability," said Hanegmon. "So these people that are laid off or maybe even people that aren't in the mines have a lot of talent that can be fostered here and facilitated into something so much bigger."
The doors to what once was the Hibbing VFW will be open to everyone, no matter their craft.
"So it's really not just an industrial facility. Artists can come here, we have some pottery equipment, things like that. We really want to get people to just thrive on their talents, to do something with it. They've got it, but might not have the resources."
Hanegmon said the best part of this experience so far has been the people.
"It's really just community members who want to be involved and want to do something real and tangible. It's been amazing."
The Iron Range Makerspace is expected to open its doors in the beginning of June.