MAGNET move to Midtown could be a step toward job creation, industry connections

Modern manufacturing is hounded by persistent myths—namely that the industry is a poor career choice unless you enjoy toiling away on a dirty and dangerous factory floor. Leaders at the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET) are ready for a round of myth-busting upon a forthcoming move to a former Cleveland school building.
 

After purchasing the Margaret Ireland School building from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD), MAGNET will use its new headquarters as high-tech inspiration for a sector now providing stable careers in a clean and innovative environment.
 

MAGNET president and CEO Ethan Karp.“It’s not just a building or a headquarters,” says MAGNET president and CEO Ethan Karp. “Its vision is the future of manufacturing on the highest level: A smart manufacturing hub that can drive prosperity for the region.”
 

The industry consulting group is acquiring the Midtown-based school facility from CMSD as part of a sale-leaseback deal. MAGNET officials hope to close the transaction by January 2021, with relocation targeted for the following year.
 

Once complete, the $10 million redevelopment project will make MAGNET a key piece of a planned “innovation district” in Midtown. The Cleveland Foundation, JumpStart, and Midtown Cleveland are part of a long-term endeavor to redevelop the area around East 65th and East 66th Streets and Euclid Avenue.
 

Proponents, including MAGNET, envision a centralized collaboration space linking researchers, students, and companies.
 

In the short term, MAGNET’s new 53,000-square-foot facility will be a community connecter—bringing vital hands-on learning opportunities to career-ready CMSD students. Among other amenities, the impending workforce, innovation, and prototyping hub boasts a 6,900-square-foot classroom for students.
 

While programming remains in the planning stage, Karp expects young learners to tackle connected computing, enhanced automation, and other applications surrounding the so-called Industry 4.0 revolution.
 

Transformative technology can align students with lucrative work in robotics, for example, creating a pipeline of talent for the Swageloks and Lincoln Electrics of the world.
 

“There’s a gap in awareness of people not knowing what manufacturing is all about,” Karp says. “The key here is creating lots of connection points.”
 

A ‘beacon’ for the community
CMSD is currently partnering with MAGNET on the advocacy group’s Early College, Early Career (ECEC) program, which places career-focused high-schoolers into industries like advanced manufacturing.
 

Eric GordonCMSD CEO Eric Gordon says ECEC may serve as a springboard for future programming once MAGNET’s new facility opens to the public. When breaking myths about the manufacturing industry, CMSD educators will also be busy unraveling racist stereotypes regarding the job readiness of their Black and Hispanic students.
 

“It’s important to keep piercing myths that you don’t get for white middle-class students,” says Gordon. “Three-fourths of my seniors have jobs and have showed that they are dependable. What we need to do is train them on manufacturing skills. If our city’s economy is going to thrive, we must train people for those skills.”
 

Classroom activities will be bolstered by 20,000 square-feet of advanced manufacturing space, which Karp expects to be used for community tours. He envisions visiting small manufacturers being inspired to design a prototype that then can be built by MAGNET engineers—creating the kind of synergy the industry needs.
 

“We can be a beacon,” Karp says of the planned two-story, glass-framed manufacturing floor that is visible to pedestrians. “We’re proud of manufacturing, and the fact that manufacturing innovation is a major driver of our economy and our communities.”
 

Located at the southern edge of Cleveland’s Hough neighborhood, the facility and its urban surroundings represent the future of manufacturing, MAGNET officials say. Karp sees a high-tech ecosystem where community partners recruit manufacturers, who in turn hire residents into sustainable career opportunities.
 

MANGET is seeking Green building LEED certification, which, will further exhibit manufacturing’s standing as a neighborhood resource, notes Karp. The organization also plans to preserve an on-site playground as a community space that combines kid-friendly fun and tech demonstrations.
 

A bustling manufacturing hub can do much to dispel incorrect perceptions of what the industry looks like. Now is the time to let the world know about it, says Karp.

“Manufacturing is not dark, back-breaking work,” he says. “We are coming to together as a region, linked to this continuum of innovative assets in a small geographical space.”

Read more articles by Douglas J. Guth.

Douglas J. Guth is a Cleveland Heights-based freelance writer and journalist. In addition to Fresh Water, his work has been published by Midwest Energy News, Kaleidoscope Magazine and Think, the alumni publication of Case Western Reserve University. A die-hard Cleveland sports fan, he also writes for the cynically named (yet humorously written) blog Cleveland Sports Torture.   
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