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Fabrication lab can serve needs of both entrepreneurs and hobbyists

Whether used for work or pleasure, the high-tech facility benefits Thompson, Chamber of Commerce told.
don glenn thompson chamber of commerce sept 21 2022 web
North Forge North fabrication lab operations co-ordinator Don “Shorty” Glenn speaks to the Thompson Chamber of Commerce at the Meridian Hotel Sept. 21.

The overseer of Thompson’s recently opened fabrication lab spoke to the Chamber of Commerce Sept. 21, laying out his thoughts on what the facility brings to the city.

Don “Shorty” Glenn, operations co-ordinator for North Forge North’s fabrication lab on Hayes Road, a 2,500-square-foot makerspace operated through a partnership with University College of the North, says not everyone who signs up for a membership will use its tools to launch a business and that’s OK.

“If you have somebody that’s interested in becoming an entrepreneur, going down that path, we have all the supports in place to do that and help them on that journey,” he said. “If the person is just looking for possibilities and opportunities to learn new skills and brainstorm, it’s a knowledge-sharing environment as well.”

Outfitted with equipment such as 3D printers, t-shirt making equipment, a CNC router and welding tools, the facility is offering free memberships until March 2023 and, Glenn says, after that, they will tentatively be priced at $99 per month, though that price may come down if business partnerships are established to absorb some of the cost.

Members must be 18 or older to use the facility unsupervised, but Glenn says he is looking at ways to involve youth aged 12 to 17 under direction from adult leaders.

North Forge North is modelled on a similar facility in Winnipeg, but the focus is a little different in Thompson.

“The Winnipeg model is very entrepreneurial-driven just because they have such a strong pool of entrepreneurs,” he said. “Here I think it’s about presenting people with opportunities and possibilities.”

Most people wouldn’t have access to the technology offered at the fab lab except through a workplace, Glenn says, which means members can improve their employability.

“It’s a chance for us to enrich our workforce here, to strengthen our existing workforce,” he said. 

Just as important, it’s a place for people to tinker in their free time, and a leisure activity for the technologically inclined and those who like to work with their hands, something Glenn, who established a business turning scrap wood and other junk into custom-made furniture, understands well.

“I think it can benefit the community in such a good way in an area that we are really kind of lacking,” he said. “If we can provide more opportunities for people to enrich their personal lives, they’re less likely to move away.”

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