High Desert Makers, the Bend-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit operating High Desert Maker Mill–Central Oregon’s Prototyping, Fabrication, and Community Makerspace–will close its Columbia St. workshop and coworking facility on August 31st as the organization transitions its programs. Following the closure, Maker Mill activities and events will continue to be scheduled with community partners at facilities, public venues, and events across the region.
High Desert Makers is a Bend, Oregon-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit which serves as a community resource leading projects, activities, and events supporting the activities and interests of Makers, Maker Culture, and the Maker Movement throughout Central Oregon. The focus is primarily focused on “STEM” and “STEAM” subjects — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics. High Desert Maker Mill is an assumed business name of High Desert Makers and represents a core program of the organization.
“While the decision to close our first workshop and coworking was difficult, our board and advisors all feel the timing is best to do so now and direct all volunteer efforts and resources towards transitioning to the next facility and expanding programs.” says Scot Brees, president of High Desert Makers.
“In addition to our own instructional classes and workshops, we have been able to deliver substantial community activities including; a multi-day Repair Cafe event with Bend’s Environmental Center, fire safety programs with Bend Fire Department, and 3D scanning workshops with Digital Scan 3D.”
Multiple robotics and technology teams have been able to use the workshop including Summit High School Robotics, Trinity Lutheran’s Oregon Solar Car team, and COCC Robotics Club. Maker Mill also hosted large community events such as BendLAN gaming nights and Bend’s meet-the-author event for Kelley Roy-founder of the ‘Portland Made’ collective-a nationally-recognized program for economic development, and owner/founder of ADX-Portland’s makerspace.
The nonprofit will continue operation and following recent recruitment efforts will expand its board of directors and advisors in August. A primary goal for the board is facility selection and program refinement using the data and feedback received.
“This particular building was chosen to launch Maker Mill because it had a very short lifespan left and would allow us to catalyze our programs with no long-term expectations. The unique opportunity we had partnering with Cascade Divide Datacenters for that building has given us measurable data and feedback which will make our next facility selection and design much more closely aligned with longer-term community needs.” says Brees.
Maker Mill opened the Columbia St workshop to the public in 2016 after a protracted restoration of utilities for the former Suterra factory. The necessary electrical transformer for restoring building occupancy was backordered nation-wide resulting in recurring multi-week delays. Originally planned for a Spring 2015 restoration, the late-Fall delivery coincided with major state-wide storms which kept installation teams dedicated to emergency restoration projects.
“It turned into a literal ‘perfect storm’ of availability for equipment and installation teams, with our services being restored in mid-January. Even with what ultimately became a nine-month delay for opening, we still felt it was the right plan to continue restoration.”, says Brees.
“In late January, The all-volunteer makerspace buildout team bundled up and got to work right after power was available, and our first members’ projects came out in mid-February.”
Coworking facilities have long been a planned part of the building’s offering and a key differentiator of Maker Mill’s partnership. Originally planned as Cascade Divide’s offering for the building, High Desert Makers opened Coworking @ The Mill in May, 2016 and saw strong demand, becoming nearly full within the first 60 days. Plans are under development for continuity of coworking services for these members.
While the Maker Mill workshop is closed, activities and events will be scheduled with various community partners and announced via the website, mailing lists, and social media. Thanks to a generous offer from community partner DIYcave, current members of High Desert Maker Mill will have access to workshop equipment to continue projects. Maker Mill memberships will transfer to new facilities as they come online.