White House celebrates maker movement and Somerville

On June 27, 2014, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

mayor_webBy Joseph A. Curtatone

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville Times belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville Times, its staff or publishers)

Last week, I attended the first-ever White House Maker Faire, where President Barack Obama announced a number of efforts to support the next industrial revolution that is happening right now in Somerville, across the region and the nation. As the President said, what better place than the United States for the maker movement to flourish? “This is a place where we know how to invent, and we know how to dream, and we know how to take risks,” he said, “and this is a place where people who work hard have always been able to make it. We want to make sure that continues.” President Obama’s words encapsulate the spirit of The Innovation City that is Somerville and the work we are doing to ensure that the maker movement can continue to flourish in our city.

Already a hot-bed of activity for makers, Somerville is well-poised to become a leading incubator for the maker movement. We sit at the center of the Tufts-Harvard-MIT triangle, where innovative ideas born from students and those in academe meet with the physical needs of industry found in our industrial spaces and workforce. But it’s about more than our proximity to higher education and our infrastructure assets. It’s about our community’s values—embracing innovation, the unusual, the funky and odd. From those core values, we take action by supporting strong science and technology education, and by setting forth a shared vision of how we want to build our physical infrastructure through sustainable, dense transit-oriented development where dreams can meet, ideas take root and grow.

We are making sure that our community remains fertile ground for those sprouting ideas by planning and investing today with an eye on tomorrow, something that we started 10 years ago by targeting economic sectors forecasted to grow during this decade, such as green energy and the precision manufacturing we see in the maker movement. Bringing those cutting-edge ideas and jobs to our city, while investing in our children’s education, gives our city, our residents and our kids the best chance to compete in the 21st century economy and raises the quality of life for all.

We’ve laid out our community’s vision for this future in SomerVision, which sets the table for how we will build our physical infrastructure to support the maker movement and innovative companies. SomerVision includes a commitment to artist and maker spacers, and our upcoming zoning overhaul will include creation of new fabrication and arts districts that preserve artist and maker spaces and live-work buildings. We also invest in too often overlooked infrastructure needs and enact business and economic development policies that encourage this creative movement. Creating an environment where new economy businesses like those born from the maker movement can take root and flourish requires a holistic approach, addressing all the systems that create that environment. That’s also why we have been investing in hands-on science and technology learning in Somerville Schools, and partner with local organizations like sprout & co. that are dedicated to the same values.

The maker movement has taken notice. You only need to visit Artisan’s Asylum and Fringe Union to see this creativity and innovation at work. Successful local companies like Cuppow are born out of those maker spaces, and e-commerce disruptor The Grommet moved to Davis Square specifically because of Somerville’s maker culture. And as maker companies and similar innovation start-ups look to grow, like Greentown Labs, they’re looking for the bigger maker spaces that Somerville can offer at lower costs than the Seaport in Boston or Kendall Square. This is not the start of a movement. It’s a sign that an urban manufacturing renaissance already underway is picking up speed—with Somerville at the vanguard.

And the maker movement complements the other innovation sectors in Somerville, like the clean tech movement at Greentown Labs and life sciences industry. We are helping build those connections by creating walkable, bikeable and transit-oriented neighborhoods with a mix of uses. That’s how we can create the ‘bump factor’ that happens in vibrant neighborhoods filled with creativity and innovation, where great minds meet and spark great ideas. We can see that today in Somerville when markers, artisans and clean tech innovators are bumping into one another, sharing ideas and working together.

As the President said at the Maker Faire, advances in technology have led to the democratization of manufacturing and we are “at the dawn of something big.” The maker movement is directly leading to new jobs and the rebirth of American manufacturing. By supporting this movement with our values, our planning and our collective vision for the future, we can grow the next great American economy right here in Somerville.


35 Responses to “White House celebrates maker movement and Somerville”

  1. Uncle Rocco says:

    We already got maker spaces in East Somerville. They make pasta and signs and transmissions and papusas and window frames and cabinets and prom dresses. So, do those people count?

  2. great point says:

    excellent point, Uncle Rocco–these businesses are not included in this grand vision. They are old-school, regular, very hard-working people, not funky artists with hip cupcakes or art. The Pasta factory there is fantastic, the lumber ‘makers’ are great, as well as the window people. They’re just not cool, not cool at all.

  3. Ha! says:

    I hear Central Steel would like a spot in one of the “maker” buildings…

  4. Pasta? says:

    Where is the pasta factory and what is it called? (I looked on the Somerville Chamber of Commerce website, but didn’t know enough about it to find it there)

  5. great point says:

    Deano’s Pasta, maybe Garfield St? anyway, almost in the parking lot of Stop & Shop. 8:30 – 4:30 M-F, pull into Deano’s Parking lot, see middle door. You look at a list of everything, tell the window clerk what you want, they bring it to you. Go online so you can take a good look at what they have. They supply 400 restaurants in Boston area. Their fresh fusilli is out of this world.

  6. Matt C says:

    We also have Capone’s in union sq.

    I didn’t read anything about discounting of any existing business rather a recommitment to encouraging local business including manufacturing and micro manufacturing.

  7. Read again says:

    read the article, MattC. The Mayor says our community’s core values are ’embracing innovation, the unusual, the funky, the odd’. Get it? this leaves no room for old-school businesses that have been around for years grinding out pasta or whatever. That’s exactly what the article says. It’s amazing, right there in writing–if you’re not putting bacon on donuts, or making $5 cupcakes, get out of the way. We got no time for you. You’re just the folks who built the whole city

  8. PixiePocahontas says:

    Thank you, read again

    That’s exactly right. But, MattC believes he has all the answers, yet he hasn’t bothered to keep up with the pulse of this city, or get to know the real Somerville under all that high polished veneer left in the attic for too many years, stinking up the place.

  9. Pamela Coleman Smith says:

    Oh brother. This woman gets whackier by the minute. Talk about stinking up the place. Take a hint, hon.

  10. Matt C says:

    I read the article, and i get that the current administration can’t do anything right by you. Because he didn’t explicitly state that that existing businesses are valued they are clearly not… great leap guys.

    Unusual, funky, the odd… its another way of saying coming up with something no one has though of… Innovation. Innovation is about discovery of new ways of doing things as well as creating new things. For me, this is more than a the next brewery, local coffee roaster, baker or pasta maker. Its the next Echo Nest.

    Pixi, we all know how you grew up here, struggled and have either been personally harmed or know someone who has been harmed in every given scenario. This said, I do believe you have your finger on the pulse of a portion of the population of the city – but not all of the city. There is a lot more to the world and the city than your tragically martyred experience.

    By highlighting the this aspect of the cities culture we create the opportunity to bring in businesses in which value that culture. Creating opportunities for all sorts of people to work in the city. So you can nit-pick on how this article is not talking about the glory days of somerville and the industry that wanted to be here or we can look at the next generation of businesses that will come, invest and become part of the city.

  11. Uncle Rocco says:

    Matt C-

    Greenpoint Laboratory over by Union Square has around 100 start-up tech and ‘creative-economy’ companies. Innovative, cutting-edge millennials who value ‘that culture’ you speak of. And you know how many people work at Greenpoint? About 120. 100 companies = 120 people. And the Mayor drools over them.

    Somerville Lumber, where the Stop n’ Shop is now, employed about 100 people. 1 company = 100 people. So why do we hear so much about how important someone developing an app to read the mood of cats, or handmaking cellphone covers is to the economy and future of the city, when they hire a fraction of the people that the companies that you mock as being from some ‘glory days’ do?

    So it ‘that culture’ that you get, but that older people apparently aren’t visionary enough to get, about making business? Because people have been making business around here for generations.

  12. Matt C says:

    Rocco, it wasn’t intended to mock as much as to say that manufacturing of the 40’s and 50’s is almost gone and is extreamly unlikely to make a resurgence in Somerville outside of the “craft” and “local” movements where we see big growth.

    We can either embrace what we have and help it to grow to be the next 100 person company or we can ignore it – be it a lumber yard or a software firm.

  13. A. Moore says:

    For the past few years the city has been very antibusiness. I watched many homegrown businesses forced out of the city many of whom contributed to the city. And there is pressure on some now to toss in the towel. Some started by people born here and started their business here. Now all of a sudden we want business while at the same time wanting to get rid of business. This is another of the dumbest statements by this ceo of Somerville.

  14. Abu Gharib says:

    Tell us the truth about Benghazi!

  15. Read again says:

    Matt, I think you’ve missed the point. the point is we’re talking about extending supports and all kinds of open arms to ‘innovative, odd, funky, unusual’, and not doing the same for existing businesses. Some employ people and provide a good product, why are they not embraced in these efforts? It just seems arrogant to only want to support funky new stuff, and ignore things you don’t care for. Why is it we can’t celebrate and support both? and I remind you, the Mayor says here that our core values support funky, odd, etc. No mention of working side by side with existing. I really don’t want to belabor this conversation because I think you are determined not to get it.

  16. PixiePocahontas says:

    The truth of the matter is–

    They don’t want local businesses because the majority do not supply the preferences of the gentrified crowd.

    If you don’t supply tofu, soy, gluten free, lactose free, peanut free, fat free, sugar free, msg free, styrofoam free, W6-toxic-plastic-bag-free, you are going out of business. The “beautiful people”, as Howie Carr calls them–are too obsessed with their body mass free bone racks to ever consider a real restaurant with real food.

    More importantly, you can’t expect them to open up a pizzeria using a federal grant for start ups! Come guys get with the program.

    Don’t bother explaining it to MattC, who feels we should all pack our bags and leave the house keys at city hall. They’ve got a long wait. Us locals are resilient as hell. That’s the difference– we don’t quit, we dig in and persevere.

    I’d love to see how suburbia white picket fence would deal with 50,000 locals invading their towns and buying up property. They would have so many town meetings like the MittR of Belmont, they would be in sleeping bags.

  17. PixiePocahontas says:

    And if that doesn’t work, they’ll be calling Obama to send in the mercenaries.

  18. PixiePocahontas says:

    “The motivations of man–because he sacrifices his health in order to make money, he then sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present, the result being that he does not live in the present or future. He lives as if he is never going to die and then dies never having really lived”. Dalai Lama

    For those of us who are fortunate to have not followed that same path, we have gained more wealth in keeping our lives simple, not wanting more than we have, not sacrificing the real meaning of life. Words of wisdom– you can’t buy respect, once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.

  19. JPM says:

    Yeah Pixie – that’s why Red Bones has been such a failure…nobody wants to eat the “Real Murcan” food like barbecue…..which the liberal elite has foisted upon because Howie Carr says so. Get a clue will you.

  20. Johnnie Jazz says:

    Matt C like Joe “tickets” Curtatone is a big believer in the collective — the progressive vision of what is a good business for Somerville and what is good for all of us. And Goddamnit get used to it because if you don’t like it then tough luck for you!

    In Matt’s case it’s from naiveté and ignorance of the real world, so can be ignored/excused. In the mayor’s case it is for political reasons, so there is no excuse for him to be backstabbing the people who pay the city’s bills.

  21. Matt C says:


    You can say I am naive and ignorant of the “real world” and I can say you suffer from delusions of past grandeur, sophistry, and a refusal to live in the present (aka the “real world”) but that won’t accomplish much so rather than get into name calling we can just vote.

    For the past dozen years people of this city have been voting in each election. Each year Somerville has become more attractive as more people want to live here for what you can only suspect is they like what the city is and its general direction.

    Now if you don’t like it you can vote both at the ballot box or follow the path of those that have come to the city – voting with their feet… .though I suspect you might be happier voting in the opposite direction. No matter which path you choose the city should continue to highlight each and every aspect of the city that will bring business here be it a fondness for the unusual, funky and odd; access to public transportation; or a highly skilled and educated workforce.

  22. PixiePocahontas says:


    He has a pony in the race, one of those hack jobs with the city.

  23. PixiePocahontas says:


    Redbones was established in 1996 and they are in Davis Square, serve good food. Not many in the region have a variety of on tap beers, and southern barbecue atmosphere.

    The majority of their patrons sit at the bar, both floors. I’m not discounting some of the restaurants who have been consistent with quality food and service. But opening a new business in the last 10 years must be challenging for those who didn’t have the benefits of low taxes and more patrons going out to lunch and dinner.

    If they don’t have an atmosphere that attracts the new crowd, they can’t make it.

  24. PixiePocahontas says:

    The majority of voters are transients who do not remain in the city. The don’t work here, own a home, rent long term or contribute in any way that sustains the entire community. It’s student tourism, made up of young freshmen until undergrad or graduate school, then the are off to the next great adventure. Many of the young professionals buy and flip their condos for fast cash, then it’s back to the same old white picket fence suburbia.

    Why work for a down payment when you can use Somerville real estate as your own private casino. Hey if a hedgefund scumbag can make $8 billion and be fined for $1billion, anything is possible.

  25. Johnnie Jazz says:

    Matt, if you believe the city is an attractive destination to the average person then I bet you believe in unicorns. The city is attractive to a transient population of yuppies (and illegals) who come and go, but never become part of the community. The mayor can waste as much of our tax $$$ as he wants on these PR events (races!, parties! fireworks! all brought to you by “tickets” Curtatone!), but I notice you never see the same faces over a 2 or 3 year period. Why? Because the people move on pretty fast.

    Hit it and quit it – that should be the new city motto.

  26. Matt C says:

    Pixi, quit with the conspiracy theories, I’ve never been an elected official or worked for one… I have owned and lived in my home for almost 10 years and it wasn’t handed to me by someone else.. We aren’t all so lucky to inherit property.. Some of us have to scrape and save to have a down payment and then put every penny we have and weekend into making a house into a home we are proud of.

    I moved here because it was a place that was affordable relative to Boston and Cambridge, close to jobs, arts and entertainment. Over three last years all these things myself and many others look for are no longer a long commute or expensive cab ride away they are right here in our back yard.

    The main reason people leave the city in my experience are retirees cashing in on their homes and moving to warmer climes / states that don’t tax retirement income and families who know they can get far better education for their kids in other towns. While our have been improving they have a ways to go to match up with places that are equally as pricey to buy a home. The biggest impediment to more long term families in the city is the quality of education which had not kept pace with all the other changes we see.

  27. Johnie Jazz says:

    psssttt, Matt, our education system will never keep pace until and unless the city cracks down on illegals. Tough to get an education when you barely speak the language, no one at home speaks it and you’ll be the first in your family to ever get beyond 7th grade. Clean out the illegals and the rest takes of itself. And enough with “affordable housing” – we have enough projects here. Shut ’em down and let us develop some high-end condos in their place and then you’ll see our SAT/MCAS scores zoom!

    WIn/Win. But the city tries to pander to the liberal nitwits, so we end up with a city of the haves and have-nots. I’ve been on the haves side and the have-nots and trust me it’s a lot more fun on the haves side.

  28. PixiePocahontas says:


    You are clueless and ignorant to the struggles of the working class so I won’t waste my time trying to make you comprehend what thousands of locals know too well. But for the sake of clarification–since you obviously enjoy distorting the truth:

    Those who inherited, many sold to move away when they opened the flood gates to the yuppie crowd. Locals respected one another regardless of whether their homes got painted or not, did not intrude on others with endless obsessive demands on neighbors and town officials in order to save them money (plow my driveway because your city snow plow dumped snow into my driveway). The same person was promised free gravel by a developer, another neighbor claims their taxes are less when they should be more, etc. There are many transactions going on behind the backs of local residents and none of it good, but all to benefit the yuppie crowd. That is the main issue.

    I lost my dad at the age of 12, while mom worked for $7hr./25 years at the ever so prestigious college who pays zero taxes and owns over 75 homes under the guise of “non-profit”, while their neighboring higher ed institutions give millions to their towns- because town governments wouldn’t allow it any other way.

    I have worked since I was 16, later married, raised my children, cared for an ill parent, went back to college while holding a full time job. I’ve had 7 family members pay taxes to this city and make many contributions through work and charity since 1930. The home became distressed and as a single mother I didn’t qualify for a loan but gradually I rebuilt this place over ten years while paying all the bills on my own. I bet I am paying twice the amount as you are and I will do whatever it takes to keep it because it’s my family legacy I will never give up and one which I cherish.

    That’s the problem with those who don’t understand the true meaning of home. They use real estate like it was a poker game, never considering what inflated home prices do to erode an entire existing community while displacing families and elderly, forcing many into unemployment, bad credit and poverty.

    You do have a connection to the city through work so don’t try to deceive the readers. Your main reason for being on this site is for some lame attempt at damage control, so try to be the big man and own it.

  29. Don’t blame the immigrants for our poor school performance.

    hey have been problematic for decades, mostly due to the drugs and some teachers/administrators who should never have been allowed to work with students.

    More of our tax money should be going to pay good teachers better salaries and that goes for administrators as well. I went through the Somerville school system. It was okay until high school, then I signed up for work-study and got out to work at noon every day as a junior.

    They also need better counselors and an outside drug task force to prevent drugs from getting into schools. It certainly doesn’t help when people who are suppose to be civil servants are caught selling oxy to students.

    There are many immigrants who practice religion and encourage their children to do well in school. For years, we have neglected our own kids in a school system which should be better. Take a look at the school systems in suburbia.

    It’s because the jobs for hacks take priority. Like we need $300k for communication…..

    “…….operates a municipality rife with old-school shenanigans; turn over a rock and discover an elite and privileged cadre of attorneys and real estate slugs who get virtually any permissions they wish for. While the local media has mostly focused on the artists, indie businesses, and post-hipster residents carrying Somerville into this century, they’ve largely ignored the campaign financing and favor deals beneath it all…..For starters, in 2014 his city will spend more than $300,000 on media relations and communications despite skyrocketing property taxes….


  30. Matt C says:

    Let the martyrdom begin…Of course you paid twice as much… Get off your cross, take your meds and realize you aren’t special, the world isn’t against you and everyone that wasn’t born here isn’t evil and looking to take advantage of the next person walking down the street. Many people move here to start a life, buy or rent a place and transform it into a home.

  31. Johnie Jazz says:

    Pixie, good pickup on that village voice article on Joe Curtatone being a corrupt phony – something we’ve known for a while. Sadly, the investigation has to come form the federal level and will only happen when we don’t have democrats controlling all layers of government. In this state/city our representatives and senators at the state and federal level, our mayor, governor and president are leftwing progressives. And we wonder why there is so much corruption and no one gets punished. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    Pxie’s article fine on Curtatone:

    Matt, no one has a complaint because people weren’t born here – the complaint is that a lot of the people not born here are bringing their ideas of what Somerville should be and jamming it down our throats. Then not sticking around long enough to feel the consequences of their stupidity (higher taxes, illegals coddled and the middle class pushed out).

    Somerville – the hit it and quit it city.

  32. PixiePocahontas says:

    Sounds like you suffer from local jealously, MattC.

    How much are we taxpayers are paying for your third party hack job and meaningless posts lacking any substantive value worth reading.

    Does your master pay you for frequency or by word?

    Remember your rising home values–by your warped standards. they are the only reason for living.

    When they plummet, after WS flips the switch once again, the yuppies you hold so dear to your wallet will fill the streets with pitch forks and crying towels looking to lynch the local politicians for wasting millions of tax dollars they demanded on services we didn’t need.

    The only people we should care about are those we respect. So far that list is shrinking rapidly.

    You should check the job listing at city hall.

    Their toilets are overflowing.

  33. matt c says:

    JJ,I agree that 99% of people don’t care where you are from and only care about how you treat them and others around you. The challenges with how people vote are gonna stick around and and have less to do with where you are from and more with life experience and understanding of consequences. This said,the ideas people are bringing in hold just as much sway as those you hold close and only those that hold traction will continue to thrive… the rest will fade away.

  34. PixiePocahontas says:


    Do you realize who is running this town? Luxury condos.
    This is the wild wild west, where no one is secure of their future in this town.

  35. PixiePocahontas says:

    It’s the complicated problems in our city which have residents trapped.
    For instance, we have a problem element in our area where the absentee landlord has done nothing to improve the home or selection of inhabitants.
    Rumor has it, it’s being sold to a developer for more condos. Young children live next door. LE has been called numerous times after midnight due to ongoing disturbances. Now this distressed home with many code violations gets sold to the highest bidder, while many of use who slaved away to improve our homes are continually penalized with ongoing tax hikes, petty fines about barrels and snow. When in the same area, a connected person with city organizations coupled with a highly distasteful personality, obsessed with what other home owners are doing or not doing to improve their homes, unless they receive approval by the self appointed royal family, get to enjoy lower taxes confirmed by a neighbor with no pull. Neighbor found proof in public documents– to note they have done no work to their home in years, yet well maintained, has much less than the other, but because they don’t have a pushy attitude, the other wins every time. Certain aldermen have admitted “some of the newcomers drive us crazy with all their demands, our phones ring constantly”. Their are other long time neighbors facing same discrimination.

    And people want to know why some residents are fed up.

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