Thomas Edison's Menlo Park Laboratory is bar none my favorite attraction at Greenfield Village in Dearborn. The facility literally served as an "invention factory" for Thomas Edison and his team of inventors. It was a place where ideas and hard work combined to create remarkable innovations like the light bulb and phonograph.
Garages and basements across America still serve as "invention factories". My grandpa was a mechanic who owned his own gas station in Detroit. He was seemingly always thinking of ways to build a better mouse trap. I still fondly recall the times when he sat me down and shared his ideas for a regenerative braking system or went over the design of the 6-wheel drive trucks that helped to build the Ala-Can highway during World War II. His garage was filled with the mechanical tools that he needed to fix almost any engine problem.
Now the tools of innovators and tinkerers are getting a bit more expensive. Cutting edge technologies such as 3D printers and CNC machines are the proverbial "copiers" of days gone by. While copiers in homes and offices are ubiquitous today, that wasn't always the case. They were typically too expensive for most companies or households to purchase and operate on their own. For some entrepreneurs, this affordability barrier offers opportunity.
Innovation requires more than equipment at times. It also requires expertise. While I was well versed on engineering methods requiring computers coming out the University of Michigan with a Bachelors and Masters in Aerospace Engineering, I did not inherit my grandpa's talents for converting conceptual designs to the real thing. It takes special skills to operate a metal lathe or weld dissimilar metals. Once again, the need for these skills presents itself as an opportunity to those with an entrepreneurial spirit.
I am happy to say that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the City of Northville! Soon, the Village Workshop will be operating as an incubator for inventors, local industries, and schools interested in turning their ideas into reality. They provide the cutting edge tools and expertise…you provide the ideas and hard work.
In the meantime, I will continue to work hard to get the government out of the way of entrepreneurs who risk time and money to convert their ideas into reality. We in government need to be equally innovative in our promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs and skilled trades. Leveraging today's "invention factories" such as the Village Workshop is one way to do so.