Letter From the CEO
SFMade was founded in 2010 by 12 San Francisco manufacturers and a small group of both private and public sector leaders, all driven by the belief that our cities are economically, socially, and culturally more vibrant for the diversity of the manufacturers who are part of them.
We also had the fundamental understanding that making things with your hands—core to being human—can create a pathway to careers that pay well enough to support a family in the expensive Bay Area. In an era when we are witnessing a more inequitable distribution of income and wealth than ever before, manufacturing is one of few sectors capable of moving the needle in a positive direction.
In the ten years since our launch, SFMade has grown from a modest non-profit working exclusively in San Francisco to a regional economic and workforce development powerhouse, with on-the-ground operations in San Francisco, San Jose, and the East Bay serving over 730 manufactures. Our Advising and Education programs provide one-on-one and peer support to manufacturers, while our Workforce and Youth Development programs provide opportunities for Bay Area residents from diverse backgrounds to access jobs and internships and gain career exposure in manufacturing.
We partner with more than 100 community organizations to provide support and training for a wide variety of skillsets. Most recently, in partnership with Humanmade, the Bay Area’s first fully-scaled non-profit manufacturing training facility, we are inspiring the next generation of youth and re-training displaced workers to enter careers in the industry.
Our Bay Area Urban Manufacturing initiative has grown from a demonstration project representing four Bay Area cities to a region-wide effort that includes 30 cities and municipalities working together to ensure a more interconnected, resilient, regional manufacturing ecosystem. And because we want manufacturers not just to start and grow here, but also to stay here, we worked with the City of San Francisco on innovative legislation that made it possible to build the Manufacturing Foundry at 150 Hooper, the Bay Area’s first permanently affordable, multi-tenant building for local manufacturers who are committed to hiring low-income residents. Combined, these efforts are having a flywheel effect, gaining momentum, inspiring innovation, creating new businesses opportunities, and providing careers in manufacturing for a diversity of residents far into the future.
When we started SFMade, the possibility of cultivating a thriving urban manufacturing sector anywhere in the U.S. seemed like a pipedream, given the global recession, double-digit unemployment in some Bay Area cities, and the acceleration of the manufacturing industry’s decades-long decline. And yet we persisted, believing that a renewed and reinvented local manufacturing sector was essential for a more equitable and sustainable future.
Now, we’re faced with another economic crisis, one brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, and our work is more critical than ever before. When the crisis struck, SFMade sprang into action across the region, counseling business owners through some of the toughest decisions they have ever faced; helping them pivot to making PPE and other essential products; and connecting them with resources for loans, grants, and other critical financial support. We also deepened our work with cities and partners across the region to ensure shelter-in-place orders were implemented logically and consistently and that manufacturers had the information they needed to reopen as safely as possible.
COVID-19 has been a lesson in how important manufacturing is to our daily survival and what happens when we have gaps and weaknesses in our supply chains. The challenges before us are clear, but the past ten years have taught us that we, together with our partners, have unlimited potential to help solve some of our most pressing, interconnected challenges. In the coming months and years, the industry’s ingenuity will play a pivotal role in determining how we will regain our footing following the pandemic and how we will rise together to build a healthier more resilient economy for future generations.
From jobs and equity to regional economic stability and climate change, we believe local manufacturing will continue to play a vital role in charting the future, and we are grateful to every one of you—our dedicated funders, partners, board members, and beloved manufacturers—for accompanying us on this journey.
Kate Sofis, CEO and Co-Founder