The Manufacturing Foundry is Open for Business

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The Manufacturing Foundry, a new outpost of the longstanding San Francisco makers coalition, SFMade, and its sister nonprofit, PlaceMade, opened in early 2017 in the Design District. Together, these nonprofits, both of which are headed by Kate Sofis, advise San Francisco manufacturing companies, helping them find affordable spaces, negotiate leases, and, in collaboration with various workforce-related partners, attract employees. 

SFMade’s and PlaceMade’s mission is to help businesses “start, stay and grow in San Francisco.” SFMade operates as a one-stop shop for local makers’ needs; PlaceMade is the City’s “first and only nonprofit affordable industrial real estate developer,” according to its website.

Located at 150 Hooper Street, the 56,000 square-foot facility attracts manufacturers with a premise and a promise: bring in your manufacturing operations and we’ll bring down your commercial rent. Tenants began occupying the Foundry in September.

Last year the average rent for manufacturers in San Francisco was $3.21 per square foot, according to CBRE. The Manufacturing Foundry offers leases at $2 a square foot for a select few local makers.

At least 60 percent of each tenant’s employees must be from a low-income background. “To get this building we got a special tax credit from the federal government called the New Markets Tax Credit,” said Gina Falsetto, SFMade’s Manager of Real Estate. “Basically, they give you free money if you provide something to the community.”

Each employee submits their 1040 tax form and fills out an affidavit to enable their company to achieve its low-income requirement. This obligation has deterred some potential tenants, though there’s been strong interest in the Foundry from the onset, as rising rents are causing consternation for local businesses in much the same way as for local residents.

The Foundry’s ground floor is occupied by Swope Design Solutions, a manufacturer of medical devices and small electronics, and Advanced Prototype Engineering, which creates all manner of machinery at clients’ requests. Seven Stills Brewery and Distillery will craft their libations in one part of the facility, and will soon open a distillery and tasting room in ground floor space.

The second floor houses a shared kitchen and conference room, as well as SFMade’s offices.  The level has four empty spaces, with two in the process of lease negotiations.

The third floor is occupied by several tenants, including Yorkland Productions, a pattern-maker who specializes in samples and serves as a liaison with factories that produce the actual apparel. Next door is Dawson Custom Workroom, where David Dawson designs interior soft goods, such as pillows and curtains. This involves a lot of sewing and working with interior designers, but he doesn’t sell items himself. Dawson struggled with rising rents in his former Dogpatch location, and is one of multiple tenants who struck a deal early with the Foundry and quickly moved operations onsite.

Foundry space starts out largely empty, with just electricity and lights built-in. Most tenants, like Dawson, bring in their equipment.

Also on the third floor is Nomiku, which manufactures sous vide machines, and is known for cutting a $250,000 deal on an episode of “Shark Tank.” Roam Robotics makes exoskeletons that help people ski while minimizing injury risk.

The fourth floor will be occupied entirely by HumanMade. Founded by a former manager of San Francisco TechShop, a nationwide franchise of manufacturing coworking spaces, HumanMade is a nonprofit that focuses on education and training. “He wants to democratize the maker space,” said Falsetto. SFMade will work with HumanMade to find positions for those who graduate from its programs.

Last month, City College of San Francisco announced that it’d partnered with SFMade to provide free classes to small business employees, including Cut Loose, a SFMade member with a clothing production facility in Bayview.