Kathy Willens/APA view of the Williamsburg Bridge and the Brooklyn skyline.
BROOKLYN, New York -- Could the key to saving America's middle class be found in a once-abandoned industrial site in Brooklyn?

When pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (PFE) closed its Brooklyn factory in 2008, 2,500 people lost their jobs. For years, the building remained vacant, another reminder of lost business and revenues. Then, over the past two years, several start-up businesses began to rent space in the location, creating a small business incubator for the city, thanks to Acumen Capital Partners and Ashish Dua.

The site that rumored has it witnessed Viagra's creation has now given birth to several new companies. Occupants now include makers of tea-based probiotics, animal leashes that support pet adoption, and even alcoholic slushie drinks.

The plant's tenants currently employ 1,000 people. However, with only 40 percent of the space occupied, and some businesses growing, the number of individuals working on the site may soon return to levels last seen when Pfizer was in residence.

It's a trend that's not limited to a single repurposed factory, nor even a single major city. Across the country, the "artisan economy" is growing. Could it be the key to saving the middle class? Some think so.

"There's a ton of jobs out there. You have to kind of craft it in your community," explains Kerry Mills to PBS. Mills' small business is Engaging Alzheimer's, which assists both suffers and caregivers of the illness to create a better environment for everyone involved. She and others in the field believe that those with an average college education can create their own livelihood as well.

The trend doesn't stop at smaller production items. People are turning their biology and business degrees into service industry positions in areas such as environmental pest control. The options for artisanal entrepreneurship seem to be limited only by the imagination.

It will take time to see if this trend will pick up more broadly, but small business has always been a key driver of job growth in this country. Maybe bringing those artisanal passions to work will be the element the middle class uses to realize their dreams once again.

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

How Financial Planners go Grocery Shopping

Learn to shop smart and save.

View Course »

Managing your Portfolio

Keeping your portfolio and financial life fit!

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

It seems like the writer of this article might have just finished reading Richard Florida's book --- "The Great Reset", which is all about this same pipe dream of the artistic part of the population saving the economy.

Mr. Florida managed to sell this scam to several big cities, and their mayors promoted investing heavily in this nutty scenario. Later, he publicly admitted that his book is nothing but a dream world with no actual basis in reality. Of course, by that time, he had already made a ton of money from the book sales.

Sunday at 3:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It doesn't have to be hipster artisan blah blah blah. Just enrepenuers with an idea and the courage to risk it all.

Friday at 12:57 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

manufacturing will make our economy prosperous. anything less will keep us spinning our wheels in the ditch.

Friday at 11:27 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mily469's comment

. From 1988 to 1994 the number of jobs lost was estimated to be 6.5 million, far higher than in any other postwar period, and fully 85 percent of them are thought to be permanently lost to machines and overseas transfers. Our amazing productivity is what keeps us competitive, consequently a shift in jobs from manufacturing to service is no more a “problem” to be solved than the shift in jobs from agriculture to manufacturing a century ago. The mechanization of agriculture has provided us a wealth of inexpensive, high quality food and allowed workers more productive pursuits. The same thing has happened in manufacturing. The U.S. will never again be competitive, in manufacturing commodity products !

Friday at 6:39 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

The economy will not heal till we eliminate the vast deap weight of salestrash and marketeering trash holding it down. The non producer class of the finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector drives the price of everything up till it is impossible to compete while they produce nothing. After the 2008 bailout tens of thousands of wall street salestrash should have been sent to prison for the scams they were running and continue to run. Till these morons see serious prison time and we shed the tons of dead weight that is composed by this and other varieties of commission grubbing salestrash there is no chance for our economy.

Friday at 10:07 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to hsenpfeffer's comment

The bank presidents who caused the housing meltdown in '07 and who were bailed out truly felt there were going to be heavy fines, regulations and conditionals to deal with. But obama and geithner let them off the hook......they(the bankers) never looked back.

Friday at 10:23 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to .kowalski440mag's comment

This is an incubator and is and has been used for years throughout the U.S.A. and the world. For those that are trying to 'poo-poo' the idea and its merits, one has to say that most businesses start in some person's garage or spare bedroom, and this includes Microsoft (after Gates 'borrowed money from mom, and ideas from IBM).. Memorex started from Ampex, and Silicon Valley was all started by people fired, laid off, or quiting their jobs and needing a way to earn a living..

Wake Up America, WAKE UP.... please...

Friday at 2:10 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

what is left to save?

Thursday at 11:38 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to supermolar's comment


Friday at 2:11 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Sorry, the middle class is long gone. You have the rich and the poor. These small business are usually funded by deep pockets. Banks are not giving out business loans to hipsters to knit scarves for service dog and jar their own pickles. Get real and wake up America. Our money is being shipped out of the country just like all of the jobs and we are FORCED to live like hipsters because of it.

Thursday at 11:24 PM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Voodoo's comment

Sorry, but you allowed it to happen, you wanted goods at discount prices. You got it.. Made in Japan, Made in Asia, Made in India, Made in SA, Made in China, Made in Taiwan, Made in Canada, Made in Mexico, Made in Texas...

Friday at 2:13 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mac2jr's comment

not from Texas?

Friday at 2:27 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down

small business is pretty much a myth

Friday at 2:26 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Third World anyone? I lived and worked in 13 countries where the kind of economy you are talking about was the ONLY economy. Trust me. This a regressive idea and only provincial and hopelessly naïve Americans can think this way. The people now flooding into the US are coming from artisanal economies. Ask them why they are invading.

Thursday at 10:24 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Engger's comment

Perhaps you have not tried to purchase Native America Goods these days, the prices may astound you.

Native America has grown and is 'fighting back' against the bias and discrimination of the people of the U.S.A., and is not just making baskets, blankets, and pottery these days. Some tribes are on the way to taking over the Wind and Solar energy markets and the entire electric structure of the U.S.A...

Wake up America, WAKE UP,.... please...

Friday at 2:17 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to mac2jr's comment

If by bias and discrimination you mean giving them BILLIONS every year....then yeah....sure....ok.

Friday at 12:48 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down

Want to save the middle class? Then fix what threatens it today; an uneducated electorate that thinks unions are bad and free trade agreements are good.

Thursday at 8:22 PM Report abuse +14 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jimdavis11a's comment


Friday at 12:23 AM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply

Read the comments below, it seems everyone watches faux news. Ignorance at its finest.

Thursday at 7:50 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to markallentunney's comment

I have always wondered how they can watch faux news when they can't see the sun

Thursday at 8:24 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

It seems there are too many people who don't have the courage, drive, know how and ideas to risk it all and make something here in America, but are much more content to beat a drum and make demands of those who do have the courage, drive, know how and ideas and are willing to take such risks.

Friday at 12:55 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply