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.
Can Hipsters and the Artisan Economy Save the Middle Class?
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