As noted in the first installment of this series, the “hackerspace” concept is fueled by an effort to reclaim the word “hacker,” which is often misrepresented and misunderstood by the public. The representative spaces of the movement are redirecting the label toward innovation and creativity, fostering a new public image of collaboration and project-launching—what some might call “making and doing.”

This story is part of a series that explores startups’ recent shift toward DIY, community-built innovation, as well as the organizations bringing hackerspaces to life in North Carolina. 

Within downtown Greensboro’s collective of historic buildings and landmarks sits a space that houses some of the city’s most dedicated makers. 
It’s called The Forge, a name that ably encapsulates its twofold purpose—to “forge” both the creative community and the local economy in Greensboro.
Much like the spirit of the hacker movement, The Forge’s facility operates around a commitment to sustainability—reimagining, reusing and revamping existing resources to up their value.
The building was previously occupied by The Flying Anvil, once downtown Greensboro’s largest music club. Also inside the building was a record shop called Gate City Noise, which closed in 2006 when the rest of the building shut its doors.
Years later, local developer Andy Zimmerman, also co-founder of downtown coworking space HQ Greensboro, saw promise in the building as a possible new location for The Forge, the fast-growing hackerspace of which he served as board member since it began in 2014.
The building, which sits on West Lewis Street, doubled the square footage of The Forge’s previous space. And so Zimmerman bought it and renovated it for The Forge. Doors to the new location opened in the spring of 2016. 
Rouse has produced two custom dining room tables in the space. He says the variety and affordability of The Forge’s tool selection has been a definite influence on his work.
Even when some of the tools he needs aren’t available at The Forge, he’s forced to come up with creative solutions to complete tasks without them.
“That part can take up more time but I believe it will make me a better furniture maker in the future,” he says. 
Though he primarily works with other Forge woodworkers, he appreciates the open community The Forge has created. In January, he will meet with one of the metal workers to talk about co-producing a table with metal legs for a client. That’s a big appeal for Rouse—the “general camaraderie in the maker community.” 

Growing Greensboro’s maker base

The Forge’s involvement in growing Greensboro is representative of a fresh, innovative enthusiasm among city dwellers.
More than that, Rotondi argues that every town and city should have some version of a makerspace. He says, “The potential impact on not only the creative economy, but entrepreneurship and innovative thought, is apparent to anyone who engages with a makerspace.”
The only thing standing in the way of that engagement, he adds, is a challenge to communicate the why and how. 
But through a copious selection of events and workshops, affordable membership fees and growing number of makers, The Forge is widening public openness to collaboration and creative synergy.
This, combined with positive testimonials spread word-of-mouth by members, positions The Forge to tackle the challenge full-force.