SparkMacon Lights a Fire Among Creative Thinkers

Barbara Kieker

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

SparkMacon, a community and space for the grass-roots development of innovation and art in Macon, achieved $3,000 in prepaid memberships and contributions in the first week of its 30-day crowdfunding campaign, nearly one-third of its $10,000 goal.  The project will create a MakerSpace – a workspace equipped with a wood/metal working shop, electronic lab tools and supplies, a laser cutter, engraver, music recording lab and a professional grade 3D printer – that members or Makers can use to turn their ideas into reality.

"I tell people to think of it like a gym membership to exercise your creativity.  We offer student, adult and family memberships," said Robert Betzel, CEO of Infinity Network Solutions and one of the leaders of SparkMacon. 

"Most of the people contributing to SparkMacon have been Makers, but we've also had corporate giving and support from the Chamber of Commerce.  In fact, the Chamber put us over the $3,000 mark in the first week." 

SparkMacon has leased 3,100 square feet of indoor space and 300 square feet of outdoor space at 557 Cherry Street.  Equipment is being selected and purchased as of today, according to Betzel.  Betzel expects the space to be fully outfitted and functional by the first Friday in November.  Funds raised in the campaign will help SparkMacon cover operating costs such as equipment and facility maintenance, utilities and promotional expenses.  

Part of the upcoming MakerFaire

SparkMacon is one element of the ongoing effort to bring a MakerFaire to Middle Georgia in April 2015.  Part science fair, part country fair, MakerFaires were created by Make magazine to celebrate arts, crafts, engineering, science projects and the Do-It-Yourself mindset.  They have been held in San Mateo, Calif., Detroit, New York and Kansas City, as well as in cities in Europe and Asia. 

College Hill Alliance, an economic and community development organization based in Macon, secured a $125,000 federal grant to put on the first Maker Faire in Middle Georgia.  Creating a permanent MakerSpace and building a Maker community are requirements of the grant.

"The MakerSpace has three legs: supporting the education of the next generation of Makers, supporting individuals in their hobbies, and supporting entrepreneurs who want to turn an idea into a business," Betzel said. 

"SparkMacon can become part of the economic engine in Middle Georgia by helping entrepreneurs accelerate their ideas from phase zero to the angel investment stage and then to the venture capital stage." 

Makers are gathering

Work on SparkMacon has been underway for about nine months led by a group that includes Betzel; Brent Lanford, deputy director of the Middle Georgia Regional Commission; Michael Rosario, principal software engineer at Mercer Engineering Research Center; and Nadia Osman, director of revitalization and business initiatives for the College Hill Alliance along with others interested in the effort. 

"We had 50 to 60 people come to our first meet-up on Sept. 4. And we've received incredible support from the community – everything from reasonable rent to partnerships with the Chamber, the mayor, the Arts Alliance and many others," Betzel said.  

"This thing is real and a lot of key players what to see it succeed." 

More information on SparkMacon is available at  Contributions to the SparkMacon can be made at

About Barbara Kieker

Barbara Kieker is a freelance writer who writes on business-related topics for a number of web-based properties. She also provides communications services to Fortune 500 corporations, small businesses and nonprofit organizations.