MOUNT VERNON — The Stephen W. Nease Center, home of Mount Vernon Nazarene University’s Engineering Department and the Knox Labs public makerspace, officially opened Friday with a ribbon cutting ceremony and an open house, which also marked the 50th anniversary of the first ever day of classes held at Mount Vernon Nazarene College back in 1968.
The building was named after the first president, Dr. Stephen W. Nease. Dr. Linda Nease Scott, daughter of Stephen Nease and a member of the pioneer class at MVNC, said that having the building named after her father meant a great deal to her family and to her father’s legacy. It is “interesting,” Dr. Nease Scott said, that the building is focused on engineering because when Dr. Nease was president, “an engineer was a train conductor.” However, she noted that her father was a trailblazer and the connection to the community that the makerspace represents is something he would have been proud of.
Mayor Richard Mavis noted that the newly renovated space at 104 S. Main St., which once served as a J.C. Penney’s and later an antique store, along with the its other downtown spaces, Hunter Hall, Buchwald Center and The Mount Vernon Grand Hotel, that MVNU has renovated and updated have helped to lift up the community and specifically the downtown of Mount Vernon.
“This makerspace, I don’t think people really know — a year and half a ago no one knew what a makerspace was — but I think we’re learning, and people will understand, that this is a little niche that can grow into something much larger as far as employment, production, new product,” Mavis said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s fun being down here. You can walk down the street and there’s a lot of things happening.”
President of the Knox Labs board, Mauricio Odio, said the makerspace is “an exciting reality that we’ve been able to bring to the community” that gives students and hobbyists alike access to digital and traditional craft tools.
“The makerspace is going to be a very creative and innovative asset for this community,” Odio said. “In a way, opening this space is opening an opportunity for creativity, for innovation, for ideation of things to come. As a relative newcomer to the Mount Vernon community, it has been very inspiring to be part of the creation of Knox Labs — most specially because it has given me the opportunity to experience directly the high caliber of people, of community support, of community values that really are so prevalent in Mount Vernon.”
Jeffry Harris, the vice president of the Knox Labs board of directors and president of the Area Development Foundation said that the impact the makerspace will have on the community is two-fold. First, it will help him, as the president of the ADF to sell the community to those who are thinking about moving to the area and making an investment.
“As you come in to this community and think about putting down roots here, making investments, you’re going to come through town, you’re going to come through Knox County and you’re going to see a whole lot of attributes and pluses. You know — a vibrant downtown, good restaurants, a lot of young people with students and so forth and then lo and behold there’s a makerspace here as well,” Harris said. “Not every town’s got a makerspace because these things take a lot of effort.”
In addition to helping bring new interest to the town, the makerspace also helps from a “workforce development standpoint,” Harris explained. The makerspace will provide the opportunity for community members, as well as students, to familiarize themselves with the equipment and learn how to us it.
“There’s a continuum here — that you have an interest in this stuff, you try it out … you have an aptitude for it and … in theory, they could be going down to the industrial park and working in those plants down there where they desperately need workers,” Harris said.