creative:impact - Making Art And Creating Commerce And Community At Ann Arbor's 'Maker Works'

Oct 30, 2018

Maker Works member welding
Credit Maker Works /

When you think of band saws, sanders, and lathes, it's easy to think about a woodshop where lumber and sheet metal are cut.  Art and commerce are created but, at Maker Works in Ann Arbor, so is a sense of community.  In this week's "creative:impact," WEMU's David Fair and Arts Alliance CEO Deb Polich talk with Tom Root, co-founder of the Maker Works Shop in Ann Arbor.

Deb Polich, President and CEO of the Arts Alliance

Creative industries in Washtenaw County add hundreds of millions of dollars to the local economy.  In the weeks and months to come, 89.1 WEMU's David Fair and co-host Deb Polich, the President and CEO of The Arts Alliance, explore the myriad of contributors that make up the creative sector in Washtenaw County.

About Tom Root, Co-Founder of Maker Works

Tom Root and co-founder Dale working on a jukebox on Fix-It Day
Credit Maker Works /

Tom Root grew up near Youngstown, OH with a passion for business and entrepreneurship.  After graduating from Miami University in 1993, he became a certified business counselor for the state of Michigan, counseling entrepreneurs on business plan development and capital acquisition through the SBA’s Small Business Development Center program.  Tom specialized in computer and software startups, and at the same time ran a consulting company to advise clients on website development.

In January of 1995 Tom became the first employee of Online Technologies Corporation, where he was Director of Development and Training.  Over the next year he taught weekly classes through Walsh College and led the development of over 100 websites.  During one of his teaching sessions, Tom was introduced to a team of people who had been charged with the creation of a website for a Michigan public electric utility, Detroit Edison.  By February 1996 Tom was the principal web application developer for Detroit Edison.  During his three years at Edison he managed a budget of over $1 million per year and organized a team of seven to create and manage Edison’s eight external web sites and its 50,000 page Intranet.

Tom Root and co-founder Dale working the Ann Arbor Mini Faire
Credit Maker Works /

In January of 1999, while attending a food conference in San Francisco with his wife (a manager at Zingerman's Delicatessen), Tom struck upon the idea for a Zingerman’s website and began the process of becoming a Zingerman's Managing Partner.  On September 22, 1999, took its first order, and Tom took on his first official role at Zingerman’s as Chief Information Officer.  During the next two years, he introduced Zingerman's to email, established a wide area network, connecting all the various Zingerman's locations and managed (with lots of help from his co-Managing Partner and wife, Toni Morell!)

In 2002, Zingerman's Mail Order and merged and Tom took on the role of Chief Financial Officer of the resulting business (known simply as Zingerman’s Mail Order).  As CFO, Tom has championed open book management and taken the lead on educating staff about the financial ins and outs of the business.

In 2008, Tom was inspired by the financial crisis to start Maker Works.  Maker Works is 14,000 sq ft manufacturing facility that is operated like a health club.  Individuals or businesses purchase memberships to have access to high-tech tools like laser cutters, 3D printers and CNC plasma cutters.  The mission of Maker Works is to democratize the tools of manufacturing to foster job creation, community, and self-sustainability.

About Maker Works

Maker Works is a member-based workshop for small businesses, entrepreneurs, tradespeople, skilled workers, artists, makers, and hobbyists.  It provides:

  1. Access to thousands of dollars’ worth of tools.
  2. Space for projects big and small.
  3. Formal instruction and support for learning.
  4. A vibrant community of like-minded people.

Located in Ann Arbor, Malker Works offers tools and education in METAL, ELECTRONICS, WOOD, CRAFT, JEWELRY and SOFTWARE.

About the space:

There are 5 studio areas:

  • Metal 
  • Electronics
  • Wood
  • Craft
  • Jewelry

Maker Tim who made the armor by hand at Maker Works
Credit Maker Works /

Each area has benches and tables on which to build your projects, electrical outlets for your computer, and project storage space.  There are also hundreds of hand tools and clamps and power hand tools such as sanders, drills and routers.

The Conference Room is used by many local maker groups and has extension cords, tables, chairs, 3 whiteboards, and a digital projector that is both PC and Mac compatible.  There is also a kitchen for you to make coffee or tea and microwave or refrigerate your dinner or lunch.

How to Join:

Young person at Maker Works Summer Camp working with metal
Credit Maker Works /

When you join Maker Works, you gain access to not just a multitude of state-of-the-art tools, but a creative, thriving and supportive community as well! Join today and start learning, building and collaborating immediately.  Maker Works offers several types of membership.  Benefits include access to all areas and their tools, access to computers and software, free WIFI, and more!


Maker Works

Tom Root

How to Join Maker Works

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at