Downtown Woodburn may someday be a thriving hub of technology education and technical manufacturing if idea man and Woodburn resident Colin Brown gets his wish.

Brown and his partners are working toward developing three vacant buildings into a small-business manufacturing center by: COURTESY OF COLIN BROWN - This rendering of the building located next to the Pix Theater on First Street, shows the possibility of developing the site into Foxtron Academy, which would promote engineering creativity, according to organizer and local resident Colin Brown.accompanied by a nonprofit academy teaching technical skills. Brown will host a meeting explaining the idea from 2 to 4 p.m. March 1 in Woodburn Public Library’s multipurpose room.

This public meeting is a first step in “creating an engineering heart in the middle of Woodburn,” Brown said. It was about a year ago that Brown, who has expertise in information technology, became interested in creating a successful project to help deepen the area’s industrial base and create living-wage jobs.

Brown has partnered with JK Chay, a managing member of the company that owns the building, to refurbish the downtown buildings, located on the south side of the Pix Theater on First Street. Brown and his partners are working to create a space that welcomes small-scale manufacturing, engineering and artistic businesses. They hope to marry the business side with an education component by opening Foxtron Academy, a nonprofit career technical institute for creative engineering.

“I’m interested in the big question of what can we do to create living-wage jobs, family-wage jobs, here in Woodburn,” Brown said. “If we could figure out how to make family-wage jobs in Woodburn, we’d probably have a model for (creating jobs) anywhere else.”

Brown’s vision for Foxtron Academy includes giving its students the technical skills necessary to secure a living-wage job.

Brown said it could be a matter of months before his team’s vision of a manufacturing incubator space opens. The space will be modeled on the “maker culture,” Brown said.

“Makerspace” is a new term that essentially means a community center with tools where people can design, prototype and manufacture work that they wouldn’t have the ability or resources to do on their own. Makerspace is just that, space for people to make stuff, along with access to the equipment they need and the support of a creative community. Chay named the potential manufacturing space Makershops.

“The makerspace movement is a new way of being creative,” Brown said. “The maker movement is designed to be creative. It’s designed to be customized in manufacturing. It’s designed to be extremely technical in certain areas. And it’s designed to be fun, so that we will create unique things.”

Brown said the educational aspect of the business will strive to fill a niche in engineering and manufacturing knowledge.

We will be training people in practical skills specifically designed to fill highly technical jobs in Marion and Polk counties, Brown said.

“What we’re trying to do is create an engineering heart in the middle of Woodburn,” he said. “We’re going to create masses of know-how at the right level so that young people, and any person, can learn how to make things. They can learn how to design things. They’re going to learn all about anything they want to do.”

Brown said they will tailor their business to demand and hopes the March 1 meeting generates both interest and ideas.

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