The future of TechShop Chandler is looking brighter after a new ownership group has agreed to acquire the company assets of the now defunct TechShop Inc., though it could be some time before the makerspace reopens.
TechShop Inc. has issued a Notice of Liquidation Event to shareholders in order to move forward with the agreement.
In the meantime, local hobbyists, students and business owners have banded together to meet the needs of the East Valley maker community.
These resources are important for small business owners who are gearing up for the holiday rush and ASU students completing projects.
“We will help you all out with the holidays coming up,” David Kern said.
Kern is a TechShop Chandler member who helped set up a pop-up makerspace at Gangplank Chandler, a free coworking space.
He said he has received inquiries from ASU students looking for tools to finish end-of-semester projects. ASU has made some alternative facilities available to students, but those spaces have booked up quickly.
When TechShop shut down, Gangplank immediately opened its doors and made space available to the orphaned makers.
“We always think of each other as brothers and sisters, so we will do anything we can do to help (TechShop members) out,” Gangplank’s David Monaghan said.
The shop has nowhere near the equipment available at TechShop, but does include an array of tools – many of them donated or loaned out by TechShop members.
Currently, the Gangplank Chandler space has a drill press, various hand tools and a vacuum former that Kern made himself.
“That is still a work in progress,” Kern said of the vacuum former.
The Gangplank shop will receive a 75-watt laser on loan for three months from Epilog Laser in Colorado. Epilog is loaning the laser to the Gangplank space for free and also covering the shipping costs.
The laser will be available to anyone who has taken a ULS or Epilog laser class in the past at TechShop, Kern said.
The Chandler space also has soldering equipment and an oscilloscope.
Kern also said that Gangplank Queen Creek is in the process of building out its own makerspace with help from the local chamber of commerce.
Other alternative makerspaces include Heatsync Labs in Mesa.
The CREATE Makerspace at Arizona Science Center is another choice for makers who require a more diverse array of equipment. Prices and hours are available on the Arizona Science Center website.
Those spaces will have to suffice for makers in the East Valley until the new TechShop ownership group solidifies plans moving forward.
TechShop Inc. was on the verge of filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Nov. 17 when it was approached by a group consisting of Kansas resident Dan Rasure and Minnesota resident Bill Lloyd, according to a statement from TechShop Inc. CEO Dan Woods.
The two sides agreed to a deal in which the new group, called TechShop 2.0, would acquire the assets of Techshop Inc.
Woods stated that TechShop 2.0 plans to reopen as many locations as possible.
Rasure previously said that the Chandler TechShop was imperative to the success of an impending deal because it was one of the better-performing TechShops in the country. He flew in to the Phoenix area on Nov. 21 to attend a meeting between the city of Chandler, TechShop users and Arizona State University.
Chandler owns the property that houses the current TechShop location and leases it to ASU for the university’s Chandler Innovation Center. ASU subleased the space to TechShop.
It is unclear if TechShop Chandler will reopen at the current location.
ASU Associate Vice President Ji Mi Choi, who oversees the Chandler Innovation Center, provided an official statement from the university:
“ASU would like to see TechShop Chandler reopen, and we are open to discussions with parties interested in making that happen. ASU has had limited discussions with the group represented by Dan Rasure and Bill Lloyd and has requested documentation of their deal with TechShop, along with documentation evidencing their qualifications and addressing defaults in our partnership with TechShop. Despite multiple requests for information, nothing has yet been provided to ASU.”
The deal has elicited mixed responses from TechShop members, employees and contractors on a Facebook group dedicated to the organization with many individuals praising Rasure’s plans to expand equipment inventory and take member concerns into account when reopening locations.
One source of contention for those who voiced concerns is how existing TechShop memberships will transfer to TechShop 2.0.
Many details of the acquisition are available in the Notice of Liquidation Event.
The notice states that TechShop 2.0 will honor lifetime memberships with a $400 transfer fee. The group will honor other prepaid memberships with a transfer rate of $40 per month and a maximum of $250. Lifetime memberships given as part of a loan or investment will be honored after payment of a $275 transfer fee and other considerations.
“Acceptance of new lifetime membership relinquishes any right the investor/lender has against TechShop. Member’s investment/loan will be transferred to TechShop2.0 at a transfer rate of $1,000 machine use credit per $5,000 invested/loaned and not repaid,” the notice reads.
Former users are also concerned about how TechShop 2.0 will handle existing debt.
In an interview with open-source manufacturing company Adafruit, Rasure confirmed that his organization is in the process of restructuring $21 million in secured debt from TechShop Inc. This includes back pay to former TechShop employees.
How the deal affects TechShop Inc.’s unsecured debt is not known.
On Dec. 6, Rasure posted in the TechShop 2.0 Facebook group that he was putting together a plan to pay open invoices for instructors that worked as independent contractors.
“This is far from final, but I am working on a deal that would allow for at least half, but hopefully all of the back instructor pay. … This will not be a part of the deal with TechShop but something I want to do as part of TechShop 2.0,” he wrote.
Rasure plans to continue running TechShop as a for-profit corporation but stressed that changes will be made to the operating structure to ensure viability.