Cool Coworking Space Spotlight

Curating community and economic growth through coworking

In Williamson County, Tennessee, an innovative and communal approach to  entrepreneurship is unfolding. Williamson, Inc, the County’s Chamber of Commerce and Office of Economic Development is redefining what it means to cultivate a thriving local economy and community.

A vision for growth and unity

Nick_Biniker_headshot_WilliamsonCountyWilliamson, Inc. has formed a unique approach to fostering business and community growth. Nick Biniker spearheads this initiative as VP of Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development. He shares how their  strategy has evolved outside enterprise recruitment and retention, with coworking as a new ingredient in its economic and community development efforts.

"Our aim is to ensure that Williamson County remains a vibrant place where businesses thrive and people want to live," Biniker explained. The county's success, he noted, is built on an ecosystem of strong public education, high household incomes, and a robust business environment, attracting headquarter operations and creating a prosperous community. But it all stems from jobs.

Attracting outside employers while growing their own

The evolution of economic development in Williamson County highlights a trend where traditional boundaries between public service and modern business practices blur, creating innovative opportunities for growth and collaboration.

"Traditionally, economic development was about attracting high paying jobs and enhancing workforce development initiatives," said Biniker. "Now, we see the value in nurturing entrepreneurship and small business growth, which coworking spaces naturally support."

This shift recognizes the overlapping goals of economic development offices and coworking spaces: both aim to create jobs, support businesses, and build community networks. With a dedicated, physical space for entrepreneurs, Williamson County is not just filling offices but fostering ecosystems where businesses can thrive and contribute to the local economy.

A historic landmark becomes a hub of innovation

While the Williamson County Chamber of Commerce focuses on its members, the Economic Development arm focuses on expanding the pool of local employers. With a powerful blend of public and private partnership, the team is able to create resources and programming aimed at newly developing businesses. 

Part of that expansion took the form of a beautiful historic home that was offered to the organization to use under a simple mandate: make it a place for innovation.

"We gained access to a beautiful Victorian mansion and transformed it into a business incubator called The Franklin Innovation Center, offering a one year term to scalable companies," Biniker shared. This initiative reflects a broader commitment to providing a physical space that can serve as a nurturing ground for that business to launch, grow, scale and, most importantly, remain in the county as a force for economic growth.

Interior office franklin innovation center"Helping local businesses not just get off the ground but to stay in the area is critical for our long-term economic health," Biniker emphasized. "We are particularly keen on fostering high-growth companies that can contribute significantly to job creation and economic dynamism." The team uses Coworks software to manage the space.

Building businesses and bonds

Soon, the Franklin Innovation Center will welcome hotdesk members as well as office tenants. This will expand the community of entrepreneurs as well as exponentially increase the community’s knowledge resources. Coworking spaces as a whole are designed to be more than just workplaces. They are environments where entrepreneurs and small businesses come together, share ideas, and create opportunities for collaboration and growth — which is the vision Williamson, Inc. has for this historic space.

Biniker highlighted the importance of facilitating partnerships. "It's about creating a place where entrepreneurs can collaborate and support each other, breaking the isolation that often comes with starting and running a business," he noted.

These interactions are not only beneficial for business development but also for building a sense of community among local entrepreneurs, fostering a supportive network that can lead to sustainable growth and development in the region.

The future of coworking in economic development

Looking ahead, Williamson, Inc. is one of several Chambers of Commerce that sees coworking as a vital component of its economic development strategy. 

"We are always looking for ways to partner with other coworking spaces and entrepreneurship centers, ensuring that we continue to meet the evolving needs of our local businesses and entrepreneurs," Biniker stated. This vision for the future is about creating a dynamic, supportive environment that nurtures business growth and community connections.

"Our goal is to see new faces and ideas in our spaces, bringing fresh energy and perspectives that can fuel innovation and collaboration across our community," he added, highlighting the county's commitment to evolving its coworking offerings to match the changing needs of its businesses and residents.

Cultivating an entrepreneurial ecosystem

Williamson, Inc.'s innovative approach extends to fostering an entrepreneurial ecosystem where new businesses can thrive. Biniker discussed the impact of their efforts to support startups and entrepreneurs, providing them with the tools and resources necessary for success.

"We want to lower the barriers for entry for new businesses, making it easier for them to start and grow in Williamson County," he explains. “And the best place to start for that is real estate. It’s expensive to find office space here, and that eats into a fledgling business’s bottom line. The support system we are building is crucial for nurturing local talent and ensuring that startups have the resources they need to succeed.”

A blueprint for burgeoning business communities

Williamson, Inc.'s journey to integrate coworking into its economic development framework serves as a model for other regions and professionals looking to enhance their community's economic and social fabric. Through a strategic blend of traditional economic development practices and modern coworking philosophies, Williamson, Inc.  is crafting a blueprint for a prosperous, interconnected community where businesses and people flourish together.

In this evolving narrative, coworking emerges not just as a space for work but as a powerful tool for economic transformation and community building, signaling a promising path for regions worldwide to follow. The  Franklin Innovation Center serves as a beacon for how coworking can be a linchpin in the new era of economic development, underlining the importance of community, collaboration, and innovation in creating sustainable, vibrant economies.

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