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Economic Development 101: coworking spaces
An Economic Development Director is like a city's business coach. Their role is to help the city's economy grow and become stronger.
Here's how they do it:
They try to bring new businesses to the city. This could be anything from a new store, factory, or even a large company's office. By doing this, they create new jobs and increase the wealth in the city.
They work with existing businesses to help them stay and grow in the city. This can involve helping them find resources, solve problems, or plan for growth. Then they work on projects to improve the city and make it more appealing to businesses and residents. This could include things like improving infrastructure, creating new parks, or improving education.
They help to sell the city to businesses, investors, and residents. They might create marketing materials, organize events, or talk to the media about why their city is a great place to live and do business. They work with city leaders to create policies that support economic growth. This could involve anything from tax policies to zoning laws.
In a nutshell, an Economic Development Director's job is to make sure their city is a place where businesses can thrive and people can have good jobs. They're the city's cheerleader, problem-solver, and coach all rolled into one. Which is why more and more Economic Development offices consider coworking as a model for activating commerce and commercial areas.
Coworking spaces can assist an Economic Development Director in achieving their mission
Attracting entrepreneurs and start-ups: Coworking spaces are popular among entrepreneurs, freelancers, and start-ups due to their affordability, flexibility, and networking opportunities. By promoting these spaces, an Economic Development Director can attract these types of businesses to their city, fostering innovation and creating jobs.
Supporting local businesses: By providing a flexible and cost-effective place for businesses to operate, coworking spaces can help local businesses grow and thrive. This supports the goal of business retention and expansion.
Creating a community: Coworking spaces often host events and foster a strong sense of community. This can help to make the city more attractive to businesses and residents, supporting the goal of community development.
Promoting the city: Coworking spaces often attract a diverse range of businesses, from local start-ups to branches of international companies. This diversity can be used to promote the city as a vibrant and dynamic place to do business.
Supporting sustainable development: Coworking spaces make efficient use of space by accommodating multiple businesses in one location. This can support the goal of sustainable development, which is often an aspect of economic development policy.
Creating a talent pool: Coworking spaces tend to draw in skilled professionals, creating a pool of talent that can be attractive to businesses looking to set up or expand in the city.
Here's a simple guide for an Economic Development Director to develop a coworking space:
- Assess the demand
Start by conducting a survey or a market study to understand the demand for coworking spaces in your city. Identify who would use these spaces (start-ups, freelancers, remote workers, small businesses, etc.) and what they need (meeting rooms, private desks, communal areas, etc.).
- Engage with stakeholders
Speak to local businesses, educational institutions, real estate developers, and potential users of the space. Get their input and support for the project. This can also help you identify potential partnerships.
- Identify suitable locations
Look for locations that are easily accessible, close to amenities, and have the required facilities. Consider areas that could benefit from the increased foot traffic that a coworking space could bring.
- Develop a business model
Decide how the coworking space will be managed and funded. This could be a public-private partnership, a privately run space, or a community-led initiative. The business model should be sustainable and align with the overall economic development strategy of the city.
- Design the space
Based on your market study, design a space that meets the needs of your target users. This could include private offices, open workspaces, meeting rooms, communal areas, and facilities like kitchens or cafes.
- Promote the space
Once your coworking space is ready, you'll need to promote it. Use your city's networks, local media, and partnerships to spread the word. Highlight the benefits of the space and how it contributes to the city's economic development.
- Host events and networking opportunities
Coworking spaces thrive on community. Hosting events, workshops, or networking opportunities can attract more users to the space and foster a strong sense of community.
- Monitor and evaluate
After the coworking space is operational, continue to monitor its usage and impact. Gather feedback from users and make adjustments as necessary. Measure how the coworking space is contributing to your economic development goals and use this information to continuously improve.
Urban Co-Works curates meaningful connections and mindful growth
A fortuitous relationship was forged when Urban Co-Works founder Jeffrey Goronkin met Tiffany Cross-Luciani, then the City of Scranton Director of Economic Development.
Coworking space operations created with Economic Development office
1776 in Washington, D.C.
Now closed, this coworking space was built in partnership with the nation’s capital and aimed to incubate and accelerate start-ups with a focus on regulated industries like education, energy, and health.
District Hall in Boston
This public innovation center offers free coworking space for entrepreneurs, with the goal of fostering collaboration and creativity.
The Water Council in Milwaukee
This coworking space was part of a city-led effort to position Milwaukee as a global hub for water research and industry.
Port Workspaces in Oakland, California
The city supported the development of this coworking space, which offers a variety of workspaces to local entrepreneurs.
Talent Garden in Barcelona
This coworking space was part of a broader city-led digital innovation strategy, supporting tech and digital entrepreneurs.
Station F in Paris
While not entirely city-sponsored, Station F was developed with strong support from the city and national government. It's one of the largest startup incubators globally.
These examples show the variety of ways in which cities can partner with economic development teams to foster entrepreneurship, support local businesses, and stimulate economic growth. If you need the most current information, I would recommend conducting a web search or reaching out directly to local economic development agencies.
How Economic Development teams can fund coworking models
Finding funding for coworking spaces can be a complex task, but there are several methods that Economic Development Directors can explore:
Public Funding: Some cities might allocate funds from their budget for economic development projects, such as coworking spaces. This could be supplemented by regional or national funding programs aimed at supporting economic development, entrepreneurship, or urban regeneration.
Grants and Subsidies: There are numerous grants available from both public and private sources that can be used for coworking spaces. These could be grants for urban development, entrepreneurship, innovation, technology, and more. It's important to research what grants are available and the criteria for each.
Public-Private Partnerships (PPP): In a PPP, the city partners with a private entity to fund and operate the coworking space. This can be a win-win situation, as the private entity could benefit from the exposure and the city could benefit from the private entity's expertise and resources
Sponsorship: Local businesses or larger corporations might be willing to sponsor the coworking space, either through direct funding or by providing equipment, furniture, or other resources. This can be an attractive option for businesses looking to support the local community and gain exposure.
Membership Fees: Depending on the business model of the coworking space, it might be possible to generate some funding through membership fees. However, this is typically used to cover operational costs rather than the initial setup costs.
Investment Funds or Venture Capital: Some investment funds or venture capitalists might be interested in investing in coworking spaces, particularly if they have a focus on supporting start-ups or fostering innovation.
Crowdfunding: In some cases, it might be possible to raise funds for a coworking space through crowdfunding. This would likely require a strong marketing campaign and a compelling vision for the space.
Remember, a combination of these methods might be necessary to fully fund the coworking space. It's also important to consider the ongoing costs of maintaining and operating the space, not just the initial setup costs.