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Coworking Spaces – An Economic Development Strategy for Rural Colorado?

Coworking is a growing trend bringing together independent workers including professionals, contractors, freelancers, real estate agents and startup entrepreneurs in a shared working space. According to Global Coworking Unconference Conference’s (GCCU) 2018 Global Coworking Forecast there will be 30,432 Coworking Spaces globally with 5,100,000 members by 2022 with an annual average growth rate of 24.2% between 2017 and 2022.

As its name implies, coworking is an inclusive way of working. It also appears to be the future of office space. A recent report from the commercial real estate services firm JLL, predicts that, by 2030, 30 percent of corporate real estate portfolios will comprise flexible space, including coworking, incubator and accelerator spaces. Another survey found that just over 50% of business owners that adopt a flexible workspace model were driven by a desire to reduce office rent, while 38 percent wanted to be more agile as they seek to grow.

According to Lendriet, 20% of Colorado’s workforce consists of remote workers who don’t work from an office. That figure doesn’t include independent contractors or entrepreneurs working from their homes. The growing need for greater workplace flexibility and agility is also leading more corporations to use coworking spaces for some of their space needs. This trend will accelerate over the next 5 years, especially due to corporations looking to reduce their exposure to long term leases and employees insisting on more workplace options.

Coworking spaces offer independent workers an opportunity to be around other people, providing a social environment as well as serving as an informal business incubator through networking and other shared resources. The opportunity for people with unique skill sets to interact with others “can foster a kind of entrepreneural spirit” according to Danielle Lendreit with the Office of Economic Development & International Trade (OEDIT) for the State of Colorado. Coworking also eliminates barriers for entrepreneurs when starting a small business as they rent space on a month to month basis versus signing a long term lease for office space.

Cowoking has had a transformative effect on the way people work. Coworking spaces offer dynamic environments that empower and inspire people to be creative and work collaboratively. Designed for flexibility, with options for shared or dedicated workspace in contemporary settings, Coworking space also offers private offices and conference rooms for when clients need more privacy.

Coworking spaces also allow people to relocate to more rural areas where they want to live versus having to commute several hours a day to an office miles away in a downtown location. Successful coworking spaces also offer convenient high-quality business services such as high-speed Internet connections, communication and presentation technologies with technical support, physical address for mail, plus fresh coffee and even food.

Coworking spaces allow commercial property owners to maximize use of existing building space. A building that houses 10-15 small business tenants can typically accomodate more than 50-60 Coworking tenants that use the space at different days and times creating higher rental incomes. Local governments also can better utilize commercial properties where they have run fiber to but have sat dormant or have been under utilized. A perfect example is the City of Fruita who is in the process of transforming part of the second floor of their Civic Center into a co-working space that will attract new businesses to their city.

Danielle Lendriet who oversees Colorado’s Blueprint 2.0 program that promotes economic development in rural Colorado and the Coworking 101 initiative that is a part of that program, credits coworking spaces as a “mechanism for economic diversification.” Coworking also helps identify entrepreneurs within local communities that haven’t been visible before that helps those same local communities connect entrepreneurs to the proper resources to help them succeed.

Last year, Rio Blanco County and the cities of Delta and Sterling all were awarded Coworking 101 grants by OEDIT to go toward launching their first coworking spaces, all of which are on their way to doing so. Rural Colorado communities will once again be invited to participate in a range of economic development initiatives this year through the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) Blueprint 2.0 program.

Proximity Space who owns 3 successful Coworking Spaces in Western Colorado including Grand Junction, Montrose and Ridgway has partnered with OEDIT and Startup Colorado to work with communities so they can apply to receive money to launch coworking space in their areas as part of the Coworking 101 Initiative.

The new spaces also become part of Proximity’s network, which is expected to surpass 300 coworking spaces this year. Communities that are applying for a Coworking 101 grant must have reliable internet, community buy-in and available real estate that would work well for coworking spaces.

Proximity will provide the selected communities this coming year with an overview of coworking as a business and community asset as more and more companies rely on remote workers.

OEDIT and Proximity Space will also sponsor a teleconference with recently opened coworking spaces, provide mentorship and a forum where potential space owners can mingle with current coworking owners.

About The Author

Gene Fourney, InteractiveWest

Gene Fourney is CEO/President of InteractiveWest that provides digital marketing and web development services to a variety of Colorado based companies including the Rocky Mountain Commercial Brokers. InteractiveWest employs experienced programmers, coders, graphic designers, search engine optimization consultants, copywriters, photographers and videographers to offer a full range of web development and digital marketing services.