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March 2015 Featured Article
Government Support Spurs New Co-Working Spaces to Promote Community and Economic Development
Supporting the State’s ongoing commitment to create new opportunities for economic growth, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJ EDA) approved nearly one million dollars in low-interest loans for co-working space development and expansion. The State is recognizing the importance of these facilities to New Jersey entrepreneurs and technology startups, many of which are in their earliest stages of development.
Following a competitive Request for Proposal process, three prospering co-working spaces were approved for the EDA’s first funding round in January. The awards are intended to assist recipients in acquisitions, improvements and/or fixed assets associated growing co-working space.
NJEDA announced the following recipients to include:
Mission 50, in Hoboken received a $556,550 loan. Currently operating from a 3,000 square-foot space, it expects to triple in size by expanding to a 13,000 square foot co-working facility near mass transit. Mission 50 has a current membership roster of over 300, as well as a pipeline of 200 additional member companies. Mission 50 frequently collaborates with the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce, Stevens Institute of Technology and the NJ Tech Meetup on various initiatives.
Cowerks in Asbury Park was approved for a $240,000 loan. Cowerks currently has 140 members, with a large concentration of software developers and plans to expand its existing location by also occupying a nearby facility located near the city’s transit center. Cowerks regularly hosts tech-related events at the Jersey Shore, including meetups for Jersey Shore Tech and Jersey Shore Entrepreneurs.
Indiegrove, in the heart of downtown Jersey City, was approved for a $175,000 loan. The co-working space currently has 135 members, of which more than 50 percent are from the tech industry. Indiegrove partners with several entrepreneurship and economic development organizations and an array of successful entrepreneurs in order to provide education, mentorship and networking opportunities to its members and promote long term business sustainability.
The partnering of government and co-working spaces is a growing trend across the nation. One big reason is that these environments can have a multiplier effect similar to a business incubator and with less overhead. Co-working spaces allow entrepreneurs from difference companies to work side by side and in many instances result in new collaborations. They create affordable access to class A office space that is often in denser, highly desirable locations easily accessible to mass transit. Tenants typically can choose between daily and monthly leasing options, as well as decide whether they want private or shared workspace.
As evident by the variety of mentoring, business training programs and activities each of the co-working space awardees provide, partnerships between co-working space and local governments can also serve as an effective tool for community development.
Another benefit to co-working spaces is that they do not require a dedicated facility for one to be launched successfully. In Newark, Brick City Development Corp. (BCDC) began to fund Converge, a “pop-up” co-working space in May of 2014. Located at the City’s Seed Gallery’s event space, this venue’s third floor, becomes a place for the local tech community to hold events, work for free, learn share and network at scheduled times throughout the week.
Counties and municipalities should stay tuned to the NJ EDA for the next round of grant opportunities. Where there are underutilized buildings or other facilities, these can provide opportunities for the public/private partnerships needed to make co-working space viable investments.
Published March 2015.