Coffee is great, and I mean that, I love coffee – but I don’t like coffeeshops. They are loud, often serve mediocre fare, and are filled with people who aren’t really working, despite their open laptops and witty t-shirts. Despite my dislike of the environment, I often find myself camped out on a comfy couch trying to ignore the chaos as I finish a piece of work. Right now, in fact, I’m writing this in a coffeeshop with my headphones on, but without music in order to deaden the noise. As a freelance writer, web designer, game designer, and adjunct I find myself working in a non-standard office to avoid sitting on my own couch with all the myriad distractions of home. I would love to have a quiet affordable office, and I’m not alone. There is a real need, desire, and market for coworking spaces in most American cities.
So, what is a coworking space? Coworking spaces allow individuals and small groups to work on their projects in a professional venue. Similar in nature to makerspaces where people craft new items with shared tools, coworking spaces allow for people to work on their creative and technical projects in a professional setting with other creative people. This allows for healthy collaboration and greater productivity for all. Combining hackerspaces with the dayoffice concept, basically rental offices for the day/week/month, combines a variety of creative work styles and preferences to become incubators for developing the start-up economy of a city.
Harrisonburg, where I live, is right at the tipping point of becoming a major creative and techie hub. Already known as a great town for mountain bikers, foodies, and craft beer enthusiasts it already attracts a young, educated, and creative workforce. Having a large hourly creative workforce and a variety of interesting abandoned or underused real estate also means that hourly workspace rental is a needed and likely profitable enterprise.
Part of what makes the new economy so powerful is that workers like me, and so many others here, are actively producing new content, new companies, new products, new ways of doing things, and ultimately new businesses at a stunningly rapid pace. What cities do to enable this sort of development and support these sorts of workers is often a predictor of their future growth and desirability in attracting new workers and companies.
And while this may seem like an unlikely connection, just look at what they’re doing in Chattanooga, or Kansas City, or Ithaca, and what it has done to their local economy. (source)