This article appeared in the April 2017 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
It’s estimated that by 2020, 40 percent of the workforce will be freelancers, temps, independent contractors and solopreneurs. Some of these businesses may be too large to operate out of their own homes, or may not have the resources to commit to purchasing or leasing a brick and mortar location. Coworking space provides a professional environment with low operating costs for startups and a lower commitment than opening a traditional storefront. Another large benefit of working in a shared space is the natural networking and collaboration opportunities that happen when multiple businesses and startups work side-by-side.
NewTown Macon recognized this need for a collaborative and working space in the city and decided to open “The Office.” This downtown development now provides proof of the above concept. Opening in May 2016, the space reached full occupancy by fall 2016 with 20 members. With approximately 2,400 square feet of shared workspace, The Office is comprised of four private offices, an open space with two large workstations, a private phone booth and a conference room. The four private offices are furnished and the two workstations seat 16 people in total. Members have 24/7 access to The Office with a unique access code for entry. Membership includes internet, printing, TVs for presentations, a locker and refreshments. Members can also utilize the two bikes available for running downtown errands. Private offices range from $250 to $500 a month, while members using the open workstations pay $100 a month.
NewTown Macon recognized this need for collaborative coworking space and now serves more than 20 members.
For cities interested in opening a coworking space, officials must first research and ensure a demand exists for a space of this nature. Even with The Office at full occupancy, there is still a demand for additional coworking space in Macon—made evident by the growing waiting list for access to this new space.
Another integral step is deciding which business industries your specific space will serve. Don’t limit your coworking facility to one type of business. An eclectic group of entrepreneurial ventures is imperative. At The Office,
members include a blogger, DJ, real estate agent, pedestrian and cycling advocate, graphic designers, various consultants and several other businesses. Keeping the membership base diverse lends to better collaborations, creative entrepreneurship and a stronger community.
Another detail to consider would be the type of memberships offered. The Office
currently provides monthly memberships. While these members are not locked-in and can leave at any time, some workers may be in search of something even more temporary. For example, a day-pass would benefit someone passing through the city in search of a place to work with office amenities.
Bringing multiple new businesses to the area, The Office has become a great asset for Downtown Macon. NewTown’s hope is that as these businesses outgrow the coworking space they choose to remain downtown. This concept furthers NewTown’s mission of increasing storefront occupancy, while supporting local business and increasing jobs.