Maine’s Coworking Development Fund

Our latest edition of EntreWorks Insights examined the power of place, i.e., how community gathering places can help build social capital and promote economic development.  These powerful places can take many forms, including business offices, libraries and coworking spaces, among others.  I’m pleased to now see that a handful of state and local governments are seeking to encourage the creation and nurturing of these “third places.” The latest example comes from Maine where the Maine Coworking Development Fund has just kicked off.  The Fund provides small grants (of up to $20,000) to help communities set up and run local coworking spaces.  It’s also creating a statewide network so that space managers and developers can learn from one another and share ideas.  This program has existed on the books since 2015, but was finally funded by Maine’s new governor, Janet Mills.  While $20,000 is not a major amount of money, this small amount can trigger lots of outside investment and make a big difference in rural Maine, where the need for new coworking spaces is strongest.  This excellent pilot program should be emulated elsewhere, as it is a straightforward, and relatively low-cost, means to build communities and networks to spur entrepreneurship and innovation, and to build community as well.