So channeling a bit of JFK, my answer to the state level support (and even city level support) is “Ask not what your state can do for you, but what you can do for your state.”
Here’s the thing: cities and states are used to being the provider of incentives and support. Coworking allows for a fundamentally different model where the members of a community that the coworking space serves are the direct supporters, rather than funneling things up to the city/state and then back down again.
It’s true - governments love coworking because it helps them with so many of their goals. It’s hard NOT to recognize the value that coworking can bring in the realm of economic development, cultural and creative inspiration, innovation, and more.
The thing is that as soon as they get involved, everything slows down. That slow down is by design, mind you. It’s their JOB to make things happen slowly, making time to consider a far wider constituency than a single community. I consider that a good thing in general for societies, but not a good thing for the entrepreneur that they aim to support. It’s a bit like tying yourself to a boat anchor but pretending it’s a rocket ship.
Gov’t institutions usually won’t admit it in public, but behind closed doors nearly every one that I’ve spoken to agrees that we don’t need them.
But that doesn’t mean that they don’t need us.
They can learn a lot from us. Collaboration isn’t something that gov’ts do well, and it’s something we do EXCEEDINGLY well. Same thing with innovation, marketing, community building…you get the picture.
There’s another interesting effect that I’ve seen: governments are USED to people coming to them asking for things. When you start to have a reputation as someone who doesn’t ask for things, it becomes really easy to talk to government people (because they’re not immediately on the defense) and it’s even easier to stand out from the crowd.
Even something as simple as getting a city official to vocally support something can make other things easier. We’ve been able to accelerate permits for projects and other annoying bureaucratic things because we didn’t ask for things when we didn’t need it, and instead focused on building relationships with people who work in government and helping them - our public servants - do their job.
It’s a fundamentally different approach than people are used to, but it’s an approach that I think hits on all 5 of the coworking core values, too.
coworking in philadelphia
On Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 7:50 PM, lars hasselblad torres [email protected] wrote:
We’ve got great pow up here in the northeast as we watch the festivities in Sochi - feeling pretty good to be the home of snowboarding and slopestyle talent right now! Hope all my fellow coworking colleagues are having a good time with the Olympics too.
So, again, want to state my thanks for all the help folks here provided on the development of the coworking guide we put out last year - we’ve really seen a spike in interest, with plenty of opportunities to offer insight and support since the report, “Coworking in Vermont: A Starter Guide” went up (http://local64.com/coworking).
And with this success, we have state interest: the Vermont legislature would really like to do something to help coworking spaces get up and running. They recognize the value coworking spaces can bring to our historic downtowns on many levels.
And I have to confess: I don’t entirely know what to tell them. My story is about bootstrapping, and how the biggest incentive I found would be the ability to write down ALL my startup expenses for furniture and equipment year one instead of amortization. BUT since that’s not going to happen…
Any ideas on state supports or incentives for coworking that could flow to the entrepreneur, not the landlord or developer (sometimes they are the same but it seems rare. And there are other state tax credits for historic buildings, etc). Fishing for ideas and best practices.
Thank you. Peace -
Lars Hasselblad Torres
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