Lawmakers explore potential of co-working spaces for rural development: Senate committee hears testimony on bolstering rural growth around shared work spaces Full article and video reported by Ross Ketschke on MyNBC5 6:25 PM EST Feb 19, 2019: https://www.mynbc5.com/article/lawmakers-explore-potential-of-co-working-spaces-for-rural-development/26416856
BRADFORD, Vt. — Vermont lawmakers are exploring the potential for using co-work spaces as spark plugs for economic development in rural communities.
The Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs hosted a hearing with co-work and makers space leaders from around the state in Bradford on Tuesday.
Senators heard testimony from local business leaders, entrepreneurs and directors of communal work spaces on their potential economic impact and ways the state could support growth they can potentially kick-start.
“It’s a place for people who are just moving to towns to know they have a community they can step into,” said Monique Priestley, founder of Bradford’s The Space on Main where the hearing was hosted.
Priestley’s co-working space opened its doors last fall and allows artists and entrepreneurs to rent out work space by the day or month.
The Space on Main, like other co-working or makers spaces, offers an array of tools for startups and artists including internet access and, in some cases, manufacturing equipment for designing product prototypes.
Priestley said the environment of co-working facilities is highly attractive to new business ventures looking to operate in collaborative spaces with other entrepreneurs.
“People see each other and overhear conversations and that’s sparking ideas or ways for them to collaborate with other people,” she said.
Director of the Center on Rural Innovation Matt Dunne said adapting the co-working space models for rural communities in Vermont would need some tweaking from their for-profit focused templates in startup hubs like Boston.
“It takes grassroots activities, frequently in a non-profit model but not necessarily. And it certainly takes support from the community and the state to make sure they succeed,” he said.
Dunne pointed to the lack of access to high-speed fiber optic internet access as an area the state could support and invest in to help attract new businesses to co-working spaces in Vermont.
The Center on Rural Innovation’s pilot campus in Springfield has taken advantage of the town’s unique access to high-speed fiber-optic connection.
However, not all communities have the infrastructure to support fiber connection, and Priestley said it is rarely affordable in places it is available.
She said her second largest expense behind monthly rent is paying for broadband.
“Broadband is the electricity of our time,” Dunne said.
Co-chair of the committee, Sen. Alison Clarkson (D) echoed their call for improved internet access in rural communities.
“We need to have the best high-speed in every downtown,” she said. “We also need it to every premise; to every home, to every business.”
Others who testified emphasized the need to support affordable-housing initiatives that bolster the communities surrounding co-working spaces.
Legislatures in Montpelier are reviewing multiple housing proposals this session, including a multi-million dollar housing revenue bond and housing rehabilitation incentive program.
WEBVTT MODEL FOR SUCCESS. . MATT DUNNE, DIRECTOR OF CENTER OF RURAL INNOVATION “WE NEED TO BE PROACTIVE ABOUT IT AND MAKE SURE THAT WE’RE IN A PLACE WHERE NEW BUSINESSES CAN START BECAUSE ENTRAPANUERS OF TODAY ARE THE EMPLOYERS OF TOMORROW.” BUSINESS LEADERS FROM ACROSS VERMONT – MEETING WITH LAWMAKERS TO DISCUSS THE POTENTIAL OF CO-WORKING SPACES TO ACT AS A SPARK PLUG FOR RURAL DEVELOPMENT. MONIQUE PRIESTLEY, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF SPACE ON MAIN “IT’S A PLACE FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE JUST MOVING INTO TOWNS TO KNOW THEY HAVE A COMMUNITY TO STEP INTO.” MONIQUE PRIESTLEY IS THE FOUNER OF THE SPACE ON MAIN… ONE OF DOZENS OF COMMUNAL WORK FACILITIES THROUGHOUT THE STATE THAT SHE SAYS HELPS FOSTER ENTRIPINUERHSI P BY BRINGING NEW BUSINESS VENTURES TOGETHER UNDER THE SAME ROOF. MONIQUE PRIESTLEY, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER OF SPACE ON MAIN “PEOPLE SEE EADCHOTHER AND HEARING COVERSATIONS AND THAT’S SPARKING IDEAS OR WAYS FOR THEM TO ENGAGE WITH OTHER PEOPLE. THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, HOUSING AND GENRAL AFFARS HEARD TESTAMONY ON THE COLLABORATIVE SPACES HAVE BEEN POPULAR IN START-UP HUBS LIKE BOSTON AND NEW YORK… AND DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER OF RURAL INNOVATION MATT DUNNE OF RURAL INNOVATION MATT DUNNE SAYS USING THEM TO JUMP START DOWNTOWN DEVELOPMENTS IN VERMONT WILL TAKE A UNIQUE TOUCH. MATT DUNNE, DIRECTOR OF CENTER OF RURAL INNOVATION “IT TAKES GRASS- ROOTS ACTIVITIES, FREQUENTLY IN A NON-PROFIT MODEL BUT NOT ALWAYS NESSICARILY, AND SUPPORT FROM THE STATE AND THE COMMUNITY TO MAKE SURE THEY SUCCEED.” ONE KEY AREA HE POINTS TO FOR STATE ASSISTANCE IS SUPPORTING EFFORTS TO EXPAND HIGH- SPEED INTERNET. MATT DUNNE, DIRECTOR OF CENTER OF RURAL INNOVATION “BROADBAND IS THE ELECTRICITY OF OUR TIME. IT IS A NESSICARY PART TO BE ABLE TO PARTISCIPATE IN ECONOMIES ALL OVER THE GLOBE.” SEN. ALISON CLARKSON WINDSOR, VICE CHAIR OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPEMTN, HOUSING, GENERAL AFFAIRS “WE NEED TO HAVE THE BEST HIGH- SPEED IN EVERY DOWNTOWN AND WE ALSO NEED IT IN EVERY PREMISE, IN EVERY HOME IN EVERY BUSINESS.” OTHER WHO TESTIFIED URGED THE COMMITTEE TO SUPPORT HOUSING INCENTIVES AND GRANT PROGRAMS TO HELP BOLSTER COMMUNITY GROWTH AROUND CO- WORKING SPACES. IN BRADFORD, ROSS KETSCHKE NBC 5 NEWS.