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Business Incubator Brings Variety to Downtown Macon

April 10, 2017  |  By Erika Conleay, Director of Place, NewTown Macon
This article appeared in the April 2017 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
Erika Conleay
 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.
 
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