Too often, economic development activities focus on attracting new businesses, and subsequently jobs to the community. While new business attraction does have a positive economic impact on the local economy, it can require substantial resources. A business incubator and innovation center can help to facilitate the development of entrepreneurial talent and startup businesses in the City. The goal of the innovation center/incubator is to grow ideas into successful businesses that then leave the facility as economically viable companies, thereby creating jobs and supporting the local economy.
An innovation center and business incubator will typically provide two types of services. Business assistance services may be in the form of technical support and management guidance related to business strategy, marketing, finance, legal, or product development as well as more general networking connections. Facility-based services can include both a coworking space and small, flexible office spaces for start-up businesses. Coworking spaces can host a variety of entrepreneurs and small businesses and typically include an open workspace with a variety of workstations as well as breakout or conference rooms. Coworking spaces can host special events, networking opportunities, and casual meet ups. In addition to the coworking space, it can be beneficial to offer individual, small office spaces with short term leases. As companies succeed and grow out of the coworking space they may want a more private office. However, these companies are still considered start-ups and can’t provide the assurance for long-term office leases. If successful, they may quickly outgrow an office space or be acquired by a larger firm and join their office. If not successful, they may shift focus or have to contract back into a coworking space or home office. Either way, a long-term lease on an office space for a handful of employees is not practical.
A coworking space has been discussed as part of a larger mixed-use development on S. Lebanon Street. Such a project would greatly contribute to downtown revitalization efforts by creating modern living units, new retail opportunities, and an economic and activity hub in the coworking space itself. In fact, a business incubator and innovation hub shouldn’t be isolated to an office building. Integrating it with other uses in a walkable district will further the goals of interaction and information sharing for the betterment of all involved.
Launch Fishers is a local example of an entrepreneurial coworking space. Founded in 2012, Launch Fishers is organized as a not-for-profit organization, but it did receive most of its initial funding from the Town of Fishers and again when Launch Fishers grew out of its initial space into a larger, renovated office facility. The current space is over 50,000 square feet and includes open work spaces, numerous conference and meeting rooms, 16 dedicated offices, and a full-service coffee shop. It hosts multiple events every week, on a range of topics to help build successful businesses. Membership is available on a monthly or annual basis and is open to all, not just Fishers residents.