Coworking Spaces Can Be Idea Factories

For many years now, we’ve been preaching the virtues of inspiring and facilitating entrepreneurship as a sound economic-development strategy, one that is often overlooked by many.

Indeed, that phrase ‘economic development’ is usually associated with filling industrial parks or convincing foreign automakers to build a 1 million-square-foot factory in one’s community. And that’s one way to go about it, granted a very difficult way.

The more old-fashioned way is to encourage the creation of startups and then finding ways to help them grow — and stay — in one’s region. It takes longer, but the results are often more sustainable. This is why we have encouraged groups and initiatives such as Valley Venture Mentors (VVM) in their efforts to help get businesses off to the ground and then get to that next level.

And also why we’re quite impressed with what’s going on at 20 Hampton Ave., Suite 150 in Northampton.

This is the address of Click Workspace (see story on page 12), a unique facility that its founders and current president Paul Silva, also involved with VVM, say specializes in “collisions.”

These are meetings of the minds that often turn into business opportunities in the form of collaborations, assistance that might help an idea come to fruition or a business take a critical next step, or startups that could eventually employ dozens of people.

Click Workspace has seen all of the above, and repeatedly. Maybe the best example of such a collision involves Randall Smith and Chris Landry. The former is a digital strategist and founder of a company called PowerLabs. The latter is the founder of Landry Communications, a branding venture that helps organizations get their stories out. The two met at Work Clickspace and quickly determined that their skills were complementary. They wound up responding as a team to a request for proposals from Boston-based Chorus Foundation and won a sizable contract from the agency.

There are countless other examples of how these collisions work, and they provide ample evidence of the fact that the region needs to find ways to create more of them.

Those involved with ‘Click,’ as it’s called, are interested in taking the concept to other area cities and towns, and we hope they are successful in doing so.

They need some ingredients to fall into place for that to happen, though, including a critical mass of entrepreneurs and creative professionals and affordable commercial real estate, something they somehow managed to find in Northampton, despite the long odds against doing so.

Their next target should be downtown Springfield, and there is already movement to establish a facility there. It’s a common-sense step, because there is considerable activity involving entrepreneurship in the city’s central business district — VVM meets there regularly — and there could be much more in the years to come with UMass having an active presence and initiatives underway to create a larger, more vibrant creative economy there.

What’s needed is a space where the minds can meet and collisions can happen.

There is already much happening when it comes to economic development in Springfield, from the planned $800 million casino complex in the South End to the long-awaited revitalization of Union Station to UMass Amherst’s planned satellite center. These should all create more vibrancy and more interest in the City of Homes, but what’s needed is more focus on inspiring entreprenership and spurring new small businesses.

A coworking facility that can replicate some of those collisions happening at 20 Hampton Ave. in Northampton would be a great place to start. n

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