How can Coworking Support the Growth of Local Economies?

As demand for flexible workspace rises, so does the opportunity for local economic growth. Here’s our round up of insights shared at the panel session at the recent Flexible Space Association 2023 Conference this week on that very topic.

The pandemic has transformed how and where we work, many employers have realised that they don’t need to have a single HQ office, but use flexible workplaces to host satellite offices or allow hybrid working. This realisation has also meant that their talent attraction is no longer geographically restricted; bringing together the team for meaningful, collaborative work when needed. This shift is having a profound affect too on local economies.

At the Flexible Space Association Conference 2023, Emma Hardy MP (pictured) shared that when she graduated from university, very few of her friends returned to Hull because the opportunities they wanted weren’t located there. Fast forward to today, with a cost of living and housing crisis upon us this is supporting towns and cities across the country to thrive as people have more choice and consequently spend more locally.

The shift of spend to the internet has seen the deterioration of high street shops, and recently we have seen the closure of department stores up and down the country. But this provides the flexible workspace sector with an opportunity to move onto the high street. This is a strategy that both Clockwise and Patch are looking at, Freddie Fforde founder of Patch said: “There are 170 Debenham Buildings across the country; this provides operators with a huge amount of opportunity… our role is to facilitate business, not just with desk space but makers’ space.. and we are even partnering with local businesses to operate cafes… we are a new department store of sorts.”

The Levelling Up agenda is all about rebalancing the economy and making it less London-centric. The government has put together £4.8 billion of Levelling Up Funds available for councils and authorities to bid for to regenerate town centre and high streets, upgrade local transport, and invest in cultural and heritage assets.

Katy Tenant of Clockwise shares that this has helped shape their approach, moving into university towns and cities, to provide places to work and plug into the momentum around tech and renewables.

Flexible workspaces are in a position to support local industries and the communities they are in, the operators on the panel spoke about their relationship with the local authorities. Luke Pulford, of Warwickshire Business Centres said “The door is open!” with councils looking to actively support flexible operators. Emma echoed this sentiment, encouraging operators to share their ambitions and challenges with their local MPs and Councils to find solutions, partnership training and even funding.

So, how are coworking supporting the growth of local economies? The alignment is clear, operators want to create great spaces, to enable employees and business within them to thrive, councils and authorities share this ambition too – and with the levelling up agenda, there shouldn’t be anything stopping us.


You can view a selection off photos from the Conference and Exhibition here.

26 May 2023

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