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Coworking Feasibility Report Highlights

Posted by: FernieChamber
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Fernie Coworking Feasibility Highlights

In the summer of 2017, Fernie Chamber of Commerce with support from the Rural Dividend Fund completed a Coworking and Business Accelerator Feasibility Study. A coworking space is a shared work environment. It has the features of a typical office space, but unlike a typical office, those working in a coworking space are usually not employed by the same organization. You may find freelancers, remote workers, solopreneurs, or small companies working out of a coworking space. And the benefits are great. A Harvard Business Review study found employees thrive in coworking spaces. 
What we found in Fernie. We have a significant number of interested individuals. They are interested in learning more and participating once the space opens. Our study had 58 responses from entrepreneurs, executive directors, and remote workers. The 2011 National Housing Survey reports 215 people in Fernie identify themselves as working from home. These number suggest there are a great number of potential users for a coworking space. 
There is still lots of opportunity to participate with the Chamber of Commerce as we work to move the project ahead. We need to find an appropriate space, and find the appropriate sources of funding to get the project started. In the meantime, there may be an opportunity for an interim ‘pop-up’ solution to begin on a smaller scale with some of the most interested participants.

Study Highlights:

A coworking centre is feasible in Fernie, BC and is desired by the business community as a collaborative workspace for the entrepreneurs and professionals that are being attracted to Fernie.
The biggest limiting factor to opening a coworking facility in Fernie is not the demand from prospective users, but the availability of appropriately located, zoned and fit-out space. The preferred location of most prospective tenants is to locate the facility in the City’s historic downtown core where it is proximate to café’s, restaurants, and other businesses. Space requirements are a minimum of 2,500 of contiguous space, and ideally 3,000 sf.
There is no single reason why people join a coworking space. Rather, it is the confluence of several factors ranging from social interaction with others, to access to markets and services, to simply having a professional space with which to work from when required. The top four motivations for wanting to participate in a coworking facility are as follows:
  • - To have a more private and professional space – to have a more professional environment for working and meeting with clients and colleagues, away from the distractions of a home environment.
  • - To have a more social work environment– to get away from working alone and to meet others in the community.
  • - To have access to space – to have adequate space for hosting larger groups including events, team meetings, and board meetings. 
  • - To gain access to expertise - to have access to individuals who whose services and expertise can help build my business.
While less popular, two other motivations cited by respondents included:
  • - For local economy - to gain access to other people and organizations in the community who could use their services (such as bookkeeping, marketing or graphic design)
  • - To have a more flexible lease arrangement – to gain access to a premium office environment with a more flexible leasing arrangement than they currently have.
A Fernie coworking centre could provide a considerable opportunity for driving greater local collaboration and a sharing of local skills. The creation of a shared skills economy where local businesses purchase more services from, and sell more services to, other local businesses is a key potential economic benefit of creating a Fernie coworking facility.
Therefore, the greater diversity of the workers that can be attracted to the space, the greater the opportunity there is likely to be for collaboration and skills sharing.
The Fernie Chamber of Commerce is continuing to explore next steps on the creation of a coworking space. Those interested in learning more are welcome to talk to Executive Director Patty Vadnais. 

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