BIDDEFORD — In celebration of National Entrepreneurship Month, the Maine Department of Economic & Community Development’s Office of Business Development has awarded 16 Maine Coworking Development Fund and Program grants to 12 communities statewide, including Biddeford. The Fund, established in statute by the Maine Legislature in 2015, was left unfunded until Governor Janet Mills invested $200,000 in her biennial budget to support coworking programs. Assistant Majority Leader Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford, also championed the concept in the Legislature, conveying the value of coworking spaces to local communities.

“Attracting talented people to live and work in Maine, especially in rural communities across our state, is critical to expanding our economy and building a better future for our state,” Mills said. “Coworking spaces create community hubs that foster the flexibility and ingenuity employers and employees need to work in our 21st century economy. I look forward to the economic and community development these grants will support.”

“Collaborative work spaces are part of the future of work, building community and connection for early-stage entrepreneurs, free-lancers, and remote workers. They foster dreaming, sharing, iteration, and risk-taking through their energy, density of people, and community-building activities,” DECD Commissioner Heather Johnson said. “In addition, coworking spaces are at the nexus of multiple areas of economic strategy — they are among the amenities that can be offered to tourists, they serve as a hub of information and community for remote workers, and they serve as a signal to entrepreneurs and new businesses that a community understands the value of connection.”

“Sponsoring legislation this year to replenish funding for the Maine Coworking Development Fund was a top priority for me. I am grateful that, in collaboration with the Mills Administration, we did just that. As a result, 16 collaborative workplaces in geographically diverse parts of Maine will receive funding and thus improve our economic landscape,” Fecteau said. “More and more companies are shifting to unconventional work structures, like encouraging remote employees, and young entrepreneurs are looking for affordable space to get their ventures off the ground. These collaborative workplaces provide that space while also connecting communities and driving economic growth.”

All 16 projects support the Fund’s goals of strengthening opportunities for entrepreneurship; stimulating innovation; and addressing regional market demand for affordable work environments that support communication, information sharing and networking opportunities. In support of these goals, the sixteen selected enterprises will also participate in a “Coworking Codesign Cohort” with regular convenings of participating coworking spaces to encourage connections and collaborations between and among these spaces.

In addiition to ThinkTank Biddeford of Biddeford, other grant recipients include: CoVort Coworking of Bangor, Four Directions Development Corp. of Pleasant Point, Bricks Coworking & Innovation Space of Waterville, Our Katahdin of Millinocket, Union River Center for Innovation of Ellsworth, CoworkHERS of Portland, Factory 3 of Portland, 487 Development Corporation of Pittsfield, Cloudport of Portland, Open Bench Project of Portland, Union + Co of Bath, SoPoCoWorks, South Portland, Mayo Mill of Dover-Foxcroft, Peloton Labs of Portland, and School Street Cowork of Bath.

Maine DECD is more than two dozen experts whose broad mission is to help communities and businesses prosper through a variety of programs providing everything from targeted tax relief to community block grants to tourism marketing. For more information, visit https://www.maine.gov/decd/home.