Augusta — A competitive grant program is available to create more coworking and collaborative workspaces to support entrepreneurship in Maine.

The grants will be awarded through the Maine Coworking Development Fund and Program, which was established by the Maine Legislature in 2015 but was not funded until 2019 when Governor Janet Mills, with support from then-Assistant Majority Leader Ryan Fecteau, recognized that coworking is a promising element of entrepreneurship support and recapitalized the Fund with $200,000 in her first and most recent biennial budgets.

“We knew before the pandemic that Maine, with all its strengths, was well-positioned to welcome more remote workers. That’s why in my first budget we funded this grant program to expand coworking spaces,” said Mills. “With the onset of the pandemic, and with our success in keeping our state one of the safest places in the country, our ability to attract remote workers has only grown. Now, through investments like these, creating and improving more coworking and collaborative workspaces around the state will make it easier for people to stay in and come to Maine, for small businesses to grow, and for Maine people to thrive in the workforce.”

“I pushed for the bill that founded this investment in coworking spaces because they have proven to be great business incubators in Maine communities, bringing working people together in new ways,” said House Speaker Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford. “They attract entrepreneurs of all ages and they serve as a hub for Maine’s roughly 15,000 remote workers. Given our tourism economy, coworking spaces could very well mean our visitors spend an extra week in Bethel, Millinocket, Presque Isle or Portland.”

“Coworking spaces build community and connection for early-stage entrepreneurs, free-lancers, and remote workers. As we continue to see an increased need for remote workspace, this grant program will give support for expansion or upgrades of current coworking space, and funding to help create new coworking spaces,” said Heather Johnson, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. “Co-working spaces continue to play a role to the long-term economic growth of Maine. They are among the amenities that can be offered to tourists, they serve as a hub of information and community for remote workers, as well as a signal to entrepreneurs and new businesses that a community understands the value of connection.”

Awards of up to $20,000 per collaborative workspace business can be used for a broad range of activities that 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 Department will also launch regular convenings of participating coworking spaces to encourage connections and collaborations between and among Maine’s collaborative workspaces.

Applications for grant funds will be reviewed competitively against five criteria: connection to program goals; application enterprise and team; project goals and impact; economic and community impact; business plan and budget, with additional weight given to projects located in economically distressed geographic areas. The program and grant guidelines can be found on the Department website at Coworking Development Fund Guidelines (https://www.maine.gov/decd/sites/maine.gov.decd/files/inline-files/Coworking%20Grant%20Announcement%20and%20Guidelines%20v2%209.30.21.pdf)

In 2019, the Department awarded grants to 19 businesses. According to the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee, remote work will play an important role in Maine’s future and is worthy of further investment. To that end, in addition to this program, the Governor is investing $5 million through the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan to attract remote workers to Maine and to provide for additional grants to support collaborative workspaces.

The Department of Economic and Community Development’s Office of Business Developmenthas information about this program and others within the Office of Business Development online at https://www.maine.gov/decd/business-development.

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