Remote workers flocked to Maine at the outset of the pandemic, boosting the state’s population for the first time in years.

Gov. Janet Mills wants to make sure they stay.

Six southern Maine co-working companies received just shy of $137,000 in grant funding as part of the state’s Remote Worker Welcome Program, a venture that seeks to turn Maine’s influx of remote workers into long-term economic opportunity.

The money aims to increase the availability of these communal offices known as co-working spaces by stabilizing existing businesses that were disrupted by the pandemic and creating or expanding new spaces.

It’s part of a $500,000 package of awards announced Friday as part of the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan.

“During the pandemic, thousands of people decided to move to Maine and bring their work with them. These grants from my Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan will create more workspace options for anyone who wants to make Maine their office and their home,” Mills said.


Think Tank Biddeford, SoPoCo. Works, The Third Place, CoworkHERS and Factory 3 each received $13,375 for pandemic recovery, while Sync Gorham received $70,000 for expansion.

The state’s population grew by 55,000 people in just three years and at a rate that has far outpaced the national average.

If Maine is going to leverage that increase into economic growth, supporting remote workers – those who are already in Maine and those who might come to Maine – is critical, said Heather Johnson, commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development.

Rob Woodman started Sync Gorham in 2019 out of what he said was primarily a selfish need. He was looking for office space outside of the house – he loved working from home in theory, but ended up spending a lot of time working at Panera Bread, missing the proverbial water cooler effect.

He stumbled upon an office condo in Gorham and thought “ ‘Oh, I could actually turn this into something,’ ” he said.

Woodman opened Sync with five private offices, which filled up quickly. After the initial interest, it seemed like the need in the area had been met.


“Then COVID hit and co-working became cool,” he said.

The demand grew, so Sync did too.

Now Woodman has 18 offices in the same Gorham building, formerly the Playhouse Theatre. He stopped doing any marketing two years ago because he’s already operating with a waitlist.

Woodman said he was at peace with that until another 1,000 square feet opened up in the building.

The real estate boom and interest rates made the expansion financially impractical, he said. He could only turn the space into five or six offices with some additional open seating, and with the purchase price and the cost of renovations, he couldn’t justify the cost.

But now, with the $70,000 grant, his expenses are nearly cut in half and Woodman said he’s changed his mind.


Woodman is excited about the ability to grow Sync and he’s been surprised, but appreciative, of the ongoing support for remote work.

“I think it’s so common now, the government still sees a need to invest in this,” he said. “It’s not a fad tied to COVID, it’s very much an option for this new style of working.”

Adilah Muhammad was surprised when she heard The Third Place received $13,375.

She applied for “dramatically less” funding for the Portland nonprofit geared toward fostering professional collaboration for businesses and organizations run and owned by people of color. She’s grateful for the money, which she said will help broaden the organization’s reach.

“The space is really an opportunity for folks to be able to work together but also share resources,” she said. “We’ve been operating pretty bare bones for the space itself.”

With the money, Mohammad said she can outfit The Third Place with new monitors, beef up security with new, more advanced locks, improve remote meeting capabilities or get a commercial printer.

Since the organization received more money than expected, Mohammad plans to meet with the people who use the space to see what additional features would help the most.

“There’s so much demand for the work that we’re doing,” she said. “(This is) a welcome opportunity to be able to invite more people into the space and not restrict the numbers as we’ve had to do in the past.”

Sunrise County Economic Council in Machias also received $13,375 for pandemic recovery. Design Monster LLC in Camden and Lights Out Gallery in Oxford each received $100,000 for expansion or startup. Mount Desert River LLC received $82,000 for growth or startup and Union and Co in Bath received $67,750.

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