It seems that the great resignation of 2021 is bringing a flood of scrappy startups, boot-strapped solopreneurs, hour-picking remote workers, and web-based service professionals to Western Colorado, and thanks to a growing network of co-working spaces, the number of digital nomads heading this way is only going to grow.
Lower cost of living compared to bigger cities draws many to our rural communities, but relocating and moving an idea from concept to execution always requires money - lots and lots of money in some cases. The most expensive and complicated step in a startup can be getting that first office space up and running; the costs of renting a building and bringing in all the tech can be astronomical. For this reason alone, there are hundreds of people working out of basements and coffee shops all over the Western Slope.
Distractions at home and the relative isolation of “solopreneurism” are the main problems that a co-working space aims to address. Co-working spaces offer “a better alternative to working from home,” says Brian Watson, local entrepreneur and co-founder of Altspace.
Watson and his team have connected five of these spaces under the Altspace umbrella: Grand Junction (two locations: downtown and C.M.U. campus), Montrose, Ridgway, and Telluride.
“We really feel that the best strategy for elevating the western slope is taking a regional approach,” Watson said. “We’ve tied all the spaces together, so when you get access to one space, you get automatic access to all five locations.” This “nomad pass” is for individuals and teams that travel the entire Western slope. This idea of fully automated and regionally connected business resource centers is a unique concept being developed and tested on the western slope.
That doesn’t mean all local co-working spaces are in the network yet, even though they all work closely together. One such space scheduled to open by the end of 2021 is in Olathe. The new co-working space is a grant-funded initiative of the nonprofit M.O.B. (Making Olathe Better). It will offer business and career development seminars,as well as high-tech office space. The goal, according to Erik Westesen, executive director, is not only “to bring more professionals and money to Olathe, but teaching and mentoring too, and that gives me that good feeling of helping out.”
“Our goal is really to connect entrepreneurs and remote workers to the tools, resources, and people that they need in order to be successful,'' Watson said. “I would say [co-working] is probably the new tool of economic development; in the past, we’ve had chambers of commerce, economic development entities, and libraries.”
The takeaway is this: Co-working spaces build the local business ecosystem. The first law of ecology states that everything is connected to everything else. Thus, connectivity to so many parts of the community is how co-working spaces are quickly becoming essential for economic development and growth.