Gangplank, a collaborative workspace in Chandler, Arizona, is in the process of expanding to other parts of state. As we grow, our leaders have found that a critical piece of the expansion is building a connection with the corresponding municipalities. Having the support of the city has opened up innumerable opportunities to our space and participants.
Why it’s critical
Opening a space is hard enough. Getting landlords or local businesses to understand what you’re doing can be even more difficult. Friction with the local government can prevent you from carrying out your vision to build a community and make helping small businesses a headache.
Avoid ‘the man’ complex by being proactive. We’ve found that building a solid relationship has encouraged the city to work with us on changing laws or revisiting programs that may hurt small business rather than help. In most cases, cities and workspaces are out for the same goals, but the city leadership doesn’t always have the background or ‘boots-on-the-ground knowledge’ of the demographics they are trying to serve. Collaborative workspaces are invaluable for the real world data they can provide to city governments about the future of work and startup world.
How this works for Gangplank
As part of the Downtown Chandler redevelopment, which included construction of a state-of-the-art City Hall, Chandler leadership has worked to make the area more pedestrian friendly and encourage walkability between retail and city offices. Being a community space, Gangplank shares this goal with the city. As a result, Gangplank has partnered with the city on multiple ways to utilize vacant lots between spaces, further encouraging patrons to stay in Downtown Chandler longer.
For example, Gangplank is partnering with Chandler and Harvest for Humanity to build an urban garden in one such vacant lot. The garden will provide food to a local food bank, as well as teach students at the nearby high school about sustainable living. Additionally, Gangplank arranged conversations with street food vendors and the city to brainstorm ways to work around laws preventing food trucks from coming to downtown. The goal is to set-up a weekly ‘mobile food court’ in a vacant lot across from City Hall, encouraging employees to stay downtown for lunch, as well as get outside and walk around.
Collaborative workspaces very often offer services and programming that are invaluable to local businesses and surrounding community. Partnering with a municipality on job-training, mentoring or startup events will bring in new blood to your space, as well as connect you with local business owners that can become walking evangelists for your space.
Be a part of something bigger
These relationships take time. If you are thinking about opening a space, start talking with your local economic development office early. Share your vision, what you hope to offer the community and ways their office can collaborate with your members. Invite council members and employees to the opening so they can better explain the purpose and makeup of the space when talking about opportunities in your town. Introduce yourself to local restaurant owners and recommend them to your members when event planning.
Already have a space? Don’t hesitate. Offer a special event for council members to stop by or encourage members to participate in local events. A number of our companies have volunteered services or planned group outings to Chandler festivities.
Be a good community member and the city will become your biggest ally.
For additional examples of workspaces partnering with city government, check out Beth Buczynski's post on 'Can Coworking and City Governments Partner?'