Falmouth Economic Development and Industrial Corporation voted unanimously Tuesday morning, July 17, to fund up to $12,500 for a $25,000 matching grant from the Massachusetts Development and Finance Agency for a collaborative workspace feasibility study.
EDIC member Michael B. Galasso said MassDevelopment submitted a request for proposals, offering a grant up to $250,000 for communities that have a building to be fitted out for a coworking space. The first step is a seed grant of $25,000 that the town would have to match dollar for dollar to do a feasibility study to see if there is a demand for such a project.
“Doing a professional feasibility study will give us a lot more information about the need,” he said.
The nearest coworking spaces to Falmouth are CapeSpace in Hyannis, Groundwork in New Bedford and WeWork in Boston.
Mr. Galasso said that a coworking space would be beneficial for young entrepreneurs as well as older workers and retirees who are looking for a workspace that has meeting spaces, private offices, and facilities for printing and collaboration.
“It really becomes an incubator for small businesses,” he said, noting that MassDevelopment representatives have met with Town Manager Julian M. Suso and his staff about promoting a coworking space in Falmouth.
The first step is for the EDIC to contribute at least half the cost, or $12,500, of the grant, he said.
If the state approves the application, the EDIC would issue a request for proposals for a consulting company to carry out the feasibility study “to tell us what the market is, how big of a space we should have, where it should go.”
Once the town has a building appropriate for the coworking space, the EDIC could apply for the annual $250,000 grant in a future funding round, he said.
The EDIC has close to $400,000 in uncommitted funds, Mr. Galasso said, adding that while the EDIC should ask for the entire $25,000 grant, he felt confident that a consulting company could complete the feasibility study for $12,500.
“Our commitment would be half of $25,000,” he said. “Right now I don’t see us spending any more than that.”
The board briefly discussed possible locations for a building, including in the Falmouth Technology Park in East Falmouth.
EDIC chairman Christopher Land said that the drawback to the technology park is that it might be seen as remote from restaurants and housing.
“It’s somewhat out of the way for someone who is, say, renting a beach house,” he said. “You’ve got to drive all the way up there to go work.”
The chairman said that Boston’s WeWork started out small with an underutilized building, fitted out the space minimally and scaled up slowly as it grew. A feasibility study would help pinpoint what would work best for Falmouth, he said.
Mr. Galasso said that Beth Colt, one of the owners of the Woods Hole Inn and Quicks Hole Tavern and Taqueria, has an interest in creating a collaborative commercial kitchen that could be used for a variety of purposes, including catering and cooking classes.
“It seems to me the kitchen space is one of those things where there could be a lot of growth opportunity and potential,” board member Brooks P. Bartlett said.
“I think this [a coworking space] is something that addresses how do we grow business and enhance the businesses we have,” he said. “This certainly would be that vehicle in my thinking.”