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Mar 11

Coworking Rural America

Posted on March 11, 2021 at 9:13 AM by D'Asia Green

This week’s blog is an article from South Carolina’s Rural Innovation Network. Click here to view the original article.


Before the pandemic, coworking spaces were on the rise, with the flexibility they offered

appealing to workers across industries. While the coworking trend began in major cities, it

has spread to rural regions as well; Proximity, a coworking software platform (and one

that received investment from the CORI Innovation Fund), had more than 250 rural

spaces in its network in 2020.

Coming out of the pandemic, coworking spaces will play a key role in rural economic

success. When CORI works with rural communities, we take a comprehensive approach

to developing digital economy ecosystem strategies. We see Coworking and

Entrepreneurship Spaces as part of a community’s “Necessary Infrastructure”—the

components that allow a place to compete in the digital economy.

To learn more about how rural coworking spaces make an impact, we spoke with Kate

Schwarzler, founder of Indy Commons, a coworking space and business hub in

Independence, OR—one of our Rural Innovation Network Communities. Below we share

Kate’s top 4 reasons why coworking matters in small-town communities.

Why rural coworking matters

1. Coworking spaces improve the local business community and make Main Street


Coworking provides more than just space to work. A successful space can offer resources

to the business community, make connections that advance local commerce, and host

events that foster a stronger business climate. Many remote workers or sole proprietors

often have to work from home or from less expensive locations outside the town center

since paying higher rent doesn’t make business sense. A downtown coworking space,

however, can give people like this an opportunity to work on Main Street in the center of

the action—both better incorporating these talented people into the community and driving

traffic and business to other nearby shops.

2. Coworking spaces can create community, especially in a post-COVID environment

for remote workers

It’s easy to see coworking as simply selling desks, selling wifi, or selling a coffee pot. But

in reality, coworking spaces are about selling a sense of community—and one where

people can actively participate. Coworking spaces can serve as the home base for groups

of like-minded individuals and businesses that want to combine flexibility with the social

camaraderie of the traditional office. Knowing that there are people dealing with similar

issues, people to bounce ideas around with, people to learn from and share opportunities

with—the benefits are huge. This is especially true for remote workers in rural areas, who

often don’t have outlets to connect with or even find each other. With a coworking space

as a central hub, this community of talented people can build social bonds at a place

where they can also advance their careers.

3. Coworking spaces create new kinds of opportunities in rural areas that improve

quality of life

Rural areas are known for their high quality of life: beautiful scenery, strong communities,

open space, lower costs of living, and more. But too often, people don’t see these towns

as places for a career. With a strong coworking presence, rural communities can have

both. Coworking spaces offer a home for remote workers and longtime residents alike

looking to connect in new ways. As Kate put it, the opportunities presented by rural

coworking “allow people to write their own life, plan their own life, and realize they can live

in these amazing rural areas while also having a career that is fulfilling and exciting.” By

adding this integral component to local ecosystems, coworking spaces both expand and

tap into existing community assets to create a more diversified and sustainable


4. Coworking spaces can elevate a culture of entrepreneurship to the next level

A rural coworking space will is more likely to succeed when it has the support of the

community. That takes legwork, because, often, coworking is a new concept to many small

towns. But if the town culture is one that encourages experimentation, innovation, and

forward-thinking, then with time, coworking spaces can be seen for the assets they are.

This is most true when the community has a culture of inclusive technology, with an active

effort made to encourage all groups to participate and be celebrated. With this culture and

physical space both in place, communities can build on their coworking infrastructure to

lay the groundwork for a stronger digital economy ecosystem that drives entrepreneurship

and local business success.


Kate’s story and her space at Indy Commons form a prime example of putting these

principles into practice. She grew up in a very small town in Oregon, and she often heard

that places like hers just didn’t have good jobs, so she would have to leave to look for a

career. She got tired of hearing that, so when she returned to rural Oregon in

Independence, she had a mission: create a space that builds the community and lets

people form careers they’re proud of from the small town they loved. As Indy Commons

has grown, it’s always kept the community at its core, becoming a space with shared

resources, shared expertise, and a shared sense of potential for an inclusive local


Rural places everywhere should share in this insight—and build their own coworking

spaces too, forming the foundation of a strong digital economy ecosystem to come.


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