This article was originally published in the Tribune-Star on August 27, 2017 .
Recently I had the opportunity to join in on an Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) Listening Session in Sullivan. The information shared by regional residents was valuable and fostered the idea for this article today. It appears there is a tremendous amount of confusion regarding the differences between a co-working space and an incubator. Often the terms are used interchangeably, but there are tremendous elements that set the two apart in their services provided to the business owners and community at large. However, I do recognize the missions of co-workspaces and incubators tend to overlap.
It may be easier to understand the differences between the two paradigms by recognizing the elements and assets they share. For example, they both prepare companies for growth by providing resources, guidance and mentorship but in slightly different methods and through various stages of the business development cycle.
Listed below is a brief overview highlighting some basic differences so you may understand how each operate. Terre Haute has a co-working space and the benefits are different from an incubator. Each has a place in a community and/or region based on assets available, support, resources and funding mechanisms.
As you have read, there are significant differences between incubators and co-workspaces. With so many communities having vacant buildings and opportunities to support businesses, you can determine which model is the best for your community or region.
Launch Terre Haute was founded several years ago locally and has continued to grow in its services and clientele offered locally and regionally. Prior to investing in a business ecosystem in your community be sure to review your community needs, assets and demands of your business owners and residents.
Heather Strohm is a community development regional educator for the Southwest Region of Purdue University Extension who regularly contributes a Business Cents column for the Tribune-Star. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.