Booming business means more Valley companies are utilizing coworking spaces to grow in new directions.
Coworking is the new normal. So declares a recent headline on Allwork.Space, an online news outlet focused entirely on trends in the flexible workspace industry, the existence of which alone proves its point. Paula Gomprecht, vice president of marketing for Serendipity Labs, a coworking franchise opening the first of nine Phoenix offices this month, cites a 2018 report from real estate investment firm JLL showing the flexible space sector has grown at an average rate of 23 percent each year since 2010, now occupying at least 8.1 million square feet in the U.S. In the Valley, flex space grew by nearly 264,000 square feet between 2016 and 2017.
“Part of it has to do with the fact that large, established corporations are adapting the mobility of their workforce,” she says, throwing out the stereotype that most coworking members aren’t all scrappy tech startups, gig economy hustlers and starving freelancers looking for WiFi beyond their local Starbucks.
“It’s the future of working,” says Matt Clyde, founder and chief strategist of Ideas Collide, a Phoenix digital marketing agency with headquarters in Old Town Scottsdale and a satellite branch in a coworking space in Portland, Oregon’s artsy, high-end Pearl District. “We’ve been in the Portland market for nearly 12 years, and then in 2016 we identified a need to have a more visible presence in the market with key clients,” he says of the decision to buy membership at a Portland coworking chain called CENTRL Office. “It gives you the ability to work alongside companies there, but at a cost that’s plausible for growth… it gives us exposure.”
In the last few years, local corporations like health care giant McKesson – which opened a new, 271,000-square-foot office in North Scottsdale last spring – have begun housing individuals and small incubator teams at Galvanize, the tech school/coworking hybrid in Downtown’s Warehouse District. Andy Zitney, senior vice president of strategy and technology platforms at McKesson, says in addition to access to the pipeline of tech talent at Galvanize, the space encourages efficiency and innovation by eliminating time-wasters prevalent in normal corporate environments like constant, unnecessary meetings. “What we do in Galvanize is almost an innovation lab,” he says.
“By embedding [small] teams together [for three to six months] in a unique environment, faster-paced environment, we’re trying to prove you can get it done efficiently.” Once a project is complete, Zitney says the team will bring back “that culture” to the “regular pipeline” at corporate headquarters.
Meanwhile, rather than outsource teams to independent coworking hubs, some Valley companies are building their own. The Better Business Bureau Pacific Southwest opened a flex workspace called Ignite at its Central Phoenix offices in November. The Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is the spot’s anchor tenant with about 16 full-time staff. Director of entrepreneur programs Kimberly Roland says the rest of the 5,000-square-foot space will cater to first-time entrepreneurs needing assistance and advice. “My goal for 2019 is to build it out so we have a business concierge team at Ignite, where you can walk up and ask questions and get a consultation.”
Flex space can help corporate offices minimize vacancies, according to this forecast.