Many declining cities already have a consequent amount of underutilized and cheap real estate. These places could be transformed into shared office space, in order to create centers of innovation (similar to the Hub in San Francisco -acknowledging that SF is already a vibrant city, or Haarlem, Netherlands), which can inspire in the longer run locals to be more entrepreneurial and create their own companies. During the inspiration phase, many contributions pointed out examples of using empty building (in Seattle, New York, London and Bilbao, as well as Detroit). In Seattle, the project is a program of the City of Seattle, funded through multiple city departments along with various neighborhood groups, business improvement associations, and merchants’ associations.
"Incentive package" for the start-ups
-- Cheap real estate: The city can give away free or very cheap buildings.
-- Other amenities such as affordable housing (Thanks Josh).
- For example, of you locate for at least a year, the city will invest in your company
- More investment would be allocated to start ups that hire local people (to help the city struggle less economically)
For non-profit partners, corporate sponsors could underwrite the utilities to get these workspaces up and running, literally "empowering" a cause and their brand (Thanks Catherine).
- We could think of having a partnership between the incubator and organizations like Venture for America to attract more talent.
- Perhaps food and beverage (coffee!) entrepreneurs could be sought alongside start-ups? (Thanks Avi and Meena)
- Having non-profits as well as start-ups (Thanks Iwona).
- Creating a network connecting different incubators together (Thanks Jeroen).
Advantages for the city / the sponsor
-- Tax revenue that the city wouldn't be getting if the offices / buildings sit vacant.
-- Shares in the companies: In exchange for free rent, you could issue the city some kind of convertible shares in the company. If the company ends up doing well (i.e., it's the next Apple, Google, etc.) then the city reaps the upside and if not, then the shares aren't worth anything and the city did its best to try and seed innovation (Thanks Rob).
-- The biggest advantage of all: job creation. As Rob phrased it:
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