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Grant Money Could Spur Innovative Workspaces in New Bedford

August 28, 2014 :, by Simon Rios

NEW BEDFORD – A new state grant program could spur some innovative workspaces in the city, whether that’s in the form of an incubator for startups, a makerspace joining engineers and hackers, or some combination of the two.

The $2 million in grant money is available through the recently-passed Transformative Development Fund, which aims to foster development in the state’s post-industrial “Gateway Cities,” which include New Bedford.

MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones is managing the components of the $16 million Transformative Development Fund.

“All of us are changing the way we work, and the typical office is different than it used to be,” Jones said.

Jones pointed to two existing models that inspired the project. “Makerspaces,” otherwise known as “hackerspaces,” are one, bringing together hobbyists and professionals of all stripes into a collective space with collectively-owned tools and other resources.

“You go in and there’s somebody that’s making birdhouses and there’s somebody that’s making robots, and they’re sharing the same machines,” Jones said, referring to a makerspace in Somerville.

The other model is the “entrepreneurship incubator,” targeted toward people interested in starting their own businesses. Whether it’s someone who wants to open a daycare or their neighbor who dreams of running a food business, Jones said this model goes beyond the “young techie types” often associated with the innovation economy.

Derek Santos, executive director of the New Bedford Economic Development Council, said his group is in talks with two local groups who could capitalize on the new grants.

On one hand is the business Groundwork, which aims to open a shared office environment for startups and freelancers in the city. The second group, South Coast Innovators Lab, wants to open a makerspace. Neither has landed a space to realize their projects, but that’s where the grant money could help.

“From what’s been proposed and what we’ve been working on for months, it looks like a tremendous fit,” Santos said.

The program was announced on Wednesday. Santos said meetings will take place in the near future to discuss what grant proposals might look like.

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