Paint a Redevelopment Picture with Numbers: A new co-working space anchors a small downtown

Downtown Wake Forest, NC is historic and charming featuring many shops and restaurants. One thing it does not yet have is a major employer. When Jason Cannon, President of Wake Forest’s Business and Industry Partnership (BIP), learned that a local operator of co-working spaces had plans to convert a downtown warehouse into co-working and event space, his imagination was ignited – he imagined dozens of new businesses and their workers and clients who would be coming to downtown.

Excited about the prospects for this increased economic activity in the downtown, Jason reached out to Creative EDC to discuss using economic impact modeling to illustrate the people and dollars that were likely to be circulating in the local economy when the new co-working facility was up and running.

The challenge he saw was creating the same excitement he felt in other local leaders, local developers, and prospects evaluating Wake Forest for new investments. Creative EDC suggested using IMPLAN modeling with a hypothetical mix of economic activity in the renovated space to estimate the number of new jobs and spending that could be attributed to such a space.

Since the project was still in the design phase, we worked with the developer to profile the types of companies that were clients in their other co-working facilities (Wake Forest would be the fifth location in Wake County for this company.) as well as the types of events typically hosted in their facilities. With a combination of open desk space and many private offices available, the co-working facility has the potential to host dozens of companies.

Using other similar co-working spaces for reference, and looking at the market for the event space, BIP and Creative EDC created a scenario of future activities in the space with a mix of occupations, companies, and a reasonable occupancy rate for the rentable space indoors and out. The IMPLAN model estimated that 147 new jobs in the facility would generate an additional 160 jobs in the county.

“I was a sceptic,” says James Cannon. “I was stunned by some of the numbers. But after ‘triple-checking’ the data and analysis I realized this was the perfect tool to help others understand the potential impact of this redevelopment downtown. Helping people to understand the 147 new jobs – that would be the largest job announcement for downtown.”

The BIP uses the economic impact report to help anyone who is interested in downtown to see the potential market, especially now that the facility is under construction. The prospects of additional people spending their time and money in downtown has also got the town thinking about amenities and other public investments that might complement these developments.

So, if you have a redevelopment project on the horizon, you will likely use a rendering or concept drawing to share the vision for the development, but consider adding an economic impact analysis to complete the picture with a quantitative look at the project. These data can make a big impact on others who are considering investments or expansions in the community.

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