The city of Delaware is a partner in two economic development projects as it continues to attract white-collar jobs.
The projects involve collaborations with Ohio Wesleyan University and COhatch, a provider of co-working spaces for established tenants.
City and OWU officials are expected to have “signatures on the line” in a few weeks for the Delaware Entrepreneur Center, said Megan Ellis, administrative director for Woltemade Center for Economics, Business and Entrepreneurship. The center for startup businesses will be located at an OWU-owned building on campus.
Ellis declined to identify the building, but she said it could be considered a storefront for some people.
“You see it right away,” she said.
Ellis said the university and city have discussed the center idea for over two years now.
“We got involved to see how we can help our students become more engaged with community members and startups,” she said.
The center would not be suitable for established businesses or professionals looking for desk space.
“The Entrepreneur Center is a facility for new startups to access the resources and education (and) training necessary to acquire funding and start their business,” Hughes said.
OWU would provide technological resources and require tenants to have internships for students. City and county officials would provide access to attorneys, banks and information grants, Ellis said.
Renovations could start this fall with completion set for next year.
City officials are in discussions with COhatch to open an office building that would house multiple established companies.
“Think of COhatch as being a more modern interpretation of the old school notion of a downtown office tower,” said Delaware Economic Development Director Sean Hughes.
COhatch, which operates on a membership business model, is interested in two downtown buildings: the city-owned Gazette building, 18 E. William St., and the privately-owned former Brooklyn Heights building, 13 W. William St.
City Council heard a presentation about COhatch’s offices in Worthington on Monday.
In the Columbus suburb, COhatch has one existing location that has attracted 150 members after being in operation for over seven months. Its second location will open within the next two months at a building owned by the suburb. Worthington provided an abatement of COhatch’s rent in exchange for $700,000 worth of renovations.
Worthington also issued a $100,000 grant over a 10-year period to COhatch for the second location in exchange for a few requirements including to make some spaces available to the community, have monthly public programming and to provide financial and economic development information to city officials.
And Worthington and COhatch are in discussions for a third building.
Delaware officials aim to reverse the trend where about 80 percent of the city’s local labor force leaves town for work.
“Delaware needs white-collar jobs,” said Delaware Mayor Carolyn Kay Riggle. She hopes tenants from the potential Delaware location would expand to other parts of the community.
Council discussed the possibility of providing money for the renovation of the selected building. If approved, there would be some “strings (attached) to protect our investment,” Riggle said.
She and councilmen George Hellinger and Jim Browning have visited COhatch’s offices in Worthington. Vice Mayor Kent Shafer will visit next week. Council members Lisa Keller, Chris Jones and Kyle Rohrer may visit in the near future.
Hughes said businesses in need of offices have reached out to the city to find space in the vibrant downtown.
“Most had to go elsewhere because of our lack of inventory in renovated office space,” he said.
And the competition for white-collar job is no different from industrial jobs, Hughes added.
Some council members requested Matt Davis, COhatch’s founder, to present his proposition in person. Davis, who is on vacation, was not available for comment, but is expected to appear at a future council meeting.
Gazette reporter Brandon Klein can be reached by email or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.