Non-Profits and Incubator Spaces: New Directions for Investors

Non-Profits and Incubator Spaces: New Directions for Investors

Alternate Income for Commercial Real Estate InvestorsBusiness incubators and non-profit consortiums are big news in some parts of the country these days. If such ideas haven't yet come to any one area, they may be headed that direction, often with the blessing and support of local governments, schools and the public.

Municipalities from Santa Fe to small Texas towns and midwestern farming communities are supportive of a variety of "do-good" ideas. Fledgling enterprises are often able to tap into support funds that allow them to lease space for initial start-up activities. Why not explore local opportunities for local commercial real estate?

Take the Lead

For individuals who currently have empty property that would make good rental space for a cash-strapped enterprise or a group of small startups willing to share both physical space and ideas, why not investigate the opportunity to do some good and reap financial benefit at the same time?

Business incubators, "makerspaces," artist studios, tinkerer workshops, children and youth-oriented enterprises, urban agriculture and a host of other collaborative initiatives, from community kitchens to health-information centers need space.

Often these innovative entrepreneurs and groups have the backing of community groups, private investors or financial grants to fund leased space and operations for a year or longer. Such ventures can be great matches for older warehouses, empty medical offices and aging retail centers in less than prime locations.

Match Up Individuals

If a commercial real estate owner currently has property that is "off the radar" for other uses, why not consider a pro-active stance to secure tenants? Long-term benefits accrue to savvy owners who can cash in on community needs and sensitivities. It may take a little (or a lot) more effort to bring together a group of individuals with a common goal, but the possibilities are enormous.

Just as big businesses and national corporations are rethinking employee relations, human resources, and benefits packages, as an investor it can be worthwhile to reimagine the future of any owned rental spaces. Just as co-working spaces are extremely popular with freelancers, professionals and entrepreneurs who need only part-time offices, specialized service providers working together create cohesive business communities. The opportunity for support, desk space, conference/seminar facilities, business services and human interaction is unlimited. And it is just as important for non-profit organizations as it is for independent contractors and "solopreneurs."

Meet Varied Needs

Having a roster of tenants may necessitate more bookkeeping and control, but it might just broaden your horizons and boost your return on investment as well.

Envision a future that allows rent to be collected from a roster of tenants who use a space on an "as needed" or rotating reservation basis. Imagine multiple users of a shared kitchen or a "tech center" that welcomes small business owners to share computer support, accounting and bookkeeping expertise, legal consultation and secretarial services. It's not so wild a dream. In many ways, it might be the professional solution of the future. Any online search will return scores of names already in the business of providing similar co-working space. If a neighborhood doesn't yet have such a space, the time is ripe.

When bringing this vision together, consider hiring a manger to be responsible for the scheduling, perhaps in exchange for a slice of complimentary work space. A workable model is the "antique mall" farmer's market or trade day that rents booths and floor space to anyone interested in selling goods or services.

As retail closures and technology change the job market in this country, those who are affected will be primed and ready for new ventures. The effect on the rental market, both in commercial and residential realms, is expected to be massive. Innovation is a hallmark of American business, and innovative solutions will be found. Why not be in the forefront of the change to a better model?

Tap into Volunteerism

Just as national and state programs focus on volunteerism and ingenious responses to emergencies and current economic needs, investors have the ability to alter the market in terms of providing opportunity for small businesses, individual proprietors, groups of students, charitable organizations and government agencies. The vision of communities working in collaboration with private enterprise is not a new one, but it does represent a growing response to changing times.

For the prudent investor, the possibility of leasing shared space and incorporating shared services is an idea worth investigating. Single-tenant occupancy is not likely to disappear, but the trends are worth noting. It is never to early to begin the search for alternatives, to plan for the future, and to be ahead of the competition.

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