The New Economy: The role of co-working in Ontario’s midsized cities.

In the early 2000s, co-working emerged in big cities as a place for independent, knowledge workers to collaborate and expand their businesses. As the sharing economy grew globally, co-working spaces began to emerge in the downtowns of smaller cities.

Through Places to Grow (2005) and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (2006), the province has created urban growth centres (UGCs) that are located in the downtown areas of municipalities. These UGCs are key locations for intensification and public/private investment, and each has specific employment and population targets to achieve by 2041.

During this research, we worked with with the six UGCs in the outer ring of the Greater Golden Horseshoe (GGH) to explore the link between co-working and economic development taking place in these cities as they transition from manufacturing to knowledge-based economies.

The purpose of this project is to: understand the scope, services and impacts provided by co-working spaces in midsized cities (populations of 50 000 to 500 000); explore the roles that allied groups, such as Municipalities, Chambers of Commerce, universities and Business Improvement Associations play in supporting local entrepreneurship; and to develop and disseminate best practice recommendations to strengthen co-working as a job-creation strategy in Ontario’s midsized cities.


This project’s findings will be shared in several formats to a wide and varied audience and will include:

  • Development of a Toolkit including Tip Sheets, Fact Sheets and Best Practice recommendations for Ontario UGCs
  • Facilitated workshop session hosted in Guelph to present findings and the Toolkit to partners in UGCs located in mid-sized cities across Ontario
  • Create a micro-site in partnership with Co-working Ontario to broadly disseminate the Toolkit, survey findings and testimonials
  • Actively engage on social media.
  • White paper to the Government of Ontario on key project findings, including proceedings of facilitated workshop
  • Publish research findings in municipal publications, national newspapers and academic journals
  • Presentations to conferences, businesses, city councils, etc. as requested

These findings will be of importance to several key audiences including:

  • Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, in particular its Growth Secretariat
  • Municipalities in midsized city, specifically economic development departments and city councils
  • Business Improvement Associations (BIA)
  • Organizations supporting entrepreneurship and leadership
  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Universities and Colleges
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
  • Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure