Local leaders say they'll need to make some changes to ensure Western Michigan is telecommuter-friendly. In late 2005, they came up with the idea to create business community centers that are inviting to people who may need to work outside their homes anywhere from a few hours to a few days per week. These work centers, still in the conceptual phase, are company-neutral locations where a mobile worker can, say, have a serious business meeting away from home and the office.
Such locales are known in industry parlance as "third places" and they can include coffee shops and bookstores—but they also range to the more professional community centers that Western Michigan envisions. "You've got to invent a different place for people to work—the coffee shop gets really old after a while," says Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class.
Not only can a region market itself as more telecommuter-friendly, it can also position itself as much more freelancer-friendly. I recently noticed that Pittsburgh is home to guru.com, "the world's largest online marketplace for freelance talent." Workspace for the mobile class is a great idea. Catering to freelancers is even a better one.
Might the airport be a good place to offer third places for Pittsburgh? Not if the region fails to connect its flagship universities with the rest of the world.