We Love Coworking. But Can It Fix the Economy and Solve the Brain Drain in PR?

Jan 14, 2014

Photo by Alex Barth.

We often talk about coworking as a great way for freelancers to come together, share resources (save money), and learn from one another.

But can it rescue an economy from the dumps?

In Puerto Rico, unemployment rates are double what they are in the US, its municipal debt is facing junk status, and experts fear the commonwealth’s best and brightest have been leaving in droves to pursue better opportunities overseas.

A piece on NPR’s morning edition this week features some experts who believe coworking is the answer.

Just five months ago, Sofia Stolberg opened a coworking space named Piloto 151 in a renovated building in San Juan for “aspiring entrepreneurs...to work on freelance projects, tech startups, or whatever else.” Piloto 151 also helps these fledgling businesses set up shop, incorporate, and navigate global business waters.

On the surface, Piloto 151 seems part startup incubator, part business school, part workspace, reminiscent of something like General Assembly. But unlike American models, founders expect Piloto 151 to bring an isolated, sluggish PR into the global economy, even if it’s one company at a time.

“One day, I hope we have companies that do what Skype did for Estonia. All we need is one company to make it really big, and Puerto Rico will be a completely different destination and landscape,” Stolberg told NPR.

Is Stolberg right? Can gathering a bunch of bright, hungry, and entrepreneurial young people help kick Puerto Rico’s economy into high gear? Or is coworking going to stay in the realm of local small businesses?

Whether or not this kind of collaboration and community works could change the way future struggling economies enter the global ballpark.