A bill designed to support businesses that provide co-working space to entrepreneurs in Maine has passed the Maine House, but is currently lacking the votes needed to pass in the Senate.
The bill—LD 285, “An Act To Provide Funding for the Maine Coworking Development Fund”—would provide a one-time infusion of $300,000 into the Maine Co-Working Development Fund, which the Legislature created in 2015 to provide $100,000 a year to help develop co-working spaces around the state. Gov. Paul LePage proposed zeroing out funding for the program in his biennial budget and the fund’s future is in question.
The House on Thursday voted in favor of the bill in a party-line vote of 77 to 66, with Democrats supporting the bill and Republicans opposing. The bill now goes to the Senate and could appear on its calendar on Tuesday.
The Republicans currently control the Maine Senate, 18 to 17, so another party-line vote would doom the bill. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford), said he needs to find one more vote in the Senate for the bill to pass.
Neil Spillane, co-founder of Fork Food Lab, an incubator space in Portland for food businesses, provided testimony in favor the bill. Fork Food Lab received $25,000 from the fund in February. Spillane said the funds have gone to necessary building improvements, including the installation of a freight elevator that allows the businesses in the incubator to be more efficient.
“In general, funds allocated to coworking or incubator spaces have a multiplier built in due to the fact that the money directly affects all of the businesses inside of the coworking space,” Spillane said. “It’s also important for Maine to stay competitive on a national scale and aiding coworking spaces is an important part of this. The economy is shifting rapidly towards a shared economy, and we must support this trend as a state.”
Other beneficiaries of the fund are Open Bench Project in Portland, which received $12,500; Our Katahdin Properties in Millinocket, which received $25,000; Think Tank in Portland, which received $25,000; and The Gem in Bethel, which received $12,500.