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MARION - Entrepreneurs and at-home workers in Marion now have a chance to get out of the house and into a co-working space with other entrepreneurs.
In September, the Marion Economic Development Corp. opened Loft Coworking, a workspace for rent at 700 11th St., Suite 201 in Uptown Marion.
This Thursday and Friday, the space is free to use as part of a promotional event put on by MEDCO.
The space includes about six desks in the middle room, two private offices and a conference room.
The idea for a co-working space came out of MEDCO discussions on how to increase support for area entrepreneurs, said MEDCO President Nick Glew.
'We kind of designed it as a grand experiment to see what market may or may not exist,” Glew said. 'You never know what's going to come out of putting like-minded people that are trying to grow a small business together in one space to collaborate.”
But Glew said MEDCO still is waiting to see how much use the space is going to get.
'We got to the point that the only true way to know is to open the door, give it our best effort for a period of time, and if it's not successful, be very comfortable and confident in shutting it down,” he said. 'We didn't want to do something where they had to buy office furniture and spend lots of money for an experiment.”
In keeping with a low-cost goal, Glew said officials waited for the right space to open. After a graphic-design company moved out of the space on 11th Street, the building owner allowed MEDCO to lease the building on an initial six-month agreement for about $700 a month. After the ESCO Group moved out of a building in downtown Marion, MEDCO was able to use their desks and office furniture that would otherwise be tossed out, Glew said.
Additionally, ImOn Communications donates high-speed Wi-Fi and a few other local companies sponsor the space, including Marion Process Solutions and Rapids Reproduction.
Membership or renting can be done through the MEDCO website at medcoiowa.org/loft.
Here is a list of membership levels:
- A Drop-In Member rents the common space and conference room, shared with others, for $50 a month and has access five times during that month.
- A Community Member pays $100 a month and has unlimited access, printing credits and use of the conference room.
- $300 a month allows 'Business Builders” to rent a private office with a locked door, printing credits and conference room access.
Additionally, the six-person conference room is available to rent for $30 an hour. Membership is not required to do so.
Glew said the space is not designed to be a permanent office; private offices cannot be rented for more than three months.
'We really see this as kind of a feeder system to one of those service-heavy (co-working space) environments,” Glew said. 'We don't want people to set up shop and live there forever. If there is someone that tests the idea of having their own office and they really want to do this for a longer period of time, we want them to rent an office in the market at a market rate.”
For now, Glew said he isn't sure how much interest there is in the Loft, but he said they were willing to give Marion residents a chance at a more collaborative space.
'We're trying to create the environment where collaboration and dialogue between folks who otherwise might just be working in their basement can spawn whatever,” he said. 'The best thing that could happen is we find this being successful and have to scratch our heads on how we make this larger.”
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