By early next year, Holly Springs will join the growing list of Triangle municipalities that have sought to strengthen and support its local entrepreneurial community through co-working spaces.
Co-working spaces, a growing trend, have opened in many of the Triangle’s cities and towns, including Cary, Raleigh, Wake Forest and Chapel Hill. They allow people in different jobs and careers to share a space for work.
On Wednesday, Aug. 19, the Town of Holly Springs announced its intent to find an operator to develop what officials describe as the first “authentic” co-working space in the community.
“We have a lot of home-based business – at least 500,” said Jenny Mizelle, Holly Springs’ economic development director. “It is somewhere for people to go to operate their business in a temporary, affordable office space.”
Holly Springs Town Councilman Jimmy Cobb said co-working space provides small businesses and home-based businesses the opportunity to expand by providing a place where entrepreneurs can collaborate with others and hold meetings at a reasonable price.
“Cost-wise, it’s helpful for small business entrepreneurs to help them get off the ground,” he said.
Because of the success of co-working ventures in other downtown districts, the town officials decided to look to its own downtown for space.
The Holly Springs Police Department will move to a new law enforcement center by the end of the year, opening up a 5,000-square-foot building next to town hall.
“It just seemed like perfect timing and the perfect space,” Mizelle said.
The space would feature dedicated work stations and shared space with access to standard office resources, including high-speed Internet, copy machines, parking and off-site staff to provide tenants with technical assistance. Rent for the facility would be set by the operator.
Town officials hope to have the space open within the first few months of 2016.
The co-working operator will be responsible for designing and launching the space, offering affordable and flexible rents, developing a marketing plan, managing the space and more. The town is willing to invest up to $50,000 to help up-fit the facility.
The operator also should develop entrepreneurial support programs, such as memberships and networking along with offering financial and legal advice.
“It’s more than just opening the door and doing leases,” Mizelle said. “You’ve got to bring in relevant programming to help entrepreneurs.”
The town’s plan includes a guaranteed three-year lease with the understanding that after two years the operator will present an “exit strategy” so that the space is vacated at the end of the third year, “making room for needed expansion space for town employees.”
“Town staff is going to need that space, so hopefully they will be so successful that they move to a newer location in the downtown area,” Mizelle said.
Earlier this year, town officials discussed partnering with Asheville company Mojo Coworking, but when owner Craig McAnsh took another job in New York, Mizelle said it made Mojo’s expansion to Holly Springs less feasible.
But less feasible doesn’t mean impossible.
“They may take another look at Holly Springs,” she said.
If the first co-working space is successful, Cobb said he would support more in the future.
“If it’s something the town can make available and help it come to fruition, I’m all for it,” he said. “It could be a whole, new era of home-based businesses using shared space.”
Kathryn Trogdon; 919-460-2608; @KTrogdon
To learn more about the co-working space go to bit.ly/1JuahYH.