BUCKHANNON – Boost Mobile in Elkins is moving to downtown Buckhannon soon, as the sign in the first-floor window of the new Upshur Innovation Center indicates.
Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce members could see the sign outside as they made their way to the club’s monthly meeting Monday, but they also got a sneak peek inside the innovation center, located at the corner of Main and Spring streets, which took place in the first-floor conference room.
Assistant Upshur County Development Authority Director Melodie Stemple and Small Business Development Center business coach Susie Higgins gave Chamber members an update on the three-story brick building’s progress.
Stemple said UCDA Executive Director Rob Hinton was unable to attend Monday’s meeting because he was attending a ceremonial groundbreaking in Charleston for Facebook’s major fiber network project.
Stemple and Higgins confirmed Boost Mobile from Elkins will open an office on the first floor of the Upshur Innovation Center, but Stemple said there’s still available space for three businesses.
“On the first floor, we have a 2,200-square-foot space, a 1,200-square-foot space and a 943-square-foot space – not that they couldn’t be combine if somebody would want that – but we kind of have it marked off, and [potential companies] will have three doors as you notice when you come down the street. That’s their entrance to their space, and then they’ll have an entrance to it from the back as well.”
Grant funding may become available for first-floor company buildouts, Stemple said.
“I tried Hallmark, but it was a no-go,” Stemple said. “We’ve had lookers. There are some opportunities out there for us, but no one has committed to anything else. We can’t really say too much until we have signatures and some funds coming through.”
Stemple said the second floor of Upshur Innovation Center is home to the UCDA; Higgins and the Small Business Development Office; and Region VII Planning & Development Council.
What the UCDA’s focusing on marketing right now, however, is flexible co-working space available for rent on the second floor. The co-working space is called the IDEA, an acronym for innovate, develop, educate and advance, Stemple said.
Unlike a typical office space that might be leased on an annual or multiple-year basis, the ‘IDEA’ can be likened to a gym membership, that offers perks – in addition to just space. Small businesses, startups and employees who work remotely often find it difficult to find a working space that’s affordable, secure and private, but that’s exactly what the Upshur Innovation Center is offering through IDEA, Stemple said.
“Furnishings were supposed to have arrived by today (for the IDEA area), but they’re coming later this week,” Stemple said. “There’s six individual offices that can be rented monthly, and then, there’s going to be a table with chairs, and a little division in between for people to come in and work for an hour or two hours – lawyers, businesspeople that just need high-speed internet.”
“They’ll have access to a copier, and they can come in 24/7 as long as they have a keycard, you get in and out,” she added. “It will be secure. During open hours, we will have it unlocked, but anything after five o’clock, it automatically locks.”
Higgins said co-working spaces in the IDEA may be rented on a monthly, six-month or annual basis.
“It’s really to be able to help those people who are looking to get into to business but possibly not be able to go out and rent a building and they’re just looking for something to get started,” she said.
Two of the six dedicated offices in the IDEA are leased, and UCDA is in discussions with another two interested parties, Stemple said.
The third floor of Upshur Innovation Center will ideally be filled by one company.
“I think the goal, from the UCDA’s standpoint, is they would like to have one [entity] lease that whole third floor if they could, but if not, he’s also talking to a couple people about the possibility of dividing it up for two businesses to come in up there, but again, new market tax credits will be available to help with the buildout of the third floor,” Higgins said.
The benefits of renting space in the IDEA, according to a brochure handed out at Monday’s meeting, include fiber gigabit connectivity, bulk rate printing services, meeting and conference space availability, business coaching, daily networking opportunities and more.
Pricing varies, and the first of three options is the ‘Shared’ package, which costs $150 per month and includes daily access to a shared workspace or common table and two hours of time in the IDEA conference room per month.
The middle-tier ‘Dedicated’ option is $275 per month and includes a dedicated – or reserved – workstation in a private, shared office and access to the IDEA’s conference room for three hours per month.
The premier ‘Private’ option costs $550 a month and covers a closed, secure office space that only one company’s employees will be permitted to use and five hours of conference room time per month.
For additional details or to schedule a tour, contact Hinton by email at Rob@upshurda.com or by phone at 304-613-1757, ext. 1.