Calling all entrepreneurs looking for a place to set up shop. By the middle of September, those who have wanted to have a coworking site in Blount County are going to see their dreams realized.
The organizers behind the Sky City Initiative, launched less than 18 months ago, are partnering with the cities of Alcoa and Maryville and Blount County government through the Industrial Development Board of Blount County to open a 5,000-square foot facility at 429 S. Washington St. just above the Par-T-Pub.
The group has also secured a two-year grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to further help with the launch.
All community members are invited to the open house from 4-6 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 18. “From our initial meet-up in May 2018, we have received consistent feedback from the community confirming the need for coworking space in Blount County,” said Rachel Buchanan, one of the members of the Sky City Initiative steering committee.
The need for coworking space is not unique to Blount County entrepreneurs and “solopreneurs.” According to the Deskmag’s 2017 Global Coworking Survey, more than 1.2 million people will have worked in a coworking space, and the shared space market is growing at 40% annually.
Buchannan said that build-out of the space is currently underway and furniture is on order. Once the renovations are completed and the furniture installed, the coworking space will be ready for occupants.
Late September start
“We hope that can occur mid-late September,” Buchannan said. Reservations are now being accepted at the Sky City Initiative’s website, http://skycityinitiative.com/.
The space is designed to accommodate the various needs of users, starting with core co-working space amenities — free Wi-Fi, access to a conference room and secured 24/7 access. For those needing dedicated space, there will be everything from “hot desks” available on a daily, weekly or monthly basis to walled offices leased on a longer-term arrangement. Tenants will also have a physical mailing address and access to a private conference room.
Introductory rates are as follows: $10 per day, $50 per week, $150 per month, $225 for a dedicated desk, $500-$600 for a dedicated office. Details for the rates can be found on the website.
In addition, professional development and other resources will be available for entrepreneurs with the Co.Starters program and support from the Small Business Development Center. The Sky City Initiative also plans to host monthly events with featured speakers, mentors, investors — with possibly a brew or two for fun.
Sky City started as an initiative to help build a culture of entrepreneurship, learn the needs of entrepreneurs to help them thrive and to connect entrepreneurs to each other. It was a community-founded partnership that included the Blount Partnership, LeConte Realty, PYA, Blount County Library, Farmers Insurance, Egerton McAfee Amistead & Davis, Epic Nine and Maryville College.
Organizers of the Sky City Initiative noted in a news release that entrepreneurs make Blount County stronger by keeping businesses here.
The effort quickly evolved into one focused on addressing the needs for affordable, high tech, collaborative space designed for business ideas to grow.