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WORKING TOGETHER DOWNTOWN

Action Greensboro moves forward with plans for co-working space on Greene Street

whitney@yesweekly.com

They have proposed and built greenways to improve the quality of life.

They have created SynerG to encourage young professionals to connect.

Now Action Greensboro is planning a co-working space downtown to provide opportunities for young people to either find jobs with local industries or start their own businesses.

Offices with shared co-working spaces allow people to rent portions of the space for a limited amount of time. This model is more accessible to college students and young professionals who may not be able to afford the overhead cost of leasing a building or need to make a long-term commitment to a property.

The co-working space will be at 229 N. Greene Street in the building formally used as the Obama campaign headquarters in 2012. The 8,000-square-foot space is currently owned by Elon University and Action Greensboro hopes to have around 15 individual desks available to be rented starting this fall.

The idea for the space came about after a visit to the American Underground co-working space in Durham.

A trip sponsored by Action Greensboro sent about 60 young professionals to the city to check out how Durham’s downtown revitalization efforts have impacted college students and young adults there.

Action Greensboro Director Cecelia Thompson said that the organization is letting the committee formed and inspired by this trip pick a name for the offices.

“We’ve been looking at a lot of models,” said Thompson. “But when we came back from Durham we put a committee together of young people who are interested in getting it off the ground so we are handing them the reins in terms of branding the space.”

Action Greensboro had noticed a trend of these types of spaces popping up in cities across the country and identified ways in which a co-working space could be good for Greensboro.

“We know that co-working spaces are a national trend,” said Thompson. “They are great at incubating new businesses and so from an entrepreneurial perspective we are really interested in helping accelerate small businesses and start-ups.”

Winston-Salem has a co-working space called FlyWheel that is run as a for-profit business in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter with tons of space and amenities.

The non-profit run space on Greene Street would include opportunities for programming, networking events and SynerG “lunch and learn” events in a collaborative and creative atmosphere.

Thompson is impressed with the success of FlyWheel but sees the coworking space in Greensboro as being different in a way that would compliment its Triad twin.

Student involvement is a top priority for the space.

“What we hope to do is to think about a really cool space where we can engage students with industry,” said Thompson. “We want more students in downtown Greensboro.”

Action Greensboro has connected with the seven colleges and universities in the City through Opportunity Greensboro, an arm of the Greensboro Partnership that works with higher education to help keep students from leaving Greensboro after graduation. One of the goals of the co-working space would be to target college students and new graduates and help them find good jobs in Greensboro.

“The bottom line is college students want jobs,” said Thompson. “What we have to do is find great opportunities for internships, and ways to plug students into industry.”

The non-profit approach to the Greene Street space should allow Action Greensboro to keep the cost of rent affordable.

“We have done some initial market research,” said Thompson. “I can’t commit to a price right now but we want to keep it on the low end. We’re not trying to make money off of it.”

Even with accessible co-working space in the heart of downtown, fighting the Greensboro brain drain has been a challenge for Action Greensboro from the start. Young professionals place an increasing amount of importance on the quality of life where they work. Greensboro is a little behind some of our neighbors in terms of what is can offer to bright young minds.

While some may view this as deterrent to come to Greensboro, Thompson is excited by the leadership opportunities for people who want to make change.

“A reason that I decided to stay in Greensboro after school is that I was looking for a city I could be a part of shaping,” said Thompson. “Greensboro is a really unique place right now because it’s really in an amazing evolution of revitalization. There’s all sorts of opportunities to make your stamp on your city here and I think that sets us apart from other cities.”

Thompson feels that leaders in Greensboro place more value on young people than those of other cities. She also points to the accessibility of City government officials.

“I wouldn’t say that you could call, text or Facebook your mayor in just any city in the United States,” said Thompson Downtown Greensboro is already home to a smaller co-working space called Studioboro that has eight different desks, and other community initiatives spearheaded by educated young professionals in the heart of the city suggest that the possibility for growth and change is in the air. !

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