On January 1, Decorah joined the ranks of cities like Boston, Austin, Minneapolis, San Diego, and Chicago, in opening the doors to it's first ever co-working hub, Open Decorah. I know what you're thinking. Co-working hub?
Yep. It turns out, these communal office spaces are becoming a wellspring of the innovation of new business. It's actually about forgetting business as usual. While it's no secret that over the past decade, the American economic landscape has changed dramatically, these communities are popping up everywhere in a worldwide movement to respond to growing economic, social, and environmental challenges. Unlike a typical office environment, participating users of co-working spaces are often not employed with the same organization. They're a fairly diverse smattering of generally young(ish) professionals-- entrepreneurs, freelancers, and a hodge podge blend of remote workers. They're a group that responds rapidly to notions of innovation and co-working's three major nontraditional tenets, which foster an environment that is mainly social, collaborative, and informal.
In co-working spaces across the country, employees gather routinely, sharing in meals, hosting casual networking events, and bouncing around ideas and resources. It's co-operation meets creativity, meets the iphone. And it's happening right here in Northeast Iowa. Decorah's own co-working space will feature private offices, "drop-in" working space, a conference room, even a kitchen and shower on the third floor for employees who want to prepare their own lunch or shower off after biking to work. Located in the heart of downtown Decorah, within walking distance to great coffee, fantastic restaurants, and exercise studios, Open Decorah seems poised for maximum productivity. I recently sat down for a Q&A with the creator of Open Decorah, Ross Hadley. Here's what the local small business owner had to say about jumping on board with the CW phenomena. As luck would have it, it's amazing what can stem from a conversation and a beer.
Q: According to co-working.com: "There is a global community of people dedicated to the values of collaboration, openness, community, accessibility, and sustainability in their workplaces", and they're joining forces to create work spaces that model these values. Can you talk about how you first heard about the co-working movement & why you thought it would be a good fit for a community like Decorah?
A: Jason Trout, the co-founder of GoodBlogs hosts a co-working event on Fridays at his office. We were discussing the increasing number of telecommuters in attendance and how they could benefit from a space in Decorah and it went from that initial spark.
Q: In Pamela Slim's book Escape from Cubical Nation, she emphasizes the amazingness of leaving behind antiquated corporate setups & jumping into communities where people are encouraged to do what they love, through thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems. Is this the kind of thing you have in mind for the folks that utilize the Open Decorah co-working space? What kind of culture would you like to see fostered there and what are you planning to do to encourage that kind of place?
A: I'd like to see the space act as a catalyst for entrepreneurs as well as those who have a project that could better the community and perhaps the world. A space that is conducive to bringing people and ideas together to solve a problem and also make money. Similar movements are happening throughout the world in a program called Impact Hub, which blends problem solving with an entrepreneurial slant. It sounds grandiose but we all start somewhere.
Q: Studies are increasingly suggesting a strong correlation between a workplaces design and aesthetic and creativity/output. I heard you're doing some pretty cool things to create a cool & non-conventional work place, like a rotating Artist's Call in the space's main hall. Can you talk about that and how you're bringing this old space back to life? What's been going on in the space all these years & how are you changing things up?
A: There is quite a bit of underutilized space on the second and third floors of buildings in Decorah. In the past the street was full of second floor professional offices - dentists, doctors, photography studios, etc. The primary co-working desk that is the hub of the space was custom designed and crafted locally, and our the addition of local art is our attempt of breaking the cube-worker corporate vibe that many sought to escape by taking more flexible telecommuting positions. The remodeling of the third story was a labor of love as it had been mostly unused since the 1930's when it was a photography studio. There was no electricity or plumbing!
Q: How will it work? What do co-working packages/spaces include?
A: There are several offices with different focuses. A co-working room, a conference room and a quiet room for those who need privacy. Interested parties can join using our website. There are several different options. A full member will have 24/7/365 access to the space and the ability to reserve our conference areas. But we also offer a daily rate of $15.00 for those who just want to come and check it out or who are from out of town on a visit. The third option is a ten day pass which is good for use within 60 days offering a price break and flexibility. We will likely be tweaking things as we grow but this gets the ball rolling so to speak.
Q: If someone's interested, what should they do next? A little birdie told me you might even be offering up some sweet deals for interested parties to launch into the New Year co-working style.
Those naughty birds! We will be offering free day passes through several local businesses at the beginning of the year so people have the chance to come and visit. If anyone is interested in seeing the space before the first of the year or have questions they can also reach me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or drop by The Good Foot Footwear which is on the first floor of the Open Decorah space.
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