ELLENVILLE – How would a "coworking space" play out for residents of the village and town? That is, an office space, overseen but open to anyone who wants to rent a desk, or even two or three of them, for a day, a week or month. A coworking space where, for a modest fee, you could have a desk to set your laptop on, connect to the internet, and conduct your business. You might use the space to write a book or start an internet business. It might be a place you would come back to seasonally, like in the summer months, or a stepping stone as a new business is born and grows. It might be something you would use a few times, or regularly, becoming in effect, your "office" and giving you that option without the whole business of formally renting space, purchasing/installing equipment and so on.
Coworking in general is fantastic for several reasons — it limits the distractions from, say, working from home, where your bed and pets can beckon. It’s bound to make you more productive and focused, it combats isolation and loneliness, and allows for networking opportunities, and flexibility.
Beyond that basic notion lie other service options. There would be the usual suite of necessary office equipment: printers, scanners, copiers, fax machines, a video conferencing setup, etc. available for your use. There would be coffee. Lots of coffee.
There would be someone at a front desk to oversee and control the situation, greet visitors and answer the phone. A conference room and private offices will be available for meetings with coworkers or clients. And most importantly, the space will be wired with serious broadband. All to provide a fully-functional office environment at a fraction of the cost.
The idea has roots in the most frequently-posed question for our real estate folks by young newcomers looking for a rural getaway, a second home, or even a new place to live: "Does it have broadband?"
This is a rural area. That’s what’s on offer here — natural beauty, peace and quiet, hiking and biking, with a small spot called Ellenville, which has a theater and some restaurants to provide night life. It is not New York City, nor even the ‘burbs. There are areas of the town that don’t have cable, and considering their remoteness and sparse population, never will. Of course, anyone with southern exposure can rely on satellite, but the internet that way will never match cable broadband speeds (and forget about video conferencing).
So, newcomers, who might want to buy a house here, or buy land with a view to building a house here, face what they may see as an insurmountable barrier. Perhaps they have a business, or they work for one that doesn’t require their presence in an office in Manhattan very often. They might even be able to work from home via satellite internet some of the time. But they may also need highspeed internet a lot, or just now and then. Told there is no cable, and may never be cable, they will look elsewhere for their second home in the country.
As far as the mechanics of this concept — there is $100,000 or so left in the Ellenville Million, money provided for economic redevelopment and revitalization of the village. They are offering that money to support business development and job creation here, and our innovative proposal for this business competition is to provide a service, a base, so that people who could contribute to that revitalization would have another reason to come here, and to stay.
This is our idea for the contest, and in order to pursue it successfully we seek a dozen pioneers who can see themselves paying one to two hundred dollars a month, on a month-by-month basis, for this kind of co-working office space. It would need to be centrally-located in the village. It would need adequate parking spaces. It would need to be warm in winter and cool in summer, and most of all it would need high speed internet access. (And coffee. Did we mention the coffee?)
A proof-of-concept response is needed to move this forward. Are folks who need this out there? We don’t know. They need to be, if anything is going to take root here, and we would like to find out. Our sense — and it is just a sense — is that there are plenty of people "in the hills" around here that survive as consultants, hired guns, and telecommuters.
Wouldn’t such a resource bring them together, and possibly create some synergies that could take hold? If you’re there, if you’re interested, let us know. We’d love to work with you.