A lot of moving parts have assembled to form the Factory of the future.
And now, the physical location of this venture is taking shape at 750 Main St., soon to be a center for collaboration, work and ideas in Grand Junction.
The busy construction at this long-vacant building is just a hint at the activity to come, made possible by leaders who have taken on the challenge to provide the next big economic push for growing jobs and possibilities on the Western Slope.
This month, Factory will open its doors, transformed from an empty government office building to a hub of creativity. It’s the first collaboration of its kind in the community — a place abuzz with productivity, a nexus for people with ideas for new business opportunities, and a center of innovation and learning for existing businesses that are already located in Grand Junction or would like to be here.
Factory is brought to the community by several partners — Launch West Co, ProximitySpace, the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance, Mesa County Public Libraries and corporate sponsor Alpine Bank. But its roots began with an initiative that started by Launch West Co more than a year ago, to assess the demand for a local co-working space.
Co-working spaces have become more popular in recent years as part of the “shared office movement.” The idea is that freelancers, creative workers and other professionals can use communal hubs to get their work accomplished. Co-working spaces provide a professional, vibrant work environment for people who work for different companies or themselves. They offer amenities such as lightning-fast internet, a common creative environment with low membership fees compared to the cost of leasing private office space, and a sense of community with other individuals.
Launch West Co, founded by Josh Hudnall and Brian Watson, is merging with Proximity Space, which had its Montrose flagship location highlighted as the top co-working spot in the world by Forbes magazine this year. The joining of these forces is part of what’s making Factory possible.
“This is the second step in a series of many steps still to come that moves Grand Junction into being a competitor in the space of innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Josh Freed, co-founder of Proximity Space. “The first step was Launch West Co, and what they did was create enough momentum with the community to make this possible.”
Launch West Co built a community of entrepreneurs and business owners that identified a need for a co-working space with gigabit internet. After attempts to form a public-private partnership with local governments to provide that high-speed internet proved unsuccessful, they found other willing participants.
“Thankfully there were people who stepped out and took the step to say we can prove this is where we need to be,” Freed said.
One of the hopes in launching Factory is that it will encourage businesses to form organically here in the valley, as well as attract other businesses that want to come here or make it possible for people to work remotely or find jobs after graduating.
“There’s certainly been an exodus to major metropolitan areas,” said Dennis Lankes, co-founder of Proximity Space, citing a need to match the attractive quality of life with opportunities, and make it possible for people to make a living in this community, which is attractive for recreation and other amenities. “Factory says, ‘Hey, look, we’re open for that kind of business, for that kind of lifestyle.’”
“Connecting and collaborating — that’s what this is all about,” said Tim Heaton, director of the Colorado Advanced Manufacturing Alliance. Heaton’s organization is using grant money to establish a high-powered videoconferencing center called Fuse within Factory, which will allow remote collaboration and presentation between companies, workers and clients.
“It’s similar to Skype, but on steroids,” Watson said.
This place is about building community, offering a space to make connections, and making a space that thrives with learning. Its mission is to connect the dots between what is possible and what exists in the business community, by fostering entrepreneurship and economic development.
It seeks to solve a problem that has long existed in the Grand Valley — that many consider it a great place to live, but there aren’t enough high-paying jobs to keep homegrown talent here and those folks move to other places. Factory is about building a foundation for workers to stay, to build their own business ventures or work for other businesses that decide to set down roots in a place that offers high quality of life to their employees, whether it’s a high-tech company or a manufacturing business.
“This is about making Grand Junction an attractive place to do business,” Hudnall said.
“It’s creating a sturdy foundation for people to be here,” Watson added.
Although this place is ideal for independent workers, freelancers and those who work remotely, it’s also designed for current businesses to utilize for training or networking. Maybe a startup venture is just one big contract away from being able to expand, and all it needs is a connection with another business that needs its services. Maybe an entrepreneur with a really promising, small idea needs a co-founder willing to take that idea nugget to the next level. It’s just about connecting the dots and creating possibility.
Hudnall and Watson know this place will attract those with an entrepreneurial spirit who want to plug in to a like-minded community, which offers more opportunity than working independently from home.
“Anyone can get office space, but this is really about building community,” said Watson.
Factory already has several members lined up to occupy the 4,700-square-foot workspace (which could eventually expand to encompass 8,000 total square feet), and is signing up members at Factorycoworking.com. However, anyone who wants to drop in and try out the space when it’s open can have up to four days of access per month with a Mesa County Public Libraries card, and can enjoy the access to gigabit internet while they network with others or contribute to the creative atmosphere.
“It’s like the Factory of the 21st century,” said Watson.
“Whether you’re making software or building a new startup, you’re making something here,” said Hudnall.
All credit goes to Erin Mcintyre for writing this blog, “Connecting and collaborating: Buzz building for new Factory co-working space” in The Daily Sentinel. The original posting can be found in the link above.