As seen in the Caledonian Record: http://www.caledonianrecord.com/news/local/lyndonville-coworking-space-p...
LYNDONVILLE — The former Bag Balm building may soon have new tenants thanks to an idea borne last year during the Vermont Council on Rural Development Lyndon Community Visit process.
One or two anchor tenants are expected to open private offices within the building, complimented by daily or ‘floating’ members. The space would be used as a ‘Coworking Space,’ which would include vested members and foster startup businesses, according to an 8-page draft proposal produced by the Center for Professional Studies at Lyndon State College late last year.
The building, with the iconic can in larger-than-life form sticking out on the building’s side, was the original manufacturing facility for Bag Balm, the ointment created here in 1899 to soften cow udders. The company continues to manufacture under new ownership in Lyndonville.
The Bag Balm building was purchased by the Paris family in Nov. 2016, according to the proposal for the new coworking space.
“Long-time supporters of Lyndon Sate College and anchors in the community, the Paris family saw the potential for utilizing the space to increase the vibrancy of downtown and help build prosperity in Lyndonville,” the proposal states.
Ann Nygard, director of the Center for Professional Studies at Lyndon State College, said Wednesday the plans have support from legislators, state officials and the business community.
The group hopes to sign a lease for the Bag Balm building, and plans for a soft opening in May, Nygard said.
According to Nygard, the idea came from town resident Evan Carlson. “It was his brainchild,” she said. “It came out of the Lyndon community meetings, and he approached the college. We have had the Incubator Without Walls program since 2008, so finally we’re getting walls, basically.”
The vision for the space is “To create a physical work space that is rooted within the culture of the Lyndon community that startup businesses are looking to serve.”
The main goals include:
- Create a space as a fun and productive, high-impact ecosystem for innovation in the Lyndonville community supporting entrepreneurs and startup companies;
- Enable diverse groups of entrepreneurs, remote workers, and other independent professionals to share resources and network;
- Facilitate authentic connection to educational opportunities that promote life-long learning, ease access to professional development, and build in-demand skills;
- Foster mentorship. Leverage existing area technical assistance and resources to help nascent companies achieve success;
- Add vibrancy to downtown Lyndonville.
Nygard said Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital helped to kick off fundraising for the proposed coworking space, contributing $30,000. The gift is being used to raise matching funds.
Northern Counties Health Care gave the project another $5,000, Nygard said, and Northeastern Vermont Development Association contributed a $4,400 planning grant to help get the startup off the ground.
More grant applications are outstanding.
“We have a big push to attract funding right now to use as match for grants,” said Nygard. “Those interested in playing a role should contact me or Evan.”
The town of Lyndon has received no permits for the project, according to zoning administrator Annie McLean. The town is aware of the proposal, however, McLean said.
Carlson grew up in town, and returned to the NEK after living in cities for a number of years, he said this week.
“I’m a designer and web developer by trade and had lived in cities for the past 15 years. I moved back to Vermont about two years ago.”
He said he was making good money in New York, but his ability to get ahead there made it unrealistic to stay, and when he had the opportunity to come back to the NEK and work as a consultant, he jumped at the chance.
“I think that sentiment echoes across my generation,” said Carlson, 33, a new dad who lives with his family in East Lyndon. While his work gives him the flexibility to telecommute, finding strong enough internet and a work environment that would be ideal has been a challenge, and Carlson came up with the idea of the coworking space for himself - and hopefully dozens of other professionals in need of state-of-the-art tech access and a professional office base.
Finding a place with a strong and consistent internet connections with long hours and weekend hours has been a challenge, said Carlson and affected “the quality and level of work that I wanted to do.” He’s met other young professionals attempting to telecommute from the NEK with similar dreams, and similar tech frustrations.
“The idea really came together when I attended the community forums and met some folks who had pretty similar sentiments,” Carlson said. “It seemed to me like an opportunity, and Ann was very excited about the idea.”
Carlson is hopeful that as many as 50 professionals may one day be members of the coworking space, which does not yet have an official name.
“There are opportunities in the downtown area that are going to attract people to a more vibrant town,” said Carlson of how he hopes the coworking space can contribute to a downtown renaissance in Lyndonville. He’s hoping more people will be drawn to the village for the work space, then patronize the local businesses.
“Rural America in general is just kind of due for a resurgence,” said Carlson.
For more information, contact Nygard at the Center for Professional Studies at Lyndon State College at firstname.lastname@example.org or (802) 626-4867 or Evan Calrson at email@example.com or (617) 909-3408.