By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
The Tri-Cities area, also known as Northeast Tennessee, is home to three major cities – Bristol, Johnson City, and Kingsport. The latter two have existing co-working facilities. Now, thanks to the efforts of The Summit Companies and Higher Ground Technologies, Bristol has one, too.
CoWork Bristol officially opened at the end of January in an 18,000 square foot building that houses The Summit Companies, a business consulting organization, and Higher Ground, an information technology provider.
Together, they are occupying about 8,000 square feet in the facility that formerly housed the Bristol operations for East Tennessee State University.
“The building had been empty for nine years when we bought it,” according to Eric Fields, Management Consultant for The Summit Companies. “We had started looking at moving into more space and saw opportunities here.”
Acknowledging that the building at 1227 Volunteer Parkway was larger than his firm needed, Fields said he had heard a good deal of discussion about Bristol’s need for a co-working facility. He teamed-up with Matthew Crowder, Chief Executive Officer of Higher Ground, to flesh-out plans for a facility that could serve their business requirements as well as those of co-workers.
“When we envisaged the facility, we knew technology would be critical,” Fields said. That’s where Crowder’s expertise is at play. CoWork Bristol is equipped with state-of-the-art technology in addition to the traditional working spaces and desks along with conference rooms.
Crowder says the facility’s two key differentiators are its redundant Gigabit internet with state-of-the-art Wi-Fi and conference rooms outfitted with Q-SYS, the latest enterprise-level videoconferencing system.
“They are simple and easy to use,” Crowder says of the Q-SYS systems.
A review of the rooms pictured on the webpage reveals three assembly rooms (up to 40-person capacity), three conference rooms, two creative rooms (one a podcast studio, the other for photography), private offices, and community work stations.
“We want this to not just be a space, but a community,” Fields says. An important component of building that sense of community will be a monthly luncheon series.
What most differentiates CoWork Bristol from similar facilities is its focus on a particular constituency.
“While we will sell memberships, we wanted to make it free to non-profits,” Fields says. Yes, that means they get a membership for free, and 18 had already signed-up in the first five days that CoWork Bristol was open.
We have not gotten to the point of signing-up businesses,” Fields says, adding, “We’re still in the early stages.”
The duo is pleased with the initial interest. More than 600 have already used the facility. “The response has been overwhelming,” Fields noted.