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August 26, 2019 | Tom Ballard

New co-working facility to open by mid- to late September in Blount County

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Months of listening to local residents and developing a plan to address their needs will reach fruition next month with the opening of Blount County’s first co-working facility.

The organizers behind the “Sky City Initiative,” launched less than 18 months ago, are partnering with the Cities of Alcoa and Maryville and Blount County government through the Blount County Economic Development Board to open the new 5,000 square foot facility at 429 South Washington Street in Maryville. It is just above the Par-T-Pub and across just across Ellis Avenue from the very popular Foothills Milling Company restaurant.

The group has also secured a two-year grant from the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development to further help with the launch. The space will include four private offices, six dedicated “hot desks,” and 30 drop-in workspaces in addition to a conference room and other amenities like free Wi-Fi. You can see at facility layout here.

“From our initial meet-up in May 2018, we have consistently heard about the need for co-working space in the community,” said Rachel Buchanan, one of the members of the “Sky City Initiative” steering committee and, until starting her own entrepreneurial journey recently, was the Director of Economic Development for the Blount Partnership.

The group had been gauging the interest of local businesspeople who worked on their own to see if the idea had the proverbial “legs.” About two dozen have already expressed strong interest in securing a space. With a target date of mid-September to finish renovations and have the facility furnished, the steering committee is now signing-up individuals.

Rates are as follows:

  • A one-day pass costs $10. It comes with access to an unassigned “hot desk” seat, shared resources that are available to only members, and use of the conference room when available for $5 per hour.
  • A weekly pass is $50. It includes the same amenities – access to an unassigned “hot desk” seat, shared resources and the conference room when available for $5 per hour. What ‘s the difference in the daily rate? The weekly pass covers seven calendar days. There’s also a non-dedicated desk monthly rate of $150.
  • A dedicated desk is $225 a month. It includes access to the facility on a 24/7 basis, the same shared resources, a small storage area, and eight hours of conference room time each month at no charge.
  • A small office with a lockable door is $500 to $600 a month. It comes with the same 24/7 and shared resources access plus 16 hours of conference room usage at no cost.

The “Sky City Initiative” team will hold an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. September 18 to show-off the space to the community.

In addition to the typical amenities that are offered by co-working spaces, the Blount County facility also will be offering help from the Small Business Development Center and professional development activities such as the “CO.STARTERS” program. There will also be monthly events with featured speakers, mentors, and investors.

The “Sky City Initiative” started as an effort to help build a culture of entrepreneurship in the county, learn the needs of entrepreneurs, and connect them to each other. The steering committee included representatives from the Blount Partnership; LeConte Realty; PYA, the power behind; Blount County Library, Farmers Insurance, Egerton McAfee law firm; Epic Nine; and Maryville College.

As regular readers of know, we have spotlighted a number of new co-working options in the region over the past few months. The oldest is UpStart Knoxville, a facility that opened in early 2017 with 900 square feet and now occupies 2,700 square feet. It joins Ts117 Modern CoWorking, a two-story, 30,000 square foot facility in Oak Ridge that opened earlier this year.

There are also other efforts locally that do not provide their own space but utilize existing facilities. They include Knox Nomads, an organic initiative launched by Melissa Aldridge that engages at different times of the day at a variety of venues, and SeatsOpen, the Daniel Hodge co-led effort that helps sites like bars generate revenues before they open.