The latest to open is the Bull Moose Club, right across State Street from the Capitol. (Yep, it has a bust of Teddy Roosevelt.)
As the location suggests, the space is focusing on a crowd of lobbyists, advocates, trade associations, and startups. And it’s backed by the same people who created the Troy Innovation Garage coworking space in downtown Troy.
As with other similar setups, Bull Moose offers a typical menu of office services — desks, internet, printers, mailboxes, conference rooms, and booths for making phone calls. And it has memberships that allow for the occasional drop in at a first-come-first-sit desk or table, as well as private offices available for rent by the month.
Here’s a look around the new space, along with a few questions for its founder, Tom Nardacci — about coworking, other cities, and changing the culture of the Capital Region.
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It’s been about 18 months since you opened the Innovation Garage in Troy. What have you learned about running a coworking space in that time?
So I think the first thing that we’ve learned is that there is a real desire and need for flexible workspace in the Capital Region. I think also we’ve learned that people in the Capital Region don’t really fully know about coworking. So we’ve had to do a lot of education on what it is and what we do.
But once people come in and they try it and they feel how productive they can be, they sign up. And that’s really been the most rewarding thing about Troy is that people come in that first day and they try it and they say, geez, I really like this and then they stay and they become members.
So why this space over here in Albany, and why now?
Because I’m glutton for punishment. (smiles)
No, I love Troy. I love what I’m doing at the Garage and it’s super cool and it’s fun. The people that are around us are really a lot of fun. And so I made my mind up pretty quickly I wanted to do another space.
And I started thinking about Albany because I think there’s a lot of good stuff happening in downtown Albany now. I think that there’s some revitalization downtown. And so I started looking around downtown Albany and I spent some time working the state legislature so I understand the Capitol because of the public affairs work we do. And I just knew that there’s a need. I walk into the Capitol during session day and Dunkin’ Donuts is jam packed [with people working]. And I just was like this would be the place to do it.
You’ve talked about how you went on a sort of fact-finding tour of other coworking spaces in other cities before opening the Troy space. And today you were talking about, even after you opened Troy, going around and seeing other coworking spaces around the country. You’ve gotten to see these spaces, but you’ve also seen these places. So are there things that you’ve noticed when you’ve been exploring these other areas about what jobs are like now, what work is like now, that we can apply here?
Tom Nardacci: I think the Capital Region is always like five or ten years behind some other major metro areas. So right off the bat, I kind of that see that. It usually gets here — whether it’s Trader Joe’s or it’s a concept like coworking or even sometimes fashion. So I’ve seen that for sure.
I think that the coworking industry is definitely continually evolving because it’s so new. I mean, really just like 2011 it kind of started as an industry. So I like to keep tabs on what’s happening and to see what’s going on. And I’m just super curious.
So why go to Boulder [, Colorado], what’s Boulder have to do with this? Well, we’re trying to cater to a software economy in downtown Troy so why not go to one of the startup capitals in the country and just see what’s going on there. And you learn a lot — it’s not just about the space.
I think one the things we come back and see is that the programming we do in Troy is on par with what’s happening in other parts of the country. So that’s very rewarding and satisfying. You know, we’re doing as much as we possibly can.
“There’s some smart planning going on in Boulder. I think they’ve had smart planning that dates back 50 years when they decided to protect natural resources, preserve the character of their downtown core. So you start seeing things like that and you start thinking about how we’ve got to start thinking in the Capital Region in terms of generational. What are we doing today that’s going to impact the next 50 years?”
Then you start digging deeper and trying to figure out, OK, why [is it different there]? I think there’s just some places in the country like Colorado that we’ll never be able to compete with because of geography. People are leaving the West Coast, they’re leaving Silicon Valley, they’re moving to Colorado. We don’t have that sort of feeder for upstate New York.
There’s some smart planning going on in Boulder. I think they’ve had smart planning that dates back 50 years when they decided to protect natural resources, preserve the character of their downtown core. So you start seeing things like that and you start thinking about how we’ve got to start thinking in the Capital Region in terms of generational. What are we doing today that’s going to impact the next 50 years? And I think that’s conversations that you guys are helping people have and that we want to help people have.
So based on what you’ve seen from this informal tour, also what you learned running the space is Troy, are there one or two things that you think in this area that we should be focused on right now — about changing, or cultivating, or improving?
I think the thing that’s missing that we need more of in the Capital Region is that we need to support more small. So we need like a new nano-economy that’s focused on small business, small enterprise, startup. We need more support for startups and I don’t think that it necessarily starts with government. I think that we need to just have a culture here that’s supportive and inclusive for startups.
It’s hard because it’s a culture change. It’s such a government area, so based on, well, what does the state say? I think that’s one of the things I want to see evolve.
I think access to funding, as well, [is a need]. There’s been some success stories where people have had access to capital. And there are some banks and community banks willing to get involved. But I still think that capital access is limiting for some companies in the area. So I think those two things I push for and would look to see more change.
And I think as we get more companies that grow out of here — Troy, for example, has the video game industry, really starts to boom, as we get 10x growth in that industry — you’re going to start to see see more action, more interest, more activity. And just a city like Troy making sure that they are equipped to support that new economy, that new workforce. And we’re part of the continuum. But we don’t have all the solutions.
This interview has been edited and condensed.