Lucas Boland planned to be the first member of Uptown Works, a coworking community in Somerset Borough.
But his kids made him late to the annual home, garden and business expo in Somerset in March, called the Megashow, and someone else signed up first.
Boland was second, but he said the space is exactly what he needed.
Owner Emily Korns opened Uptown Works in July with options for members to have workspaces full time, part time or to rent office spaces or conference rooms.
“I was onboard as soon as Emily announced it,” Boland said.
Boland works from a home office for Valbridge Property Advisors in Pittsburgh, but he found working at home did not work for him.
“It was really appealing to me,” he said of the workspace. “It is extremely affordable and includes the cost of utilities, use of the conference room, common areas. My cost here is lower than my cost in Pittsburgh. It just makes sense to be here.”
Korns said that since opening, her business has grown to 25 members and about five meetings booked a month.
“There are still a lot of opportunities,” she said.
Korns said her goal is to have 65 members. Her members are a mix of part time and full time.
“Reaching that first 20 members was really important,” she said. “It was a big milestone.”
She said some misconceptions include people believing that it is a temporary agency where a person can come in and get a job, and that people need to sign a lease.
“We have some specific packages that we sell,” she said. “We can create custom solutions depending on what their needs are.”
Korns said that for the new year she is planning to construct a wheelchair ramp and install some new window advertising to enhance the look of the building from the street.
“The basement is almost completed,” she said. “We don’t yet know what is going in there. We were thinking a child care facility and decided the business model wasn’t going to work.”
Boland said he is also impressed with the look of the building. He said that you could take the building and drop it in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., or downtown Pittsburgh, and it would fit in. He also enjoys the conversations that reach beyond real estate.
“I started working for my father in 2001 and ever since then economic officials have tried to address the brain drain of people leaving the area,” he said. “This is not the answer, but it is an incredible answer to that.”
Natasha Zorn, owner of Empowered YOU Holistic Wellness Services, said she has been able to reach people and meet clients in a more professional setting since renting a private office in August.
“Advertising for me was a huge seller,” she said. “In their membership, they advertise for you. I was able to expand my reach to more people.”
Mary S. Biesecker Public Library IT and facilities coordinator Morgan Simmons said that he uses the facility for tech tutoring and meetings for collaborations with Somerset Inc. and Laurel Arts.
“The library doesn’t have a lot of private meeting space,” he said.
Somerset County Chamber of Commerce Director Ron Aldom said he believes that not too many rural communities have a facility such as Uptown Works.
“It is what we needed — it is attraction and retention of our youth,” he said. “We need to attract the best and brightest.”
“It is vital that it stays and continues to grow because I think it says something about our community,” he added.
Korns said the community has been very supportive of her.
“Now we need to get more people through these doors to see us and understand what is happening,” she said.
She also hopes that her business has brought more foot traffic to other local businesses in Uptown Somerset.
“If we could open up more shops uptown and a great restaurant, that could be the tipping point,” she said.