By Dennis Seid
TUPELO – The Link Centre is almost ready to open the bizLink, a new home for entrepreneurs and telecommuters looking for an office-like space like no other.
Unlike a business incubator, bizLink is using a coworking model, which offers not only traditional offices, but also has more open work spaces. It also has a different organizational structure.
“Tupelo has a real entrepreneurial spirit, but not a whole lot of office space,” said Derek Russell, the bizLink’s director.
“There are great places like the Renasant Center for IDEAs, but business incubators have specific guidelines and you follow a graduated program,” Russell said.
At bizLink, five levels of membership are available, from $25 to $300. Leases are for 90 days, but longer agreements can be made if a member wants.
So what’s available for someone at the bizLink?
Here, people can work freely in the lounge area, and they have the option of going to dedicated desks in an open space or in small or large private offices.
There’s free wi-fi as well as ethernet connection and access to a copier, scanner and fax.
“And there’s free coffee,” Russell said with a laugh.
Members also get a business mailing address, so entrepreneurs, freelancers and small businesses looking to move off the kitchen table or from the garage don’t have to use their home addresses any more.
The second floor of the Link Centre – encompassing 14,000 square feet – has been gutted and is in the process of being renovated for bizLink. The target opening is July 14, and while the entire space likely won’t be ready, some of it will be.
“We’ve had a lot of interest in it,” Russell said.
Coworking spaces are nothing new, but have typically been found in larger cities. According to tech website CIO.com, teleworking – using information technology and telecommunication from home to do work – grew 80 percent from 2005 to 2012.
Coworking spaces grew with that. In 2005, according to CIO, the U.S. had one coworking space; last year, that figure grew to 781. Memberships in coworking spaces increased 117 percent from 2012 to 2013, according to the National Association of Industrial Office Professionals.
The renovation work for bizLink was paid for through grants, so money coming from bizLink leases and memberships will be funneled back to the Link Centre’s arts and social services programs.