With the emergence of the “gig economy” and independent contractors, demand is increasing for shared office space. Almost unheard of in 2007 when only 14 co-working spaces could be documented in all of the United States, there now are more than 11,000 of these spaces, with Forbes Magazine projecting more than 26,000 spaces hosting 3.8 million people by 2020. Base 110 is one of several options in Lexington.
Tom Martin spoke with managing partner Tim Guthrie.
Q: What inspired you to establish a shared workspace, and where is Base 110 located?
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A: It’s at 110 West Vine Street. That's the corner of Upper and Vine in Downtown Lexington. We look directly over Vine Street to CenterPointe. So, it's about as downtown as you can get.
Q: You describe it as a hub for the Lexington Creative Community. How do you define creative?
A: It's a pretty broad definition. It's entrepreneurs, developers, designers, artists, writers, even tinkerers, I would say. Some people call it the “gig economy.” The workforce is seeing more and more independent contractors, folks developing their own businesses, their our own ideas. And so, we want to try to put an environment in place to foster that.
Q: These shared office spaces are thought of as a counterpoint to the traditional office culture. Who would you call your typical or ideal tenant?
A: Well, first of all, we call them members. They're not tenants. As a contrast to a traditional office space, we don't have long-term leases. There's not a big financial commitment. It makes it easy for an entrepreneur to come in and test out an idea and interact with other folks in the space. And if it works great, there's opportunity for more space. So, an ideal member is somebody who needs either just a desktop to work from or a small 1-person or 2-person office.
Q: So, a lot of us who are independent contractors and have been working from home have found that isolation pretty difficult. And this would seem to be an opportunity to break away from that, be around people, to network. Is that the idea?
A: Actually, that's a common theme. We have folks that are working remotely as part of other companies that are here in Lexington. Their company may be in San Diego or Boston, wherever. And part of what they miss when they’re working at home is peer or coworker interaction. I call it water cooler talk, where you can walk out of the office and see somebody at the coffee machine or whatever. So, that community aspect of this space is really one of the things that's important to the people that are there.
Q: And in looking over your materials, it looks like you offer an entry level membership ranging up to team member.
A: Right. We have a person that needs a desk. They don't need 4 walls for any reason. They just need a place to come. I call it a quieter version of a coffee shop. So, we have memberships at that level. It's Monday through Friday access all the way up to a 1-person private office, and then spaces that will hold anywhere from 2 to 6 people depending on what the nature of the work is.
Q: Shared office spaces seem to be found most often in the middle of cities. Yours is in the center of downtown Lexington. Are you attracting people who are looking for that urban walk-to-work setting?
A: We have bike racks. People come in and hang their bikes up. We have easy walking distance to UK, Transy, basically anything that's going on downtown. So, that “live where you work, work where you live” concept is part of this whole idea.
Q: Are you at liberty to talk about some of the members working there right now?
A: We have a couple of engineers in one company that are doing military aircraft work. We have a company with one principal in Boston, the other principal is here. They do large enterprise mobile app development for companies. We have a social media consultant that’s doing work for some large national companies that you would recognize. My company does finance and HR consulting services. So, it's quite a mix. We’re trying to expand that. We also have one member that has a virtual reality platform that she's working on, which is pretty interesting.
Q: We talked earlier about attracting creatives and about having a networking space where people can cross paths and share ideas. Is that going on?
A: Oh yeah. In fact, there’s actually been some connections made between the companies there. For example, I knew somebody who was looking for some resources for a proposal for a contract and was able to put them together with someone in the office. And I know there's been some interaction among other people in the office in terms of actually doing business together. So, there's that part of it and then there's the other part of it: being able to sit at the large tables out in the common area and have lunch and have someone that you can talk to through lunch and that kind of thing.
Q: When I came to visit to take a look before this interview, it was pointed out that you're expanding to a floor above the floor that you're on now.
A: The plan is for part of that space to be used for large meetings— a board meeting or an offsite corporate gathering. We think the space will hold up to a couple hundred people. That will be in one section of the space and then the rest of it will be just additional co-work space and offices similar to what we have on the 3rd floor. We're really going to try to attract painters, writers, and other disciplines like that. I think that mix will help create some good synergy there as you have these different disciplines starting to interact.
Q: Is the idea of shared office space peculiar to the millennial generation or is it broader than that? What would you say?
A: I think it's broader than that. I think there's always been shared— There are folks in the industry, very traditional carpet, walnut desk kinds of places. I think in terms of the gig economy and people out on their own, that’s really not a model that fits them very well. So, it may look like millennials are what we would attract, but I think we attract folks that are looking for something that's a little bit out of the box and has flexibility. I think that’s a big part of this too.
Q: Do you take care of things like cleaning and maintenance or is that up to each member?
A: It’s full service. There are cleaning services available. High speed internet is included. A coffee and refreshment bar, is also included. So, the membership is basically one fee and it covers everything for you to be in the space.
Q: And if somebody hears this, they're interested, they want to look at the various levels of membership, can they find that information online?
A: They can go to our website at base110.com. That's probably the best place to go. They can contact me through that site, as well.
Tom Martin’s Q&A appears every two weeks in the Herald-Leader’s Business Monday section. To listen to the interview, find the podcast below. The interview also will air on WEKU-88.9 FM on Mondays at 7:45 a.m. during Morning Edition, at 1:34 p.m. during Here and Now, and at 5:45 p.m. during All Things Considered.
Tim Guthrie will be among Tom’s guests discussing “shared office space and the gig economy” on this week’s edition of Eastern Standard, 11 a.m. - Noon on WEKU.