2018-09-06 / Front Page

Innovate Newport Begins Appeal for Future Tenants

By Leif Walcutt

The process to fill office space and individual memberships to Newport’s first co-working space is currently underway at the former Sheffield Elementary School on Broadway.

The $6 million construction contract awarded by the city of Newport to Pezzuco Construction of Cranston started in April. While the ribbon-cutting ceremony is expected to be in December, officials say the facility will be open by early February 2019.

“We have letters of intent executed with two tenants,” said Scott Gibbs, president of the Economic Development Foundation of Rhode Island. The first confirmed tenant is the Newport Chamber of Commerce, which is currently located at 35 Valley Rd. in Middletown.

“The co-work side, which is basically individual sole entrepreneurs, is wide open. We want to get a diversified group of people together because that is typically what spurs innovation,” said Gibbs. On the office suite side, he says Innovate Newport is focusing on the areas of underwater technologies and marine science or “companies that will provide service to individuals in that ecosystem.”

The person that will “develop the ecosystem” and build relationships was brought on this past month by Innovate Newport. Gibbs says marketing for the facility has kicked off in “full gear,” coinciding with Innovate Newport’s hiring of Tuni Schartner as the director of Entrepreneurship and Development.

“Innovate Newport will help strengthen and continue to fill the greater Newport economy,” said Schartner. In particular, she says the Innovation Center will help growing businesses scale up and provide resources for growth and development.

While the rates are currently being finalized by the Innovate Newport board, it is agreed that there will be different membership options within the co-working space. “The memberships will range from day options to more robust monthly memberships with dedicated desks,” said Schartner. The facility will also offer a “hot desk” option, where paying members can simply grab an available co-work space.

In addition to co-working spaces, private offices, and conference spaces, the 33,000-square-foot facility will also feature a kitchen, which will not be full service.

“Right now it’s a lot of word-of-mouth relationship marketing,” said Schartner. She said Innovate Newport is in the process of finalizing the facility’s logo and website and general branding throughout the state of Rhode Island with potential tenants.

One such firm looking to scale-up and book space as a potential tenant at the Sheffield School is Yaldi Marketing, a strategic marketing service company currently operating out of Portsmouth.

“It’s often a lonely road being a sole proprietor of company,” said Yaldi Marketing CEO Scott Russell. “The co-working environment creates a space in which you have an energy and potential for innovation and inspiration from other companies trying to grow and scale their business…. It will provide an economical way to scale my business without being tied into a long-term lease,” he said.

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