More use of the shared workspaces is on the horizon in Victor and Geneva

With new coworking spaces planned for Ontario County in the coming years — including a notable space keeping its doors open after part of its funding was pulled — many are optimistic about the future of these unique places to work.

Coworking spaces are shared work spaces, in which workers from different companies share office space. Among the benefits, a cost-efficient way for businesses to provide office space and share utility costs, as one example, while building a sense of community among workers.

"We continue to see the growth in Rochester and across the country," said Spot Cowork Founder Jim Salviski, adding how coworking spaces are "the fastest growing market segment among commercial real estate.

"The numbers are already in, there's a lot of investment in coworking," he said.

According to the commercial real estate and investment management firm Jones Lang LaSalle, growth in this particular sector has been "explosive."

In an infographic available on the company's site, the firm predicted that coworking spaces, also known as flex space inventory, will "skyrocket to approximately 30 percent of the market by 2030," a significant change from the current 5 percent of existing office stock in 2019.

That is exactly what Salviski is banking on.

Salviski has overseen the opening of Spot Cowork’s first space in 2018, at 600 Fishers Station in Victor. The privately held coworking group recently opened another property in Henrietta, and plans to continue expanding.

"We really wanted to try the tertiary markets," Salviski said, emphasizing how caution was the key to successfully branching out.

"We want to try to see how this is going to go. We know that it starts in the big A markets, and the New Yorks of the world, or the Nashvilles and et cetera. And we're starting to increase awareness in the B markets, which is great. It's great that you're starting to see it in the Rochesters of the world. Now we can start to say, 'OK, this is going to work for us.'

"We feel that it's going to work in the tertiary markets, it's just going to take a little bit longer,” he said. “My guess is it will be three to five years before you really start seeing further penetration of flex work spaces into the tertiary markets."

While Spot Cowork has recently acquired a building in Canandaigua for one of its satellite spaces, it is far from the only coworking space in the county.

Port 100, in Geneva, is another space that offered plenty of opportunity for would-be entrepreneurs and small business owners. That is, until its doors almost shut because of a lack of funding from the city.

Initially supporting its costs through a combination of membership dues and funding from the city, the cowork experienced a drop in its 2019 funding because of a budget shortfall in the city. With no additional funding approved for 2020, there were concerns that Port 100 would have to close its doors unless it increased memberships or found funding from another source, according to Maureen Ballatori, member of Port 100 and chief design strategist of the marketing agency 29 Design Studio.

As a result, Geneva City Manager Sage Gerling contacted Ontario County Economic Developer Michael Manikowski last fall, Ballatori said.

"He said, 'Oh, well they just lost their funding. They could use some support from you' and interviewed us,” Ballatori said. “And we went from there."

Contingent approval was approved in December.

"So it happened very quickly," Ballatori said.

Manikowski expressed excitement for what the cowork will bring in the years ahead.

"Port 100 is something relatively new and we see a good future for it, and it's going to be a contributor to the local economic development ecosystem in eastern Ontario County,” Manikowski said. “So we're happy to support it."

Over the next three years, Port 100 will receive $30,000 in funding from the county agency, but with strings attached. Among the requirements involved in the funding include a build-out of semi-private office spaces in the cowork's existing property on Castle Street. Also, Port 100 will have to provide educational programming for entrepreneurs in the region and attract more members. Among some of the workshops include a six-week marketing accelerator done with Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

For Ballatori, who is now Port 100's sole owner, being able to keep the space open is a relief.

"Imagine if this place didn't exist. And it was just three individual storefronts, like it used to be, instead of being a unified coworking space,” Ballatori said. “There's no way, in the course of three years, that you would have been able to support 30 different businesses and individuals in that kind of footprint without the existence of an incubator like this."

The ability to have more than one member-business or entrepreneur working in a shared office space, where they can grow and develop, is a major reason Salviski believes in coworking as a model.

"We have everything. We have attorneys, we actually have a doctor that uses our space, a software developer, we have accountants, people who do work for construction companies,” Salviski said. "Everyone assumes there's just going to be millennials and IT or tech companies, but that's not the case. There are people who want to be part of a community, and want to work in a really nice space."