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CoCo a no-go: Downtown Fargo co-working space to close

FARGO - After about a 10-month run, the CoCo collaborative and co-working space in downtown Fargo will close its doors as of Friday, a CoCo official said over the weekend.

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From left, Amber Morgan, Brett Henley and Weston Woodward walk in front of CoCo in downtown Fargo on Sunday, May 31, 2015. Rick Abbott / The Forum
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FARGO - After about a 10-month run, the CoCo collaborative and co-working space in downtown Fargo will close its doors as of Friday, a CoCo official said over the weekend. However, supporters of Fargo as an entrepreneurial hotspot say an effort is underway to maintain a collaborative and co-working space here using a different pricing structure than the one used by CoCo, which Fargo officials described as too expensive for the type of startups working in Fargo. Laurie Healy, CoCo's director of marketing and communications, said in a phone interview over the weekend that the Fargo CoCo site just didn't attract enough members to remain viable. "It was a decision that we made very reluctantly and after great consideration,” she said. “We've been unable to build up that sustainable membership base over the 10 months we've been in Fargo." The Fargo location is at 122½ Broadway, above the King House Buffet. CoCo still has two co-working spaces in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul. CoCo sites aim to give small startup companies an economical way to get on their feet while gaining valuable support from and interaction with companies pursuing similar goals. At the time the Fargo location opened, the site's community manager, Rachel Sternhagen, said they were hoping for about 100 members. Healy said she couldn’t discuss membership numbers relating to the Fargo location. Sternhagen could not be reached for comment.
Co-working idea ‘viable’ The way CoCo works is that people or groups purchase memberships for one to five days per week, or they can pay for 24/7 access to a CoCo site. Costs range from about $70 to $350 a month at the individual level, while group membership for a medium campsite can be about $1,400 a month. Jim Gartin, president of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp., said the agency provided CoCo with about $4,000 a month to help the company offset losses due to low membership. He said when the EDC approached CoCo about replacing the subsidy with a plan that allowed for helping members pay their rents, CoCo rejected the idea. Gartin said CoCo also wasn’t willing to modify its fee structure to accommodate a market much smaller than the one in the Twin Cities. Now, Gartin said, the EDC is working with other groups and individuals to keep the collaborative space going under a new arrangement that could be in place by July 1. “It’s a viable option,” he said of the co-working idea. At the time the Fargo CoCo location opened, CoCo officials said a major reason they picked Fargo for their first space outside the Twin Cities was because of the way Fargo embraces and promotes entrepreneurial efforts. But in a phone interview this past weekend, Healy indicated more was required. "There's been a ton of community support and enthusiasm,” she said, but it wasn't enough to sustain the (CoCo) model.” Greg Tehven, co-founder and CEO of Emerging Prairie, an organization that promotes the entrepreneurial spirit in Fargo, said that group is among those working to keep Fargo’s collaborative space going. “Emerging Prairie has been in conversations with community partners and individuals who believe co-working is still a really good idea for our community,” Tehven said, adding they are exploring possible ways to revitalize the former CoCo space with a new pricing structure and a new way to integrate the community. “In any endeavor, we have to honor the pursuit,” Tehven said. “I think CoCo made a strong effort to bring a new service to our community based on their experiences in the Twin Cities. The fact CoCo hasn't flourished might not be a representation of our community, but more about how they wanted to do things based on what they've done in the Twin Cities,” Tehven added.FARGO - After about a 10-month run, the CoCo collaborative and co-working space in downtown Fargo will close its doors as of Friday, a CoCo official said over the weekend.However, supporters of Fargo as an entrepreneurial hotspot say an effort is underway to maintain a collaborative and co-working space here using a different pricing structure than the one used by CoCo, which Fargo officials described as too expensive for the type of startups working in Fargo.Laurie Healy, CoCo's director of marketing and communications, said in a phone interview over the weekend that the Fargo CoCo site just didn't attract enough members to remain viable."It was a decision that we made very reluctantly and after great consideration,” she said. “We've been unable to build up that sustainable membership base over the 10 months we've been in Fargo."The Fargo location is at 122½ Broadway, above the King House Buffet.CoCo still has two co-working spaces in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul.CoCo sites aim to give small startup companies an economical way to get on their feet while gaining valuable support from and interaction with companies pursuing similar goals.At the time the Fargo location opened, the site's community manager, Rachel Sternhagen, said they were hoping for about 100 members.Healy said she couldn’t discuss membership numbers relating to the Fargo location.Sternhagen could not be reached for comment.
Co-working idea ‘viable’The way CoCo works is that people or groups purchase memberships for one to five days per week, or they can pay for 24/7 access to a CoCo site.Costs range from about $70 to $350 a month at the individual level, while group membership for a medium campsite can be about $1,400 a month.Jim Gartin, president of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp., said the agency provided CoCo with about $4,000 a month to help the company offset losses due to low membership.He said when the EDC approached CoCo about replacing the subsidy with a plan that allowed for helping members pay their rents, CoCo rejected the idea.Gartin said CoCo also wasn’t willing to modify its fee structure to accommodate a market much smaller than the one in the Twin Cities.Now, Gartin said, the EDC is working with other groups and individuals to keep the collaborative space going under a new arrangement that could be in place by July 1.“It’s a viable option,” he said of the co-working idea.At the time the Fargo CoCo location opened, CoCo officials said a major reason they picked Fargo for their first space outside the Twin Cities was because of the way Fargo embraces and promotes entrepreneurial efforts.But in a phone interview this past weekend, Healy indicated more was required."There's been a ton of community support and enthusiasm,” she said, but it wasn't enough to sustain the (CoCo) model.”Greg Tehven, co-founder and CEO of Emerging Prairie, an organization that promotes the entrepreneurial spirit in Fargo, said that group is among those working to keep Fargo’s collaborative space going.“Emerging Prairie has been in conversations with community partners and individuals who believe co-working is still a really good idea for our community,” Tehven said, adding they are exploring possible ways to revitalize the former CoCo space with a new pricing structure and a new way to integrate the community.“In any endeavor, we have to honor the pursuit,” Tehven said. “I think CoCo made a strong effort to bring a new service to our community based on their experiences in the Twin Cities.The fact CoCo hasn't flourished might not be a representation of our community, but more about how they wanted to do things based on what they've done in the Twin Cities,” Tehven added.

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