February 03, 2023

Coworking spreading through southwest Iowa

Early trains were only able to move forward. In order to provide maintenance, the trains would enter a roundhouse. In the roundhouse, the locomotives would receive any upgrades and upkeep necessary before sending them back on their way.

It was this process that inspired the name of The Roundhouse - a coworking space on Montgomery Street in Creston owned by the Union County Development Association.

“It’s paying homage to our history,” UCDA Interim Executive Director Mindy Stalker said. “Working with businesses, our goal is to get you up and going and get you on your way.”

Creston business men and women have been taking advantage of the space since 2019, and now, Southwestern Community College is looking to provide these services to their centers in Red Oak and Osceola.

SWCC Vice President of Economic Development Wayne Pantini is no stranger to coworking spaces as he pioneered The Roundhouse when he served as UCDA Executive Director.

At the SWCC January board meeting, Pantini explained coworking is a concept that allows workers to utilize space in a facility for their office needs. Coworking services include items such as a desk, conference room access, kitchenette access, internet, copy and print services and more.

“It could be start-up businesses or traveling workers,” he explained. “This will be a service offered in these communities that they don’t currently have.”

For two successful Creston businesswoman, The Roundhouse worked just as intended — a temporary stop on their business journey.

“I felt like I needed a formal space that was just for my working and getting my work done and not having distractions,” Hot Air Brewing owner Katie Davidson said. “I decided to do the coworking space because I was doing the buildout of my apartment and the brewery. I didn’t have an office space.”

The different levels of memberships dictate the price and amenities. For traveling or short-term workers, the drop-in space provides a desk area, guest internet access and availability to office supplies.

For members with needs like Davidson’s, having a dedicated suite-space, access to the conference room and a private internet line makes the space fit a variety of needs.

Though the amenities are a big attraction, it’s important to Stalker that the building creates the feel of a true roundhouse.

“With coworking, you might have a software engineer working next to someone starting a brewery,” Stalker said. “That kind of networking definitely comes into play.”

Having to make many decisions as she created her business, getting a second opinion was valuable for Davidson.

“I had people to run my ideas by and ask opinions. What they thought of floors, paint, marketing ideas,” Davidson said. “Having other people around keeps you motivated. Working toward goals—sometimes the same goals. It’s just nice to have that shared comaraderie of working together even if it’s something different.”

Though Our Town Realty owner Kiki Scarberry had a work-from-home space set up, she also found benefit in The Roundhouse’s amenities before they launched their office uptown.

“I would take my clients in there,” she said. “With kids, pets and family at home, you never know what you’re walking into. It’s not the best place to bring clients.”

The reasonable price was a big selling point for Scarberry. “It’s super economical. It was not expensive to be a part of. So dollar-wise, it’s very approachable for your budget. It’s great if you just need somewhere quiet,” she said. “If you’re someone that needs a little more structure, you can work out of there and get rid of those home distractions.”

While both women no longer belong to The Roundhouse, they continue to recommend it as a resource for professionals in need of a dedicated space.

“I highly recommend it. I think Red Oak and Osceola could certainly benefit from this,” Davidson said. “I really hope people take advantage of it.”

SWCC’s plan is for the coworking model to be launched at the Osceola and Red Oak Centers in 2023. The college is still in the process of building the model.

Cheyenne Roche

CHEYENNE ROCHE

Originally from Wisconsin, Cheyenne has a journalism and political science degree from UW-Eau Claire and a passion for reading and learning. She lives in Creston with her husband and their two little dogs.