FARMINGTON – With more and more of the workforce returning to offices, some people who worked from home during the pandemic are finding a place where they can continue to work independently, but with others.
Property managers Nicole Wilcox and Jeannette Ulibarri rent an office at a new co-working space in Farmington, which allows them to have a storefront for the first time and a place where they can interact with others in the co-working community.
The property management business, called Wilcox Management, moved into the co-working space in February. They were the first tenants of Connect Space, which didn’t officially open until this week.
Connect Space on Main Street in Farmington includes 18,000 square feet of office space for rent. It was originally a J.C. Penney building in the 1960s before it changed tenants multiple times. It is one of several co-working office spaces that have popped up in the Four Corners as more people find it possible to work from anywhere they want, as long as there is adequate internet.
Wilcox said the company has the prime location in the co-working space, with a private office at the window front. The business was even able to decorate the front glass to match its business theme.
“It’s not just a typical office,” Wilcox said.
“It’s like working remotely, away from home,” Ulibarri said. “We’re not all always here at the same time.”
Ulibarri explained how some days she might work from home and Wilcox works at the office, or they might switch, or they might both be at the office – but the space gave them the flexibility to choose.
Wilcox said business has increased exponentially, something she credits with having a physical location in a co-working space.
Connect Space features a front-desk receptionist area, several water features and a tree growing in the middle of a common area. There are conference rooms, a larger room with multiple desks for working, several private offices available for communal use, a kitchen and a downstairs lounge recreational area.
The working spaces are accessible 24/7 to members. They can download an app that allows them to unlock the front doors when Connect Space is not otherwise open.
Jaime Wisner of Durango has owned the building for 20 years but recently decided to transform it into a co-working space. Wisner said he looked at the size of the building and its location and settled on a business plan that could also embrace downtown Farmington.
Wisner said he started to research shared office spaces and, in doing so, connected with his friend Jasper Welch, who operates a co-working space in Durango.
“We spoke and I toured his property, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do here,” Wisner said.
He hired Melissa Porch to manage Connect Space.
Porch opened her own shared office space three years ago that was set up in a Farmington home. That gave her the feel for how such a business works. But when COVID-19 hit, it put an end to her business.
“I’m really fortunate to have (Porch), because she understands the concept and is almost fully qualified to be a partner,” Wisner said. “Because of the knowledge she has technology-wise, she’s been able to help me with stuff that I wouldn’t have been able to know how to do.”
The benefits of this type of space are “broad,” Wisner said. By creating a culture and integrating different types of businesses, Wisner said it becomes a place not just to work but to network.
The space was inspired by other co-working models in the Four Corners, especially from Durango Space, Welch’s co-working business, which has three locations.
Welch said the new working model has evolved as the workforce has changed over the last five to 10 years.
“Part of that change is: One, you can work anywhere, ... two, talent is going to go where they feel like they have the best work-life balance ... three, people are looking for flexible working situations,” Welch said. “It kind of laid out the table for these kinds of models for flexible co-working spaces.”
When Durango Space opened in 2011, there were only 10 other co-working spaces similar to that in Colorado. Welch and co-founder Nancy Warden moved to a larger space in 2018 to a location that is considered a “Class A” building.
Welch said a Class A building incorporates amenities typical office buildings don’t have, such as showers in the men’s and women’s bathrooms. The building is also equipped with high-speed internet, like Farmington’s Connect Space.
Connect Space had a soft opening last week when it invited key stakeholders and business and community leaders to tour the facility and “see the economic opportunity and impact we have for economic development,” Porch said.
“We wanted to have the opportunity to collaborate at that level and really use the space and leverage it for as many things as we can,” Porch said.
She added that one of the biggest benefits was the all-inclusiveness of the office environment.
“It really beats the traditional overhead model where you have to set up a lease and utilities and set up Wi-Fi,” Porch said. “We take care of all of that so they really do save money.
“It’s not about having a desk and not having a connection to people around you,” she said. “It’s about community and culture here, and that’s what we’re creating that’s different from a traditional office space – it’s a work space with flexibility with the community that comes with it.”