Berkshire Business Outlook | Cloud85: A high tech method for fostering innovation
NORTH ADAMS — At Cloud85 on a recent Tuesday afternoon two young men hunch over a computer screen that displays a broad wall of text indecipherable to those who don't speak the language.
Such a sight is becoming more common at Cloud85, a co-work space launched last year at 85 Main St. in North Adams that aims to facilitate and foster innovation and experimentation amongst professionals.
"We really saw the need for a physical focal point for innovation and entrepreneurship, creativity and collaboration that really catered to independent professionals," said Jeffrey Thomas, a partner in and manager of the business.
A tech incubator for some and just an office away from home for others, Cloud85 has steadily grown to a membership base of more than 30 since its opening without any aggressive marketing of its services. Its members include a journalist, several nonprofits, an attorney, the North Adams Chamber of Commerce, and two to three startup companies at any given time.
In addition to being a place where people get work done, it's becoming more and more common to hear people say "we met at Cloud85."
"It's a place to meet," he said, adding that though the people sitting next to you may not be colleagues, they are co-workers.
Cloud85 offers multiple levels of membership ranging from the standard 24/7 access for $150 per month to a one-day pass for $25. It's the only space of its kind in Berkshire County, though there have been discussions about opening a similar space in Pittsfield or Great Barrington. Members have access to typical office amenities like a printer and conference rooms are available for reservation. Such spaces sprouted up in places where space is at an absolute premium, like New York City. And while that's not the case here, a shared space can still offer many amenities and opportunities for Northern Berkshire residents who might otherwise work from home.
"I've heard so many people say 'I'm so much more efficient when I work here,'" Thomas said.
John Gamble, a business development manager with Wisconsin-based tool manufacturing company Snap-On, has been using the space for a few months and plans to continue for the foreseeable future.
While working from home, he said, distractions are everywhere — "it's very easy to decide that you need to demo your downstairs bathroom."
A communal work space also provides social interaction that wouldn't be experienced at home.
"There's as much or as little as you want," he said.
The space is also useful for businesses and employers who may not have permanent roots in North Adams, like the nonprofit 1Berkshire, the county's leading economic development agency. Not only does 1Berkshire support Thomas' efforts, it also utilizes the office space, according to COO Jonathan Butler.
"It's great, nice, modern space so it allows us to have some of our staff that live up in North County occasionally work there," Butler said.
As North Adams continues to try to shape the future of its economy, being attractive to professionals who have the ability to work from anywhere they want and fostering a "diversity of enterprise" could be important.
"It makes me feel good about the area," Gamble said. "It makes me feel like North Adams is staying up to date with what the current trends are."
As a person who works remotely and is on the road 50 to 75 percent of the time, Gamble could work pretty much wherever he wanted. He's lived in places from California to Washington, D.C., but likes what the Northern Berkshires have to offer.
Although it's on a much smaller scale, Gamble said the space is no different in substance than what someone would find at a co-work space in New York City.
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376
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