Office space, internet access and specialized training are available for entrepreneurs who wish to start businesses in St. John.
Communication is crucial for a business to succeed. In a remodeled building at 311 Broadway in St. John, offices with broadband connections are awaiting tenants, eager to have a space to conduct their work remotely.
This new facility is “Work Space 311” and it’s an incubator where new business can get started, said Carolyn Dunn, Stafford County Economic Director.
Work Space 311 is set up on a membership basis and each business pays fees to use the building spaces.
At a recent Kansas Department of Transportation, one of the topics of discussion was the importance of infrastructure to keep rural communities going and that included Broadband.
Broadband is essential connectivity for employment and sometimes it is a barrier in rural communities. Some places may not be connected and some can’t afford broadband service and that can limit business potential.
“Not all places have access to high speed internet. We’re trying to remove that barrier,” Dunn said.
At Work Space 311, they have the highest speed fiber optics available along with new computers.
This space is designed for those that don’t want to work at home or their work environment is too noisy or they want to start a new work chapter in their life but don’t know about remote jobs.
Work Space 311 also provides business security. Business can be done in private without interruption.
“You can’t do that from a place where people can look over your shoulder,” Dunn said.
But Work Space 311 is more than just a space to work. Training programs are available to show people what remote work jobs are open. Economic Development is working with Flexjobs, a clearing house for remote jobs. They help find what remote jobs are available that may be unknown in this area.
“It’s hard for us out here to know what those opportunities are,” Dunn said. “We provide support. We find what is available and what is the best fit for them.”
Work Space 311 can provide space for those that want to work independently. If they already have an established business in another town, they can set up an office in St. John as a second connection point for their business.
Those using Work Space 311 will be working for themselves. They will not be working for Economic Development. Economic Development will provide the work space and training to get started in a the remote job program.
There are three areas of focus in remote job training: Customer Service; Technical-IT training; Professional level jobs.
Customer service can take orders remotely for a company. These jobs are fairly entry level positions.
For those interested in IT, Work Space 311 might offer certification in coding. An entry level program to learn coding that can be completed in three months. This project is still in development.
At the professional job level, consulting and accounting are common jobs in this area. Dunn said they may have a hand full of people in those areas.
AmeriCorps has played an important part in getting this project up and running. Economic Development received funding in 2018 for three AmeriCorps positions including one for the incubator. Kathleen Norman, AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, came to St. John in 2019 and started working full time on the incubator project. A United States Department of Agriculture business grant was awarded in March 2019 to the project for renovation of the building that Economic Development purchased in 2017. Norman and Ashley Bevan, Stafford County Economic Development Program Director, spent a lot of time finishing work on the building after Bike and Build, a cross county bicycle group that helps with affordable housing, stopped in St. John and spent a day working on the building to help get it ready to open.
The grant also covered running the training program for the next year, Norman said.
This includes classes in the various areas of remote business and an assessment of the persons readiness to go to work. Training in remote work etiquette and expectations, time management, office management, are some of the areas available. They are working on a workshop in office Excel, Norman said.
Work Space 311 is looking for solopreneurs, an individual that doesn’t hire anyone but does freelance or contract work or consulting.
“We are happy to work with any kind of business,” Norman said.
Memberships and fees for office spaces at the incubator:
Open co-working $75 per month.
Dedicated work station $110 per month.
Small office $200 per month.
Medium Office $325 per month.
Large Office $425 per month.
Day pass $15.
Conference Room $10 per hour. Shared workspace members receive five free hours each month and office members receive 10 free hours per month in the conference room.
Office space sizes:
Large office: 14’ 3” x 14’ = 199.5 sq. ft.
Medium office: 6’ 7” x 14’ 3” = 93.8 sq. ft.
Small office: 6’ 7” x 8’ 11” = 58.7 sq. ft.
Conference room: 10’ 9” x 13’ 6” = 145.125 sq. ft.