Our View: CoWork space highlights region’s ability to pivot

Laveta Brigham

It may still be subtle to see, and even harder to focus on with a pandemic consuming much of our energy, but for years forward thinkers in our county have pushed to make the area more tech savvy and inviting to modern businesses. While still very much a work in […]

It may still be subtle to see, and even harder to focus on with a pandemic consuming much of our energy, but for years forward thinkers in our county have pushed to make the area more tech savvy and inviting to modern businesses. While still very much a work in progress, it’s worth noting the progress keeps coming.

The latest example, as staff writer Kevin Carroll reported in a front page article Wednesday, is the new CoWork space unveiled at the Accelerator in downtown Wilkes-Barre. It’s the latest iteration of several innovative centers set up to help entrepreneurs get business ideas off the ground.

The new facility in the re-purposed former GUARD building on River Street brings together space to lease, financial and legal services, business coaching, and access to the Accelerator’s Studio 16 South video production service launched earlier this year.

“With CoWork, aspiring professionals could work, collaborate and work on growing their ideas” Accelerator Founder Kristopher Jones explained.

Jones himself has been a driving force in the city’s conversion to a tech-friendly place to start a business. He was co-founder of Pepperjam, a digital marketing company successful enough to end up being bought by online giant eBay in 2009.

CoWork joins a slowly but steadily expanding list of such business incubators in the area, spaces that have transformed old building — the former GUARD center and what used to be a Woolworth’s store are just two examples — into enterprise hotbeds. These centers have attracted outside support as well as backing from local colleges and universities.

What makes CoWork different is how the idea has been adapted to fit a pandemic. The roughly 2,500 square feet space has been carved up to keep those using it at recommended distances.

“Before the pandemic, a space like this wasn’t even on our road map,” Jones said. “Everyone had to pivot this year, so we did, too.”

Indeed, if there is a silver lining to this dark year of COVID-19, it almost surely is the remarkable ability the region and the nation showed in adapting to a life-threatening virus that, by it’s very nature, kept requiring changes to the way we do things.

Schools have made a rapid if sometimes imperfect switch to remote learning, hybrid classes with some students in person and others on line, health monitoring and facility cleaning changes. Businesses have struggled but manage to work through the virus with innovations in customer service.

As difficult as 2020 has been, and as unwelcome as the new virus clearly is, the pluses should not be ignored. We have shown resilience, innovation and adaptability in the face of this danger, traits that have always helped America and our region not only survive but thrive.

CoWork is just one more example of those traits, joining other success stories amid uncertainty and economic headwinds created by the pandemic.

It is another reminder that, while we’re not out of the thick of this yet, we are fully capable of getting to a new normal, and should remain positive we’ll get there. Our history, distant and immediate, justifies such optimism.

— Times Leader

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