Innovation Center to Open in Downtown Concord
At a time when most communities are evaluating the devastating effects of COVID-19 on their local businesses and economy, Cabarrus County is looking to find resiliency through innovation and entrepreneurship.
Cabarrus Economic Development has announced a partnership with Flywheel Coworking to open an innovation center in the former Cabarrus Savings Bank.
The Cabarrus Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship will open later this year, fulfilling a need many organizations in the community have acknowledged, but have been ill-equipped to address completely. “We have known for a while that there is a lack of resources for startups in our community,” said Page Castrodale, Existing Industry Director with Cabarrus Economic Development. “There is a lot of support for small Main Street businesses or service-based business, but if you’re an entrepreneur with a scalable startup, there really isn’t anywhere for you to go.”
The partnership between Cabarrus Economic Development and Flywheel, who currently operates coworking innovation spaces in Winston-Salem and Davidson, will result is a physical location where services, mentor networks, education, capital access and programming come together. The goal is to support the creation of new businesses and growth of existing small businesses.
"The center is a regional effort, led by the community,” said Peter Marsh, the founder of Flywheel. “The level of support we have received from stakeholders in the entrepreneurship ecosystem and the growth demographics of Cabarrus County made us confident in investing in a Flywheel location in this community.”
Castrodale says that Flywheel’s collaborative approach is what makes it such a good fit for the community. Organizations like the Cabarrus Chamber, Rowan Cabarrus Community College, the Small Business Center and others bring the best of what they already offer businesses and Flywheel will fill in the gaps. “By partnering with Flywheel,” she says, “we’ll have a continuum of services available to a business in any stage.”
While the center will be located in Concord, Marsh says he sees opportunity throughout the entire county, especially in Kannapolis. "One of the most important relationships we are looking forward to is programmatic engagement in Kannapolis and the opportunity for startups to intersect with the North Carolina Research Campus. Having that kind of knowledge asset is a draw for entrepreneurs and innovators."
The innovation center will occupy the main level and basement level of the historic Cabarrus Savings Bank, located at 57 Union Street South. It will include approximately 20,000 square feet of event, educational, meeting room, office and coworking space. The center is designed to deliver affordable space for startups and early-stage entrepreneurs, fully furnished with amenities, meeting rooms, and free or low-cost educational and networking programs and events.
Cabarrus Economic Development and the Cabarrus Chamber will be relocating their offices to the center and other program partners will occupy suites in the space as well, collocating their programs with those that Flywheel offers.
“We think this sends a strong message to businesses, whether you are already here or interested in moving here, that our community is committed to helping our businesses innovate and grow,” says Castrodale. “Having our office in the innovation center will only reemphasize that to the companies we interact with every day.”
Flywheel is hoping to open the new location in the fall, but Marsh said the work starts now. They will be working with local business leaders and partners throughout the summer to map out curriculum, events and networks to support entrepreneurs.
Cabarrus Economic Development will be establishing an Entrepreneurial Council to guide the work coming out of the innovation center. Marsh said they will work with this council to fill any gaps in resources for early stage companies and small businesses, including capital access. “We will be hosting popup events around the county to educate the community on opportunities and resources that will be available following the ribbon cutting late in the year."
Castrodale says the EDC is especially thankful to be able to announce this project now, at a time when the county is seeing unemployment numbers at an all-time high. “History shows us that entrepreneurship supports economic recovery. Over half of the Fortune 500 companies were founded during a recession. We truly believe that innovation and entrepreneurship help create vibrant, equitable and sustainable communities and to be able to partner with Flywheel to enable that sort of culture here is incredibly gratifying.”