SCHENECTADY – In 2016, Jeff Goronkin was looking for a place to operate his marketing firm. Instead, he stumbled upon a new business venture that he believes is suited perfectly for Schenectady and will add to its revitalization and pandemic recovery efforts.
Goronkin is the chief operating officer of Urban Co-Works, a co-working space that began as the Electric City Innovation Center at 433 State St. He purchased the business in 2017, about a year after moving his firm, Buzz Media Solutions, to the space.
“That was my first experience being in a co-working space and I loved the concept,” he said. “We were one of the first members over there … and I was like, ‘You know what? I can totally get into this.’”
A rigorous rebranding campaign followed, and in the early years of owning the business, things continued to grow steadily, Goronkin said.
Then the pandemic hit last year.
Business fell off by more than 50% in early 2020, throwing the once prosperous company into disarray and casting doubt over the future of shared co-working spaces, which up until then appeared bright.
After navigating a challenging few months, business began to rebound due to a growing demand for professional, distraction-free office space from those who were forced to abandon their office in order to reduce the spread of the virus.
“That really changed the dynamics of co-working across the board,” Goronkin said.
Urban Co-Works, earlier this month, relocated from its State Street home to a newly renovated 8,500-square-foot space on the second floor of 430 Franklin St., directly across the street from City Hall and a few steps away from the restaurant offerings of Jay Street.
The new facility is smaller than the company’s previous home, which was around 12,000 square feet, but is better suited for a co-working space, boasting smaller offices that can be rented for a lower rate.
The new space – which Goronkin said was a “significant investment” – features 32 offices that vary in size and can accommodate one to around five people, depending on size. Two conference rooms complete with all the smart technology needed to host a meeting can also be booked at an hourly rate.
A full kitchen featuring complimentary coffee is also found in the space, which boasts a modern design complete with glass doorways and art from the nearby Electric City Art Gallery.
“We’re offering a Class A office environment to people who want to get out of the house and who want a really nice high-end professional atmosphere to work in,” Goronkin said.
Since relocating, business has doubled compared to the former space. The company now has more than 70 members, including 20 businesses – startups, nonprofits and public relation firms, among others – that rent office space.
Goronkin said the model is likely to continue to attract businesses in light of the pandemic, since there is no long-term lease agreement required to rent space.
Prices range from $35 for a day pass to private offices for a single person starting at $625 a month. A single desk can be rented for five days a month for $150. Internet access, phone service and free printing are also included.
The growing interest in shared workspaces isn’t surprising, said Laura Mann, vice president of business growth for the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce.
Mann said co-working spaces have been in demand for years and offer not just a professional setting but provide network opportunities for entrepreneurs, which is key to a growing business.
“I think one of the things that the co-working spaces offer is that community of entrepreneurship and that kind of network that are sort of in the same boat,” she said.
Mann said the pandemic created a “fundamental shift” for businesses but noted it’s unclear if companies will abandon their existing spaces in favor of a co-working space.
“I think it’s going to be a tough call to see how things shake out, but I think it’s something that young businesses have always wanted,” she said.
Goronkin, meanwhile, said he believes downtown Schenectady is the ideal location for his business and expects growth to continue.
Recent improvements to the Mohawk Harbor and investment in the downtown area, coupled with the amenities in close proximity, are attractive to entrepreneurs and those seeking to lease office space.
He hopes businesses that begin at Urban Co-Works will eventually outgrow the space and seek to purchase and lease larger space, similar to what Beekman 1802 did. The company, which produces farm-to-table food and beauty products was based at Urban Co-Works until relocating to Harborside Drive in 2019.
“That’s a success story for Schenectady. The city attracted them here, we hosted them at Urban Co-Works and when they had that need to move on, they were able to do that and they’re still here in Schenectady,” Goronkin said.