SCHOHARIE — Economic development officials touted a new era of economic opportunity in the village on Wednesday as they officially cut the ribbon on the village’s first coworking space.
The site at 287 Main St., which is run by Schoharie Economic Enterprise Corporation (SEEC), will allow freelancers and entrepreneurs to use the two-story space to gather and work in a hub for the local business community.
The site was the home to a Bank of America branch that closed at the end of 2020. Prior to the branch closure, the bank began discussions with state Assemblyman Chris Tague, R, about donating the property to a Schoharie nonprofit group.
The assemblyman then facilitated talks between the bank and SEEC about acquiring the property, with the bank subsequently donating the facility to the group in 2021.
“The bank said, ‘Do you have a nonprofit that we would be comfortable just signing the building over to?’” Tague said at the site’s opening. “I said, ‘I sure do.’ The SEEC organization was just in its infancy and I called [Chair of the SEEC Board of Directors] Thomas Putnam and asked if they were looking for a place where they could really do something and they said yes. Luckily I was able to bring the two parties together and we owe Bank of America a big thank you.”
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Tague said he believes the Main Street location is ideal for the coworking site and noted the rich history of the building, which housed a branch of the State Bank of Albany before a stint as a Bank of America location.
“This is the community hub for the whole county, because the county office building is across the street,” he said. “So it only makes sense for it to be right here. This building has a storied history. Most of the young people here got their first loans for anything right here in this building.”
State Sen. Peter Oberacker,R-51st District, attended the ribbon-cutting and said the initiative was unique in the region.
“This is like a keystone for economic development,” he said. “With first impressions you want to lure businesses in and you want to show them that you have the facility like this. To make something like this happen, it’s an amazing project. Coming from Cooperstown, I’ll use a base analogy — they hit a grand slam. It looks beautiful and I think this will be a true lure to get businesses to come in.”
SEEC, a nonprofit organization funded by local business leaders, is hoping the coworking space will boost the local business scene. “Having this facility here on Main Street could not make a greater statement for that commitment and how we want to bring the community into this space and share all the resources of economic development with the community,” SEEC Executive Director Julie Pacatte told the crowd at the kickoff ceremony.
“This is the place for that to happen. It’s already started to happen; just last week we had the kickoff to our Enlighten Series for digital marketing.”
The digital marketing event saw local small business owners learn from digital marketing experts. The coworking space is currently hosting events and presentations but has not finalized commitments with prospective tenants for the building.
Village Mayor Lawrence Caza, following the ceremony, said that establishing a workspace in the heart of the village should prove economically beneficial to the municipality.
“I hope it shows a commitment that economic development and helping businesses and growth is so important to us,” Caza said. “They (SEEC) have skin in the game. They’ve invested their money and their time and they’re putting their face out there. When professional business people say to the world, ‘This is an important place, you should come and see it and maybe have a business here,’ it kind of takes the pressure off municipal people. Everyone thinks we have all this power, but really our thing is getting the right people together to communicate. But I can’t drag a business in.”
The mayor said he hoped the coworking space can attract a thriving group of clients. “People can come in and maybe start an incubator or take a web-based business and give it a face for a while,” he said.