This story was written for WRAL TechWire Innovator partner the Town of Holly Springs.

When you think of the Triangle, you think of its tri-cities — Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh. While each of these cities has a reputation for being hubs for business and entrepreneurship, you’ll find other municipalities within the same area code that are making waves all their own.

One such place is Holly Springs.

Holly Springs lies just southwest of Raleigh and sits between Apex and Fuquay-Varina. Once a town with a booming economy in the early 1900s, it experienced a recess after World War I drew many men away and families began searching elsewhere for job opportunities.

In 1990 there were less than 1,000 residents in Holly Springs; but in the past 28 years, there’s been a shift of seismic proportions as the town now has a population of 35,000.

“We’re a rapidly growing, dynamic community with an influx of young professionals that are moving into the area,” said Chuck Simmons, Holly Springs’s town manager.

So, what’s the reason for this 3,400 percent growth rate in less than three decades?

On the surface level, Holly Springs is simply pleasant. It’s a well-kept suburban area, with clean streets, plenty of parks and enticing residential development.

But, dig a little deeper and you’ll begin to notice the hum of business activity and the innovation that can only come from entrepreneurs, big picture thinkers and creative undertakers.

“It’s a combination of things,” Simmons continued. “It’s the unprecedented level of commercial and office job growth, along with the general growth of the community itself. Since 2010, more jobs have been created in Holly Springs than any other municipality in Wake County as a percentage of our population.”

Jon Harol, founder of Lighthouse Recruiting, a clinical laboratory recruiting, consulting and buyer/seller networking solutions company, moved his young family to Holly Springs from New England seven years ago.

He chose Holly Springs on the opposite of whim, instead taking into careful consideration things like the weather, proximity to an airport and potential for growth.

In the seven years that he’s lived in Holly Springs, Harol has seen nothing but growth. In fact, as the founder and operator of Coworking Station, people would argue that he’s played a major role in it.

Coworking Station opened its doors in 2016 and provides 3,500 square feet of flexible office space to 31 tenants in downtown Holly Springs. It’s perfect for people who don’t want to sign a long-term lease, people who need to scale their business up or down, people who only want to work a certain number of days per week or remote workers who want to get out of their homes.

“There were just a ton of people who worked from home here. We saw that there was a need for this community to interact with people,” said Harol, noting that it can be demotivating at times to sit next to a pile of laundry or feel isolated with your dog all day.

Irena Krstanovic, economic development director for the Town of Holly Springs, said the town got an inventory of home-based businesses in the area and snail-mailed letters to more than 500 of them, asking them what their challenges were about growing a business in Holly Springs.

“There was a resounding response that they needed a place where they could congregate and network,” she said. “In economic development, we focus on the recruitment of the large and small companies; and in light of that, we wanted to look at it from a local perspective and try to find people that were in their bonus rooms, their attics, their garages. They’re the backbone of your community, they’re the people that you want to engage with.”

When the old police station became available, the town decided it was the perfect infrastructure for a coworking space. And when the original person who had agreed to fund the coworking space pulled out, the Town of Holly Springs turned to Harol.

“They were looking for someone to run coworking. They put out a Request for Proposal [and] they approached me to read it,” said Harol, who had already been renting out commercial real estate he owned to other businesses.

Harol took a look at the RFP and felt like he could make it work. He came up with a business plan and won the bid.

“I think Harol’s eagerness to apply shows how unique this concept is. He is an example of a person who is so vested in the community that he wants this to succeed and he deeply cares about it,” Krstanovic said.

According to Simmons, Holly Springs is one of the first municipalities in the state of its size to partner with a private sector for coworking space.

“We did it at a time when conventional wisdom would have suggested that we weren’t large enough to support a coworking space,” Simmons said. “We are a suburban community, we’re not what you would call a traditional, urban community. But we felt like if we strategically made some policy decisions that it would well position us to support that particular type of growth.”

And bloom it has. The location of the Coworking Station facilitates more downtown activity and what Harol likes to call “cross-pollination.”

“I think that one of the major values of coworking is beneficial collisions that are almost accidental,” he said. “When that guy that you get coffee next to every day needs a website, they’re more likely to use the guy they’ve gotten to know.”

Krstanovic said the energy that has come from Coworking Station has been “unbelievable.”

“It was strategically located in downtown to try and attract small businesses to the area. We wanted to create a vibrant, village district concept.”

Holly Springs is well on its way, as more and more people leave their couches or coffee joints, and flock to Coworking Station, where they have found a home.

This story was written for WRAL TechWire Innovator partner the Town of Holly Springs.