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

Holly Springs business owner and entrepreneur Jon Harol didn’t set out to be as involved in the community as he is — it just happened.

As the founder of Lighthouse Lab Services, as a partner with Malbec Properties and as the founder of the Coworking Station, Harol has come a long way since first arriving in Holly Springs eight years ago.

“I feel that there is a need in Holly Springs for unique businesses,” said Harol, who moved with his family to the area from New England based on a research-filled excel sheet. “We built a spreadsheet and it was very data-centric. I’d never been here before and just ranked it in a lot of different categories and it came up at the top of the list. We visited and moved here shortly after in 2010.”

Harol took into consideration criteria such as the weather and proximity to an airport. As it turns out, moving to Holly Springs has been a decision that’s served both his family and his businesses well.

Lighthouse Lab Services, which Harol co-owns with his brother, was formerly three separate companies that came under one umbrella last year. It provides comprehensive solutions for the clinical laboratory community through recruiting, consulting, and buyer and seller services. What once was a recruiting staffing firm, a consulting firm that built medical labs, and a business brokerage firm that bought and sold medical labs, is now all rolled up into one business.

Inc. Magazine named Lighthouse Lab Services one of the fastest growing companies in America last year. Since arriving in 2010, Harol’s company has grown from just four employees to almost 30.

“When we moved down here eight years ago it was because Holly Springs was a great place to live — a great place to raise a family,” Harol said. “I think we’re starting to see that pivot to a good place to live and work.”

For example, well-known life science company Seqirus is the biggest employer in Holly Springs and occupies a large portion of the Holly Springs Business Park site.

No longer just a bedroom community, economic development in the area over the past 10 years alone has boomed, and town officials are constantly thinking about how to manage and plan for further growth.

As Harol’s company grew, he realized there was a lack of infrastructure to support businesses like his, which slowly inspired his foray into economic development projects.

“There’s a really good population of talented people here,” Harol explained. “The only downside has been that there hasn’t been much space. So we’re trying to figure out a way that we can create some infrastructure and help companies that start here, stay here. I think it will continue to grow. We’re looking for opportunities to make that even easier to do with more office space, with coworking.”

The Coworking Station, which opened its doors in 2016 under the direction of Harol and with the help of the town, has been providing 3,500 square feet of flexible office space to more than 30 tenants.

The Town of Holly Springs Economic Development Department selected Harol for the project, with a common goal of generating more entrepreneurial and small business buzz in the community. It occupies the former police station downtown and offers a business home to former at-home workers and growing companies alike.

Harol mentioned that it also serves as the venue for LaunchHOLLYSPRINGS, a program that offers free business training, mentorship and networking to a group of vetted applicants. The program is a local chapter of the Launch organization, which seeks to support and develop underserved and minority entrepreneurs and small businesses.

The first cohort graduated last year and Harol said it’s been a great experience.

“Several of them ended up becoming tenants of the building or moved forward with their plan and have started businesses” Harol said. “I think that’s pretty exciting — to see all of these different people come forward with business ideas who have never been business owners before that are opening their doors here in Holly Springs.”

However, Coworking Station will soon move to a space in The Block on Main, another venture Harol is a part of. Harol realized the lack of infrastructure to support businesses like his and has taken the need into his own hands.

The Block on Main is a 52,530-square-foot, three-story, mixed-use building development that will be a destination for dining, shopping, office space and more. It’s intended to help the downtown district thrive and become a destination for Holly Springs residents and professionals.

“The construction is in process — we have about 70 percent of it leased out right now,” said Harol, who noted tenants such as an Italian restaurant and a yoga studio, event space and private offices. “The Coworking Station will be expanding from its 3,500 square feet to an 11,000-square-foot space, and we’ll have 70 people working out of that.

The Block will not be leased to any franchises or national corporations, because, as Harol puts it, “We feel like there’s just a need for local businesses that are unique to Holly Springs.”

“A lot of them are starting first-time businesses. This creates a really cool platform for people that maybe wouldn’t have opened a business. But as we’ve kind of set the stage for it, people have come forward with business ideas,” Harol said. “We’ve been able to create a little incubator space for local mom-and-pop businesses.”

It is Harol’s methodology and forward-thinking mentality that is often the impetus behind his ventures and what has made him a successful company man, but it’s his dedication to his community that has made him a great neighbor and citizen.

“As an entrepreneur I liked to solve problems and I see a gap between demand and supply. I see that my neighbors and the people that I’m rubbing shoulders with everyday have wants that are unmet locally,” he said. “It’s really unique how much people care about Holly Springs.”

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