Editor’s note: Jess Porta is Director of HQ Raleigh.

RALEIGH – One of the most popular questions that the HQ Raleigh team gets these days is: “Are you concerned about WeWork moving into town?” The short answer to that question is…. “Duh!” Of course, who wouldn’t be?

HQ Raleigh logo

We have a large company moving into our backyard which provides some of the same resources we do. We wouldn’t be very business savvy if we did not anticipate some disruption. Naturally, there are businesses within the community for which WeWork will be a better fit and we have found that over time, people will self select into the space that fits them best. But what kind of entrepreneurial community would we be if we did not support any small or scaling company in making the best decision for their team?

Setting my naturally optimistic demeanor aside, I also have a few very good reasons that we are optimistic about the future of HQ, the future of work, and the future of Raleigh.

1. Raleigh is booming!

The fact that in just a few short years, we went from just having one coworking space in the heart of the Warehouse District, to over 6 coworking spaces spread across the community is an incredible sign that this industry and Raleigh as a city is growing and expanding!
The Chamber just held its annual Economic Development Forum and asked the question, “what does Raleigh look like 20 years from now?” There were many different ideas but the one clear consensus was that, it looks A LOT bigger: potentially doubling in size by 2040! Having new big companies, like WeWork, take an interest in our area is good news for all of us.

2. The future of work is collaborative

Every industry is changing and workspace is no different. As I mentioned, just in Raleigh we have seen the coworking industry grow six fold in seven years.

Last year alone, the coworking space industry grew almost 62% in the top 20 office markets in the U.S., according to a Yardi Matrix report. That’s in one year! And it’s not just a hot trend; shared spaces make a ton of sense, especially in growing cities like Raleigh.

For less than a cup of coffee a day, a new business can co-work, have a mailing address, and meet clients in an environment that does not contain your children or overly friendly cats. (And by the way, coffee is included in membership too at HQ, so go ahead and throw that coffee back into your daily routine). It’s also good for larger scaling companies. Growing businesses cannot afford the risk of signing long term expensive leases, when they can have short flexible terms at no extra cost. Employers in our community tell us that they also appreciate not having to worry about keeping up with office operations. Their employees simply show up and coffee is flowing, the offices are cool, and the wifi is on. For companies who have remote or regional arms, they are quickly finding that they can pay half the cost for office space than NY or SF and their employees will have access to better housing, schools, and communities.  And once again, seeing the growth of large coworking spaces into the Raleigh area is further evidence that this model is healthy and growing.

3. HQ is rooted in the community

HQ started seven years ago out of the first Innovate Raleigh Summit, which was a collection of thought leaders in the area who came together to look at the next steps for our region.

At the time, there was no central space to collect resources, share ideas, and support these growing companies in our area. So HQ Raleigh was born to fill that gap in our community. As the area continues to grow and evolve, so too will HQ Raleigh.

WeWork may be listening to the market in Raleigh, but HQ is listening to the community. And we know the community is not just talking about physical spaces. With Raleigh’s impending growth, we have new, big gaps to fill in the region. Specifically we need to support the growth of our region in an intentional and inclusive way and focus on: 1. Talent and 2. Support for small businesses.

4. HQ has some BIG things coming

With these two issues in mind, HQ is engaging with local partners to bring two exciting projects to life this year:

  • HQ@Centennial – Bridging the gap between universities and the start-up community
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A rendering of HQ Raleigh’s plans at Centennial Campus

If you ask most growing companies in our area, they will tell you that their number one issue is attracting talent. For a region that has an abnormally dense amount of top universities, this seems like a strange problem doesn’t it? Students believe they have to move to NY or SF to get jobs and employers in our community are telling us that they literally cannot afford the developers or sales people who are coming in from outside of our region. Currently, there is still a disconnect between the universities we have here and the growing companies in our region.

Thanks to some exciting partnerships with NC State University, HQ is opening a new 25,000 square foot space in the heart of Centennial Campus on July 1st! The space will include physical space for partners like the E Garage, a maker’s space for entrepreneurs on campus, which will become an asset to HQ community members who need help with early stage prototyping. It will also provide office and coworking space for local companies who want to have deeper connections to the University and direct access to the talent pipeline.

  • HQ Gateway – Connecting small business and high tech

We have all heard of incredible stories like the success and growth of Pendo that have come out of the Triangle. And recently, there has been a lot of buzz in Raleigh about the next new tech company.

These are the type of success stories that put a spotlight on our region, and give us attention on the national stage, and rightfully so. But as a result, many resources in our area focus primarily on supporting high impact, high growth tech companies. After all, this was the main focus of HQ Raleigh when we first started out too. Now, however, there has been a realization that big tech companies need the support of their local community to provide the lifestyle and environment that attracts employees. Supporting local small businesses is going to be essential for Raleigh’s next phase of growth.

There are already folks like the Raleigh Chamber and Wake Tech’s Small Business Center who have resources for small businesses, but HQ has an opportunity to lend a hand through providing space-based resources for small businesses including: classroom space, coworking space, and even test space for small businesses in the form of pop-up retail space and food trucks. All too often, small mom and pop shops have to rely on taking on debt and other personal risk to get their businesses up and running. HQ’s new Main Street Impact Program is going to be an opportunity to lower the barrier of entry to starting a main street business.

This development by Loden Properties is going to be situated in East Raleigh, off of Crabtree Blvd, and is the perfect site for a destination spot. Its proximity to the city, large open parking lot, and the bus station make it attractive and accessible to the community at large. The location will be an innovative mix of small, local storefront businesses and coworking space. The community will be able to visit: Mordecai Beverage Co, Brew Coffee, The Gateway Restaurant, Union Special, Craft Habit, and more! And HQ’s coworking and office space will be tucked into the center of all the action starting on September 1st!

So whenever I get the question about if we are worried about the growth of coworking spaces in Raleigh, I am taken back (a few years) to those ever awkward, but very important middle to high school years; you remember the time when you questioned your worth and identity next to the popular kids at school. But ultimately you find that once you are confident in your own strengths, there is no competition, there are just different values that different people (and companies) bring. And I am so grateful and proud of the value that HQ brings to this community.

To learn more about HQ Raleigh visit www.hq.community. To learn more about getting a space within HQ, or pre-lease a space in one of our new locations, reach out to leasing@hqraleigh.com

This article was written by Jess Porta. All opinions expressed in this article are her own. This is not an official statement by HQ Raleigh. 

(C) HQ Raleigh; reprinted with permission