Susan and Paul Rodjso have been eyeing the building space at 21090 Olinda Trail in Scandia for quite a while. They’re hoping that a new working model that has seen success in metropolitan areas across the country can catch on in their small town as well.
“This sort of a space is kind of a trend nationwide now,” Susan said. “We’re experimenting with it in a small community … to see if it works.”
The space is called Granlia Place, named for Paul’s grandparents’ old homestead in Norway. It is a coworking space, a small office area where telecommuters and home business owners can come to work in an office setting while still staying close to home. The Rodjsos say that Granlia Place offers the flexibility of telecommuting combined with some of the advantages of working in an office: meeting space, networking and, perhaps most importantly, high-speed Internet.
Both of the Rodjsos do much of their work from home. Susan is a marketing consultant with Medtronic; Paul is a pilot who often gets assignments and pilot software remotely. The fastest Internet the couple can get at home is DSL, which isn’t always powerful enough when Paul needs to download a new program or Susan is uploading content. Susan said the last time she tried to upload a video for Metronic, the progress slowed to a crawl.
“I gave up and finally went to Caribou (to do it),” she said.
While a local coffee shop might offer faster wireless Internet than a home connection, such an atmosphere can often be noisy or not accommodating to getting work done. Granlia Place offers members high-speed, wireless broadband and a place to work in peace.
“We’re trying to keep it really inexpensive,” Susan said.
Granlia Place is set up on a membership system. Members pay between $50 and $60 a month, depending on their membership length. They are given access to the building seven days a week between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., free to come and go as they please. The office includes a number of work stations as well as a small break area with a microwave and a Kuerig coffee machine. After 6 p.m., the space is available for rentals for professional meeting space; members get some meeting dates for free, and non-members can rent the space as well. The evening availability is another big draw for Susan, who often has difficulty finding conferencing areas close to her home.
“It’s really hard to find good meeting space,” she said.
Along with convenience, the Rodjsos hope Granlia Place provides a sense of entrepreneurial camaraderie. Since so many telecommuters are self-employed in one way or another, coworking spaces are viewed by some as an incubation chamber for fellow business people to bounce ideas off each other.
“There’s an opportunity to interact with others who have the same sort of interests,” Susan said. She plans to erect a bulletin board with contact information for the various people who use the workspace – the couple’s way of promoting the endeavors of the community.
“It helps everybody when we all do business locally,” she added.
Granlia Place has earned the attention and encouragement of the Scandia Economic Development Authority. Coworking spaces have seen success in metropolitan environments – including Minneapolis and St. Paul, where spaces like CoCo and The 3rd Place offer larger scale versions of Granlia’s environment.
“There’s a lot of home businesses (in Scandia) … and high speed Internet, we just don’t have it out here,” said Scandia Councilman and EDA member Dan Lee, adding that the lack of broadband is slowing down local entrepreneurs. “(Granlia) is certainly something that Scandia is really excited about.”
Lee noted that the EDA doesn’t have much in the way of funding to support Granlia, which is aiming for 20 memberships, but he said the committee has been doing its best to promote the space to local businesses.
“Part of our goals are to promote existing businesses and to communicate between businesses so that everyone knows what’s going on in town,” he said.
Lee believes that some Scandia-area home businesses have cloistered themselves off from the rest of the community, a practice he said reduces the overall prosperity that cooperation between local residents and organizations can provide. He’s hopeful that Granlia Place could be a center for fostering that cooperation.
“We’d like to open it up and create an atmosphere that brings (entrepreneurs) into the city,” he said.
The Rodjsos also hope that Granlia can attract residents from Forest Lake (especially the east side), as well as Lindstrom, Chisago City and other area communities. The space is holding an open house 4-8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 20. For more information, call 651-233-0267 or visit www.granliaplace.com.