Karine Woodman

Karine Woodman stands in one of the rooms inside the new TechTank building in Hibbing.

Shared office space is no longer the province of the Twin Cities.

An Iron Range-based company called TechTank has capitalized on the popularity of shared working areas, in which people and companies rent office space by the hour, day or month. Now CEO Karine Woodman has brought the trendy concept to Hibbing.

Woodman, who earned an associate’s degree from Rasmussen College in sales and marketing before creating 24hr Bookkeeper to improve financial workflows for builders, remodelers and contractors, says she embarked on the idea for her venture when searching for a local space big enough for business professionals to work, collaborate and network.

The self-described “serial entrepreneur” garnered financial backing from the Hibbing Economic Development Authority, the local Security State Bank, Arrowhead Economic Opportunity Agency, and the Northland Foundation of Duluth and bought a building at 3709 First Avenue. She spent the next nine-plus months renovating what would become the 3,500-square-foot structure to include shared member space, three conference rooms and a trio of private rooms. Earlier this month, she held an open house to show potential members a variety of amenities, including her offering of fiber optic internet, printing services, 11 TVs, conferencing equipment, multiple large whiteboard walls and new and contemporary work spaces. There was also the promise of free parking and education events, the latter in collaboration with the Blandin Foundation of Grand Rapids.

TechTank is planning a grand opening for 4-7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12.

“This is the future,” Woodman told the Hibbing Daily Tribune during a tour last week. “People want high-powered internet in a cool space. They want an active co-working environment where they can run into people they know from the in-and-out of the community.”

The existence of co-working spaces has been a fast-rising trend in large cities across the U.S. The concept has been slow to reach Minneapolis, which has fewer sites than Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis and Indianapolis. But the state has experienced a rush in such buildup and earlier this year the real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield reported at least 40 different coworking operators in the Twin Cities.

The concept of attracting consultants, freelancers and web developers has since begun to flow up to the Northland.

Two years ago, a 131-year-old building in downtown Duluth that housed Bagley & Co. jewelry store sold to a Hermantown native turned Texas real estate developer planning to create a co-working space and coffee shop. Last year, the Ten Below Coworking space inside the Ely-based Klun Law Firm building began offering people the city’s first publicly available fiber-optic broadband-connection.

The regional spaces mirror those found in the Cities, but the amenities can be shared at lower prices.

Here in Hibbing, people are being charged $35 for a one-day pass and $150-$175 for a monthly pass with access for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For comparison, the spaces in Minneapolis run $300 per month.

“This is big city amenities in a small town,” Woodman said.

For more information, visit TechTankmn.com.


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