THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE: Economic boosters poised to open Southland’s first high-tech business networking hub 4343
Small-business owners and other professionals in the south and southwest suburbs will soon have the chance to access shared office space, technology and networking opportunities.
The innovative hub at 4343 Ascending House will be the first of its kind in the area and give entrepreneurs access to new tools to grow their businesses, said Reggie Greenwood of the Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator at Governors State University.
“We don’t have anything like this,” Greenwood said during a tour of the 6,000-square-foot office space being renovated at 4343 Lincoln Highway in Matteson. “We want this to be a networking center for the region.”
For as little as $1,000 a year for a “hot desk,” members will be able to drop by and tap into Wi-Fi from an open, shared space. They will be able to print documents or host a Zoom video meeting from a conference room.
They could record a podcast or stream a Facebook Live video from a studio with professional lighting, audio and video equipment. Manufacturing companies will have access to a $25,000 3D printer that may be used to produce spare parts for equipment, Greenwood said,[Most read] Going to the Notre Dame vs. Wisconsin game at Soldier Field? Here’s what to know, including the schedule for ESPN’s ‘College GameDay’ and the new bag policy. »
For $2,000 per year, members can reserve a semiprivate cubicle. For a $3,000 annual fee, patrons can secure a private office. The rates are introductory and subject to change, Greenwood said.
Amazon, Comcast, Nicor, Mi-Jack, other sponsors and grants have covered costs of renovating the space.
“We’ve raised $500,000,” Greenwood said.
The facility’s numeric name was inspired by 1871, the nonprofit Chicago technology and entrepreneurship center that opened in 2012 on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart.
One could feel exasperated that it took nine years to bring a comparable facility to the often neglected south suburbs, or one could rejoice that such a valuable enterprise is finally here. The target opening date is Jan. 2, Greenwood said.
Several various programs and entities that support small businesses will share the space and create opportunities for innovation and collaboration, Greenwood said.
“Having programs connected to a space makes them more real, I’ve found,” he said.
Greenwood also is executive director of the Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation, an agency affiliated with the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association.
The space at 4343 Ascending House will be used to host networking events, from morning seminars over coffee to afternoon classes on entrepreneurship to evening gatherings with wine and hors d’oeuvres, Greenwood said.
Shared spaces include a kitchen that can accommodate catered events. It is unclear what policies will determine the fate of food left in the office refrigerator or penalties for leaving the office microwave a mess.[Most read] Ask Amy: Generous father plans a blues cruise »
All kidding aside, 4343, as Greenwood calls the center, sounds like it will create exciting opportunities for entrepreneurs to share ideas and grow their businesses.
There also is an, “If you build it, they will come,” element to 4343, to borrow a line from the film “Field of Dreams.” There seems little doubt that there is sufficient demand to fill the six 30-square-foot cubicles and 10 office spaces that range from 100 to 190 square feet.
The Supply Chain Innovation Center and Business Incubator is conducting a pilot course on e-commerce strategies and training. Nineteen entrepreneurs from the south suburbs are enrolled, Greenwood said.
“They are all small companies and they are all doing such a great job in the class,” Greenwood said. “One of our ideas is to be inclusive, and I think all of them are minority women.”
The center’s emphasis is e-commerce, which involves logistics, online sales and other services.[Most read] ‘Foundation’ review: Apple TV+ takes a big swing adapting Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi book series »
“E-commerce is a methodology of creating new connections for your customers,” Greenwood said.
Those opportunities might include a storefront retailer accessing new markets through internet sales or a restaurant attracting new customers by offering pickup or delivery services through an app.
The services at 4343 will help entrepreneurs implement and execute their ideas to expand their enterprises.
“As you use digital marketing more effectively, it requires a change in the entire supply chain,” Greenwood said. “E-commerce is a strategy for your company that involves the evolution of the supply chain.”
It helps that corporate sponsors include the behemoth online retailer Amazon, which is on the verge of opening huge new fulfillment centers in Matteson and Markham in addition to its facilities operating in University Park, Monee and elsewhere.[Most read] ‘This is such a grand facility.’ As historic Arlington Park crosses the finish line, horse racing workers wonder how they’ll fill the void »
Amazon’s newer facilities rely heavily on robotics to aid in packaging, sorting and distribution. The workforce of the future will include many employment opportunities for technicians to program and service robotics equipment.
That’s why 4343 also will be the new home of the Southworks Engineering and Robotics Competition. The Chicago Southland Economic Development Corporation created the annual event to give teams of high school students the chance to show off their chops in applying concepts learned through courses in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM.
Greenwood said he hopes to continue expanding services offered through 4343 once it opens early next year. He said he’d like to get a company to sponsor an electric vehicle charging station in the parking lot.
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In addition to the confirmed availability of a high-tech 3D printer, Greenwood said he would like to offer members opportunities to use blockchain technology to mine for Bitcoin.
“Blockchain’s application involves more than cryptocurrency. It’s part of the supply chain,” Greenwood said. “If you’re buying something, it’s provenance is important. Let’s say you’re buying organic coffee. You want to make sure your organic coffee came from an organic farm.”[Most read] Chicago aldermen question mayor’s plan to raise property taxes, rely on federal COVID-19 aid in new budget »
I did my best to grasp the many potential opportunities involved with 4343, but some of the technological concepts seemed over my head. I told Greenwood the introductory offers of $1,000, $2,000 or $3,000 a year for memberships sounded affordable.
The bargain prices are just one more reason now is good time to consider investing in the Southland, where costs are low and the potential for growth is high.
Ted Slowik is a columnist with the Daily Southtown.