The City of Wilson will soon construct the Wilson Innovation Hub, a unique co-working space to encourage start-ups and foster entrepreneurship in Wilson. The Hub will offer programming and support to encourage Wilson’s innovation economy.
The Innovation Hub construction will be funded in part by a $1.1 million grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation from its Community-Based Grantsmaking Initiative. The City of Wilson will contribute up to $1.6 million toward the project, which will be partially offset by revenue generated by the facility. Once complete, the Innovation Hub will offer a modern co-working space for entrepreneurs, equipped with gigabit service from Greenlight Community Broadband, Wilson’s municipal broadband system. The Hub will offer individual work spaces and small office suites for growing companies. Support services such as legal, financial and marketing expertise will be offered, as well as diverse programming to build connections.
“We are honored that the Golden LEAF Foundation has demonstrated such confidence in Innovate Wilson’s vision to be a catalyst for innovation and entrepreneurship in our community,” said Grant Goings, Wilson City Manager. “Clearly, our application benefited from community collaboration. In particular, Barton College and Wilson 20/20 were critical partners in this effort. “
“The Innovation Hub represents a strong effort by Wilson to attract and retain the high level of talent that its current and future employers will demand,” said Dan Gerlach, Golden LEAF President. “We are pleased to support a creative strategy well supported by the public and private sectors.”
The Innovation Hub was identified as a key strategy to strengthen and diversify Wilson’s economy through the community’s InnovateNC project. Wilson was selected, along with Asheville, Greensboro, Pembroke, and Wilmington, by the Emerging Issues Forum in 2015 to participate in the inaugural InnovateNC cohort, completing the process last year by finalizing a strategic plan focused on creating a more resilient economy in Wilson.
“Wilson has been a leader in our state in both the agriculture and manufacturing economies for generations,” said Goings. “In both cases, bold decisions by community leaders placed Wilson on a path to success. We are being very intentional about building the foundations for success in the innovation economy. ”
After an extensive renovation, the Hub will be located in the historic Belk department store building, located at 121 West Nash Street in Historic Downtown Wilson. The building will be transformed into modern co-working space, including conference facilities, training rooms, and flexible space that can accommodate large events. The Wilson team toured many successful operations before determining the design of the building, incorporating many elements from the nation’s leading entrepreneurial communities. Membership fees, leasing income, sponsorships, grants, and special event rentals will be used to offset operating costs.
The Hub is the next evolution in Wilson’s efforts to foster a culture of innovation. The Gig East series, now in its third year, attracts a regional audience of business and academic professionals to discuss technology-related topics. Smaller meetups have focused on specific topics to encourage innovation and connect entrepreneurs working independently in the region.
The Innovation Hub project timeline will be determined in the next few months, as final grant agreements are completed. The City expects to have the Innovation Hub ready for business within 18 months.