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CoCo is now go-go: Downtown collaboration space opens today

Rachel Sternhagen, community manager, shows off one of the campsites at CoCo Fargo in downtown Fargo. Photo by Carrie Snyder / The Forum

FARGO – CoCo has come. The co-working and collaboration space called CoCo Fargo officially opens for business today.

Located in the Merchants National Bank Building, 122½ Broadway, CoCo Fargo provides office space and meeting rooms especially geared toward entrepreneurs and startup businesses.

But its desks, chairs and gigabit Internet connection are just one layer of CoCo, said Rachel Sternhagen, the site’s community manager.

Its social aspect is paramount, she said.

“We want it to be a networking opportunity for people,” Sternhagen said, “to get people connected to pursue their goals.”

CoCo is based in the Twin Cities, where it has three co-working spaces – downtown and uptown Minneapolis and lowertown St. Paul.

People purchase memberships to CoCo for one to five days per week or 24/7 access. That allows them to use any of the CoCo sites.

Sternhagen said she’s heard of members in the Twin Cities planning field trips just to see and work in the new Fargo space.

CoCo Fargo is located above the King House Buffet, and is along the downtown skyway.

Bright green and gray walls surround the space’s common area. Tables and chairs suited for meetings during the day can be moved for evening events.

Five “campsites,” which would accommodate a small startup company, are divided by rich, repurposed wood.

There are also 10 dedicated single desks for users with 24/7 access, as well as other workspaces and tech-enabled conference rooms. An old bank vault has been converted into an intimate meeting room.

Built into the space are small “phone booths,” which mimic original booths found at CoCo Minneapolis, which located in the trading floor of the Minneapolis Grain Exchange Building.

Whiteboard paint, which turns walls into writeable surfaces, is plentiful.

The space also includes a kitchen with seating. “Just like at home, people like to congregate around the coffee and the food,” said Don Ball, one of the cofounders of CoCo.

Ball said CoCo had been actively looking for other cities within driving distance to set up another collaborative space.

“It came down to where there was energy and promise,” Ball said. “Fargo just stood out.”

He cited the level of “boosterism” here, national media attention and its creative and interesting events.

“It was a good bet for us that we wouldn’t regret it,” Ball said.

Sternhagen said they hope for 100 local members. A handful signed on before the space was complete.

Membership costs range from $70 to $350 at the individual level. A group membership for a medium campsite runs $1,400 monthly.

Sternhagen, a Moorhead native, said her job is to ensure the space runs smoothly on a daily basis. She’ll greet people, make sure they have the resources they need, and make the all-important coffee.

She’ll also serve as a liaison of sorts as CoCo becomes part of downtown and the larger Fargo-Moorhead community.

Grand opening events are scheduled the week of Sept. 22.

Ball said tech companies have shifted away from being secretive with their projects to more collaboration. Today’s entrepreneur is on the lookout for how to solve problems. “Those answers come from interesting, unexpected places,” Ball said, “but you need to have the conversation.”

Those conversations happen at CoCo, he said.

“Whenever you get a room of creative, smart and motivated people, they can’t help but talk to each other and pump each other up,” Ball said. “All we’re doing is hosting that space where the party can happen.”

Sherri Richards

Sherri Richards has worked for The Forum since 2002. She is the features and business editor, overseeing Variety, SheSays, Farmers' Forum, the daily Business pages and Saturday Business section.     Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to letters@forumcomm.com

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