April 09, 2020
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Bangor businesses will have a place to CoVort

Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Linda Coan O'Kresik | BDN
Lisa Liberatore, co-founder of CoVort, a co-working space coming to 49 Main Street in Bangor, talks about all of the amenities that will be in the space recently in Bangor.

BANGOR, Maine — Not everybody can come to Kasey Smith’s home on Verona Island, so she has to meet potential investors in her EterNav.com website, in coffee shops and restaurants, and sometimes in her car.

She hates that.

“It is really awkward, uncomfortable and embarrassing. It is also not conducive to pushing forward,” Smith said Monday. “I am interrupted, and it is very difficult to get back to where you were [mentally] when that happens. Even at a coffee shop there is so much noise. It is just quite a derailment.”

But starting this month, Smith will have someplace to CoVort.

An around-the-clock office for rent, social club and business incubation center, CoVort is a startup business housed in a 2,000-square-foot storefront at 49 Main St. that will take advantage of the nationwide trend toward co-working. It will have a soft opening on Nov. 14 and go full bore the week after Thanksgiving, according to Lisa Liberatore, its co-owner.

“There are lots of people that co-work on a full-time basis,” Jason Harkins, an associate professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Maine in Orono and CoVort’s co-owner, said. “It is a space for people who want to work around others who are like-minded people and get the benefits of a community but who also want to have a dedicated professional space to work in.”

Co-working is a phenomenon that is growing out of telecommuting. The concept is simple: People who are not employed by the same company work independently but in a shared space. It defeats the isolation of working at home while saving the expense of renting a private office.

Its name is a play on the words cavort and cohort, and CoVort will feature conference rooms, lounges, office desks and all the accoutrements of a functioning office, including cellphone charging towers, mailboxes, video and teleconferencing equipment, conference rooms and a kitchenette. It has membership fees but also rents space to visitors, Liberatore said.

The company has already received a boost from Bangor Savings Bank and the Rudman Winchell Law Firm. The bank sponsors CoVort’s conference room, and the law firm sponsors the company’s lounge area, Liberatore said.

According to globalworkplaceanalytics.com, telecommuting among the non-self-employed has grown by 103 percent since 2005, with 3.7 million employees — 2.8 percent of the workforce — working from home at least half the time. The employee population as a whole grew 1.9 percent from 2013 to 2014, while employees who telecommute grew 5.6 percent.

WeWork is probably the most well-known national co-working franchise. Think Tank CoWorking opened in Portland in 2010 and now includes Bangor Daily News staffers among its members.

Think Tank has since expanded to Yarmouth and Biddeford and has about 230 members, owner-director Patrick Roche said.

“Co-working done right generates a sense of community and aesthetic criteria on a basic human level that is rewarding and offers more satisfying work-life balance,” Roche said. “People looking for a place to converge so that they are not working from home anymore or in coffee shops, so they have a collaborative work environment.”

About 35 percent of his clients work for out-of-state businesses, Roche said.

Bangor has at least one co-working business. COESPACE, at 48 Columbia St., is an event rental space that can be used for co-working. Completed earlier this year, the Bangor Public Library’s $9.6 million modernization include co-working space. Bar Harbor, Brunswick, Ellsworth and Gardner have co-work businesses, and Augusta and Lewiston have enterprises soon to launch, Roche said.

Harkins’ involvement might give CoVort a niche. The company plans to encourage entrepreneurs, particularly those he works with, to use its space and will host business seminars and networking events, Liberatore said.

Smith said she plans on joining.

“There is a lot of great entrepreneurship ideas and concepts in … Greater Bangor. The great ideas aren’t just in Portland,” Smith said.


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