Even before the pandemic forced workers out of their offices and into a work-from-home environment, Chris Hogue was operating his technology law practice remotely in the Flathead, where he moved in 2018.
Hogue didn’t want to rely on a slow internet connection at his home, which was out of town, and he struggled to find a single executive office in the valley. So he looked into a coworking space and found Basecamp Coworking in Whitefish, but there was a waitlist.
“In 2018, pre-COVID, there was a fair amount of velocity with people moving and working remote,” Hogue said.
Hogue recognized there was a demand for a coworking space in the valley, especially Kalispell, which didn’t have one, so he started looking for real estate before the pandemic. But his plans to start up his own shared office space were put on hold as the pandemic began.
But in mid-June, Hogue will be ready to open Codesk, his own coworking office in downtown Kalispell, which will accommodate 30 to 35 members who will have access to space that ranges from private offices to communal work areas, known as flex space, with other amenities including a conference room, bottomless coffee and kitchen space.
The coworking business model began taking off roughly a decade ago when WeWork emerged as a commercial real estate company offering shared workspaces for technology startups. It launched a trend that spread to larger metropolitan areas and has since trickled into rural areas like Montana as remote work has become more common.
“You can see that business model permeating in all aspects of commercial real estate,” Hogue said. “You see it in towns like Missoula and Bozeman.”
Like Hogue, Mark Kenney also works remotely and felt uninspired in executive office spaces around the Flathead, so he started Atrium Cowork in Kalispell, which unofficially opened in May.
“With COVID, they’re predicting a big boom in coworking because corporations allow their employees to work remote,” Kenney said. “It opens the door for people to move to Kalispell and still have a professional office space.”
Kenney and his business partner, Aaron McPherson, bought a three-story office complex that they transformed into a coworking space on the south end of downtown Kalispell where members have access to a lounge area with an espresso machine, which many in the coworking industry refer to as “hot desks,” as well as private offices and private dedicated desks in communal areas.
At Codesk, on the northern end of downtown Kalispell, Hogue has a 2,600 square-foot space where members have access to a mixture of private and open space, with five private offices, eight dedicated desks and the remainder being “flex” space with prices ranging from $200 to $685 on a month-to-month basis.
In addition to a productive workspace, Hogue also promotes networking at Codesk, bringing a variety of professions to one hub. He also plans to host a monthly social event for members, which will likely include happy hours.
“The coworking environment offers a lot of benefits,” Hogue said. “You’re going to have fast, reliable internet, you have access to a coffee bar and snacks all day, but you are also going to have a community environment where you have other entrepreneurs across the spectrum.”
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