One of Portland’s co-working spaces is closing, leaving 10 tenants to find new digs.
The Casco Bay Tech Hub’s co-working space at 30 Danforth St., known as the Business Innovation Center (BIC), will close May 1, according to an email tenants received Wednesday.
Kai Smith, co-founder of Buoy Local, a startup that offers buy-local gift cards, said he had no prior warning and was surprised to receive the news. He and his business partner, Sean Sullivan, have worked out of the space since August 2013. They’re not sure where they’ll look for new office space.
The Maine Technology Institute also has office space in the center, which Jess Knox, statewide hub coordinator for Blackstone Accelerates Growth, works out of. The BIC also houses the official office space for Maine Startup and Create Week. Knox, the lead organizer for the week-long event, said he’d be looking for a new home.
The BIC is closing for two main reasons, according to Tom Hall, president of Hall Internet Marketing, which runs the co-working space and is located in an office suite next door.
Hall founded Casco Bay Tech Hub in 2011 as an effort to galvanize efforts in Portland’s entrepreneurial community. He launched the co-working space in February 2013 under the Tech Hub umbrella “as a philanthropic initiative to take a big swing at supporting innovation and connecting that innovation to the existing business community.”
The Tech Hub has held its monthly PubHub meet-ups at the BIC since it opened.
Hall Internet Marketing is growing (it has 21 employees right now and three open positions), and Hall said he made the decision to close BIC so he could reallocate his staff’s efforts toward their core mission of providing internet marketing services.
“It was a tough decision, but I have to put Hall before our philanthropic endeavors,” he wrote in an email Thursday morning. “We have uncovered a great opportunity in our market and we need a full effort from everyone here now and from new hires in the next several weeks to go after it.”
Besides the need to refocus his staff’s efforts, there’s also the important matter of needing to make the numbers work.
“We created the BIC with the hope that through corporate sponsorship we could offer inexpensive or even free space to support innovative early stage companies,” Hall wrote. “We had positive feedback on the concept but we have had limited sponsorship support for the BIC.”
Technically, though, Hall said he wasn’t losing money and “financially we easily could have kept it going.” It really all came down to manpower needs of his company, he said.
“Hall is expanding our offering into new markets and that takes laser-like focus and that is what is required by myself and my staff right now,” he wrote.
The lack of sponsorship support for the BIC is in contrast to the support received for the Casco Bay Tech Hub itself, which along with its popular PubHub networking events, will continue, Hall said.
The April PubHub event will still be held at the BIC, but the May, June and July events will be held next door at O’Maine Studios. The annual Pub Hub Cruise on a Casco Bay Lines ferry will serve as the August event.