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Area's first co-working space opens in town

Modern offices are a far cry from the days of large folding tables, uncomfortable wooden chairs, pot-belly stoves and other small furnishings from the drab, dark surroundings that Ebeneezer Scrooge would be proud of.

At Interworks in Mount Airy, the first co-working space in the local area, the story is very different.

This sparkling new facility of course includes the elements of today’s maximum efficiency offices such as high-speed Internet and other cutting-edge communication technologies, as well as comfortable, ergonomically friendly furniture for offices, which at Interworks can be cubes, private rooms or entire suites.

Safe to say the decor is no deviation from the old style setting which lacked imagination and creativity.

Then there are additional amenities to be found at Interworks that may not be as common, but make the work setting as comfortable as possible while also promoting functionality: a lounge with a wide-screen television set; kitchen amenities include a fridge, microwave oven, coffee shop rivals Starbucks, and an ice machine. Countertops, tables and chairs are available for dining.

The executive suite on the top floor even comes with a fully stocked liquor bar and private toilet.

Interworks has large and small conference rooms, projection screens for PowerPoint and other presentations, whiteboards, advanced printing capabilities, access to related books and newspapers including The Wall Street Journal.

In short – what it offers business professionals of all types is flexibility with a capital “F.”

“That’s the name of the game when it comes to this,” said Interworks founder Michael Brannock of the main concept embodied by the facility that launched at Mount Airy earlier this month.

“This is Surry County’s first co-working space,” Brannock explains as he gives a tour of the spacious and comfortable co-working space at 190 Virginia St. representing an investment of over $2 million.

“Really, the closest is in Winston-Salem,” adds Brannock, who says there’s nothing quite like it in the “Rural Triad” area.

Nothing left

From the outside, Interworks resembles any other two-story building downtown, which obscures the glitzy surroundings that can be found within the 14,000-square-foot structure.

Interworks Design doesn’t ignore the quality of the atmosphere that matters to a person’s mental state — and productivity.

“We wanted light — we wanted color,” Brannock says of the open, airy atmosphere it creates.

Even the artwork planned for Interworks’ large lounge/office area serves a purpose other than decorative. Brannock said all of the paintings and similar features that eventually adorn his walls will be made of soundproofing materials to reduce echoes in the room.

If someone needs to make a private call while in the lounge in the middle of a meeting, they can go to one of the four closed phone booths there.

To provide further inspiration, the walls are decorated with famous quotes from business giants such as Henry Ford and Mark Cuban hand-picked by Brannock.

It seems that everything a person can deal with during the work day has been accommodated at Interworks.

Togetherness is a bonus

While new to Surry County, co-working spaces are already popular in other areas.

Co-working is a communal type arrangement not used in a traditional office setting, which involves personnel from different companies or businesses sharing a space. This allows for cost savings and convenience through the use of common infrastructure such as equipment, along with cleaning and other services.

Brannock says someone who needs a small office, for example, can rent it at Interworks and avoid the hassle of installing the Internet and utilities that are usually required along with having to manage and maintain the building.

A longtime executive at staffing firm Workforce Unlimited, he saw the need for a co-working space in Mount Airy.

“I really think this is an asset to the community in terms of economic development,” said a local entrepreneur, “to help Mount Airy move forward.”

Brannock also refers to a local “Vision” study for 2021 in which citizens’ committees identify goals for economic development and other segments:

“One of the big things that came up was the need for co-working spaces.”

Brannock consulted with Todd Tucker about the Interworks project, before Tucker stepped down as president of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership, who fully supported the effort along with city officials.

Those who have taken their place at Interworks on an ongoing basis so far — known as “members” — include six different companies or individuals, according to Marie Talbert, its business manager.

Among them are Mountcastle Insurance; furniture business; floor contractor; and someone who works in a bookkeeping capacity at nearby Thirsty Souls Community Brewing who has a separate room at Interworks where he can carry out his craft without distraction.

“There are lots of individual professionals who will love the office space,” Brannock says of Interworks’ services, along with businesses. The trend for more downtown residences is also in line with the desire of some people who live there to have offices nearby.

Businesses using the Interworks facility can have their logo in the office window, with the nameplate placed in the cube space.

As well as the other benefits of co-working spaces are the friendships and collaboration that develop among the diverse residents. “We feel like a community within a community,” says Brannock, in contrast to the loneliness that people who work outside the home sometimes experience.

At the same time, Interworks’ scheduling flexibility offers a place for those people to get away from kids and dogs for a while — “just a place to come,” Brannock says of the simple change of scenery. Day tickets can be obtained on the site for $30.

Members have 24/7 keyless access in a security-oriented environment, along with mail handling services through the provision of a professional business address.

Interworks also has a manned reception area where visitors are greeted.

Event space part of the mix

The idea to expand the Interworks facility coincided with Workforce Unlimited’s move from the office complex on Caudle Drive to the building that had previously housed the family’s insurance business, which was owned by David Pruett until bought by a staffing firm.

Workforce Unlimited, which is in front of West Independence Boulevard, is in the same building as Interworks which is located behind it on Virginia Street.

“It was meant for them to be a part of this,” Brannock said of the Workforce family, “but it was also meant to be kept separate to avoid confusion.”

Renovations are underway in early 2022 for the Interworks facility. “It took the best part of the year, but I think it was worth it,” said Brannock.

In addition to office space, Interworks offers a venue for special meetings or events that can accommodate approximately 75 people.

“You can rent meeting rooms by the hour,” says Brannock, including food options provided by downtown restaurants.

Offices are available on a month-to-month or long-term (one year) basis, with additional details on membership options listed on the website.

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