How the beautiful renovation of a historic building is revitalizing a startup and tech community
As the business world looks toward the end of the COVID-19 pandemic and the new way the industry and its talent wants to work, one of Dayton’s biggest startup and development resources is hitting its stride. Last year, The Hub opened as a partnership between The University of Dayton and the Entrepreneurs’ Center in the historic Arcade in downtown Dayton. Since its grand opening last March — which was forced to be a virtual event — The Hub has continued filling out and adding amenities, and TEC President Scott Koorndyk is excited to see the space working toward its potential.
“The Hub is a 100,000-square-foot innovation space built in partnership between the University of Dayton and The Entrepreneur Center,” he said. “TEC focuses on startup companies in the Dayton region, and we have about 200 companies in our portfolio. The Hub is about 50 percent technology companies and 50 percent organizations that support technology companies. It’s the culmination of a four-year vision for having a place where entrepreneurs can come together and centralize the work they do while creating interaction. It’s a stunning collection of nine historic buildings and it’s a remarkable combination of a lot of different assets.”
Unlike many other business- or startup-oriented spaces, The Hub makes a major effort to integrate University of Dayton students into the ecosystem it’s working to create. In addition to office and coworking spaces, a portion of the facility is dedicated to The Gem, a series of classrooms and work spaces meant to provide a perfect location for students who want to grow outside their traditional classes.
“The Gem houses our classrooms through a partnership with a University of Dayton program called IACT, a transformative learning program where left- and right-brained students come together in a classroom to solve real-world problems,” said Community Lead Sabrina Dunham. “Think about engineering and arts students coming together to figure out how to get medications to rural areas. The classrooms are set up in a non-traditional way with bright colors, lounge furniture and high-top tables, with the goal of triggering the creative process.”
But, of course, The Hub is still designed to maximize startups and small businesses. The Entrepreneurs’ Center has filled all of its office spaces, and has also attracted some outside interest. In a space called The Annex, The Hub has the ability to continue hosting businesses as they grow, while also housing imports like iHeartRadio, who has an active recording space in The Annex.
“We wanted to focus on small businesses and startups in this space,” Koorndyk said. “As they grow, we don’t want to lose them — we want them to grow with us. This space is for organizations that are growing, but also to bring in other companies that add to the energy, the culture and the offering that we have here at the Hub. Our pride and joy is iHeartRadio, who streams out of their studio here from 5 a.m. to about 11 p.m. It’s a way to integrate a different element of media into the space that adds energy and value for our members.”
But The Hub isn’t just about work. One of the most important goals of the new building was to create common spaces that give people a reason to spend time around one another. Those areas include a kitchen and dining area, a rooftop patio, a lounge area and more. Whether it’s college students meeting entrepreneurs, startups hosting work gatherings or simply spending time playing ping-pong, many of The Hub’s rooms are meant to build community.
“It’s about proximity to the experts and to each other,” Koorndyk said. “For entrepreneurs, it’s all about surrounding yourself with people who can help. It’s an interesting visual space and interesting energy, so it’s a way to bring people together to help and support each other. For entrepreneurs, that’s the name of the game.”
If it seems that words like “partnership” and “collaboration” appear often in conversations about The Hub, it’s because that’s the spirit of the space. Koorndyk called it “an integration of startup support, academic support and arts,” and emphasized the importance of creating a community and a well-rounded facility rather than building another traditional startup incubator.
“It’s this fusion of small-business support, academic support and arts, brought together to really create some new capabilities and possibilities. We all know that, for small businesses, it takes a village. You can’t just build a small business by yourself. So we’re trying to support those businesses with potential talent, bringing students in as interns, first employees, graphic designers or whatever that may be. That puts employees directly into the startup scene. But you also have to bring culture to the space, and that’s why we also invest in the arts and this beautiful space.”