An urban planning consultant, a physics and engineering professor and a business development specialist are partnering to open South Lake Tahoe’s first co-working office space.
Tahoe Mountain Lab, opening at the corner of Ski Run Boulevard and Paradise Avenue, is the idea of co-founders Jesse Walker and Jamie and David Orr.
They want the co-working office to be a fertile place for local businesses to launch, grow, share ideas, collaborate and work together to help improve the local economy’s year-round vitality.
“We offer a nice, highly amenitized office environment where people can come in and get out of their homes if they’re working from home, meet clients, and have a professional place to get some work done,” Walker said.
Born and raised in South Lake Tahoe, Walker left town to pursue his education and consulting career in the Bay Area and Sacramento. He returned to Tahoe several years ago after realizing he could do his work here, and enjoy all that this area has to offer.
“I toyed with the idea of getting office space somewhere in town, but wasn’t really able to find anything that met my expectations,” Walker said.
That futile search prompted Walker to start looking into the co-working idea. He figured there are other people like him who might want office space but are not willing to take on the full expense of leasing and outfitting a building on their own.
“It just seemed to make sense for people to pool their resources and share the expense,” Walker said.
Walker partnered with David Orr, a business development specialist who moved to South Lake Tahoe from Silicon Valley with his wife, Jamie Orr, a professor at Foothill College.
The trio brainstormed their plan and settled on a building in a walkable part of town that has a bus stop out front and is near Ski Run Marina, Heavenly Mountain Resort and several area restaurants. Tahoe Mountain Lab opened its doors about a week ago. It already has five members.
“I still work for a company in San Francisco, but we’re trying to figure out what we can do here to support the community and foster some of what’s going on down in the Bay Area and bring that up here,” David Orr said.
“There’s a lot of people I think down in the Bay Area that are like us, that enjoy the outdoor amenities and lifestyle that Tahoe provides but think there isn’t an opportunity to run a startup out here. It’s sort of trying to change that image,” David Orr said.
With an array of desks, chairs, phones, faxes, a printer, conference room, private phone booth and a 100 megabits-per-second Internet connection, Tahoe Mountain Lab is making itself available to local business owners and entrepreneurs. But it also hopes to branch out into hosting corporate retreats and group meetings and even offering professional development series.
“We hope it can be a breeding ground for new businesses and startups to use this place and have a sort of a home base where they can get their ideas off the ground,” Walker said.
Jamie Orr added, “That’s where the lab comes into it.”
But the space can also be used by visiting professionals who might need a place to hold a phone conference or meeting, and can use the lab to get those things done without having to cut their vacation short.
As businesses join the lab, collaborate, network and grow, Jamie Orr said she wants to reach out to local high schools and colleges to work on internship opportunities for their students.
“We want to keep that momentum going in terms of building a true business community in town and help groom the next generation of business professionals as well,” Jamie Orr said.
“We want every single business in town to succeed because of the economic impacts, whether direct or indirect. Whether it’s someone who can afford to buy a house, afford to stay in town or move to town, there are going to be impacts. And we’re hoping we can be the breeding ground for a lot of activity.”
Scott Fair, of Century 21 at Tahoe Paradise Realty, helped find the office space for the venture. Fair called the Tahoe Mountain Lab co-working space an exciting opportunity for South Lake Tahoe as it transitions from a gaming-based community to a more sustainable mountain-based culture and strives to create living wage jobs to replace the jobs it has lost. “This is a great first step in leveraging the technological and cultural shifts happening today,” he said.
That view is shared by the TahoeChamber, which holds a ribbon cutting for Tahoe Mountain Lab at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 28. “We think it’s going to be a very positive addition to the community,” chamber spokeswoman Shannon Earley said.