Ampersand holds grand opening

Coworking office only one of its kind in U.P.

Jason Schneider, executive director of the Marquette Chamber of Commerce, speaks at the Tuesday grand opening of Ampersand Coworking, a business space for networking and cost-sharing at 132 W. Washington St., Marquette. Ampersand has private offices, semi-private desks and other amenities. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — The culmination of feasibility studies, design, preliminary contracts and construction was celebrated Tuesday at the grand opening of Ampersand Coworking, the first and only coworking office in the Upper Peninsula.

Ampersand is located at 132 W. Washington St., Marquette, in the Masonic Building.

Jason Schneider, executive director of the Marquette Chamber of Commerce, was one of the driving forces behind Ampersand, which also is home to the chamber.

“It was in our original plans three years ago to do something like this,” Schneider said, “and it’s been a year of heavy lifting and about four months of construction to get this project off the ground and see it where it is today.”

At 5,200 square feet, Ampersand provides enough room for 50 people to work side by side. It has nine private offices, 15 semi-private desks and 25 open workstations available to rent by the day, week, month or year.

Amenities include 24-hour access, internet, conference room use, free printing, beverages and snacks, and community programming.

Schneider said funding for Ampersand came from a variety of sources, including the Michigan Film & Digital Media Office, the Upper Peninsula Masonic Association, the U.P. Catholic Credit Union, River Valley Bank, mBank, Honor Credit Union and Northern Initiatives.

Ampersand already seems to be popular in the business community.

Before the opening, 23 leases were signed for Ampersand space, said Schneider, who noted that currently all its small private offices are rented, with half the desks rented.

Schneider said there is space for about 30 more people, with a waiting list for the small offices.

The chamber’s primary goal is help the business community through networking and cost-sharing, he said, with the chamber taking its traditional strengths and merging them into a form that’s more relevant to the new economy.

Nick Steffey, the chamber’s assistant director, soon will step into the role of interim executive director at the chamber following Schneider’s departure for a new out-of-state position.

“Really, really excited to see everyone moving in,” Steffey said, with current renters ranging from a recent Northern Michigan University graduate specializing in graphic design to a kayak instructor with experience in voice-over work.

John Becker also rents space at Ampersand.

“It’s been great so far,” Becker said. “I’ve been slowly integrating over the last month or so as they finish with the buildout.”

Becker, who has a background primarily in fundraising for arts and culture organizations, is involved in a variety of enterprises, including running a statewide nonprofit that organizes speech and debate events for youth in Michigan. He also is one of the principal coordinators of the Ore to Shore Mountain Bike Epic.

“I have about 17 different hats that I wear,” Becker said.

In fact, it was his experience with arts and culture that he said was his main connection to Ampersand, considering its relationship with the Michigan Film & Digital Media Office.

“I thought this would be a great place to interact with a lot of other creatives and help other projects flourish,” Becker said.

He acknowledged he had worked at home before renting space at Ampersand.

“It’s just nice to have another place to go sometimes,” Becker said.

For more information, visit www.ampersand