By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — A re-purposed eastside building is now a place for aspiring entrepreneurs to launch their careers.
It’s called The Local, a more than 2,000 square-foot building at 123 N. Alpine Road owned by Rockford author, educator and motivational speaker Jazz Keyes. The co-working space, or business “incubator,” caters to an array of creative types–artists, business people and visionaries who can come together to launch their careers.
“I looked at the space and thought it had a lot of potential,” Keyes said. “I also thought of some of the difficulties and challenges I had as an entrepreneur at one point: I didn’t have a place to meet with clients, a place I could work late or teach my classes.”
The Local, Keyes says, will offer that space. The building sports everything from a conference room to gallery space to a podcast studio, tools young business people often go greatly into debt to obtain early in their careers. By turning to someone like Keyes, who has been through that often grueling capitalization process, those tools are provided for a fraction of the cost.
“I want to create a sacred space that touches every sector,” she said. “I want it to be something our city can stand behind.”
And far-reaching support will certainly be key to making the project a go, especially as Rockford is only beginning to regain the sense of community that fell by the wayside during the manufacturing exodus of the late 1980s. Over the years, with the industry has also gone succeeding generations of young people who find little, if anything, in Rockford to return to after leaving the city for one reason or another.
Then there are those who graduate from Rockford schools with nothing more than a dream. Loopholes, investment requirements and business training are too often the stumbling blocks that prevent grassroots projects from ever getting off the ground. Keyes aims to be a beacon for them, too.
“Some of the programs out there to get businesses started are filled with difficulty and disparity as to who can qualify for them,” she said. “It can be hard to navigate these programs to accrue some of these funds.”
The Local is a space that will not only provide a space for startups to operate while they navigate those avenues, but a tool to learn from Keyes how the often daunting, and sometimes dream-killing, mechanism is.
“Sometimes people just need others to believe in them, and that goes so far,” she said. “[The Local] will introduce the element of hope that a lot of people will lose along the way. I get excited when people feel vibrant.”
And vibrant they are at the space and it’s not even officially open. Pieces from local artists are already on display, and Keyes is ready to welcome more after tonight’s grand opening.
The opening will from 6-9:30 p.m. It will feature business workshops, tech workshops, meditation classes, refreshments, and more. The public is welcome.
More information about The Local is on its Facebook page. The building is directly across from Rock River Ford. R.