Champaign Public Library debuts coworking space

Champaign Public Library debuts coworking space

CHAMPAIGN — The city has a new ally in the fight for startup success.

On Tuesday, the Champaign Public Library formally opened Launch at the Library. It's a sleek coworking space at the library, 200 W. Green St., for anyone interested in starting or honing a business.

Anchored by Stephanie Pitts-Noggle, the library's business specialist, the free center will host events and be open for general use. It will start off without reservation requirements.

While there's room in the center to do research or write a business plan, it will also be a place to learn. Pitts-Noggle said she'll help people learn how to analyze competition, assess risk factors, find business contacts and understand markets.

A lack of enough information is a top reason for startup failure, Pitts-Noggle said.

As the co-president of Founders, an entrepreneurial student organization at the University of Illinois, Matthew Rastovac said he'll be encouraging his group to visit Launch. He may also use it for his side interest in blockchain technology — the evolving usage of distributed, shared databases that, among other things, forms the backbone of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin.

Tahj McDaniel, chief business officer of the startup ForNoJo, which does Android and iOS development, also said he plans on using the center.

"When people have the chance to collaborate, I think they're naturally innovative," he said.

Jimmy John Liautaud, founder of the Jimmy John's sandwich chain, will visit the center Thursday morning to talk about starting and growing a business.

Champaign's city government contributed $75,000 to help establish Launch at the Library, with the CPL Foundation providing the remaining $197,692.

In other business, the city council on Tuesday approved $1 million in work that will bring new traffic lights, Americans with Disabilities Act-accessibility improvements and resurfaced roads to various streets and areas around town.

Construction will happen this year and is planned to end before winter starts, according to Champaign public works director Dennis Schmidt. Portions of Neil, Walnut, Chester, Taylor and Market streets will be milled and resurfaced.

The city council also approved a finalized plan for the next phase of development on the new Bristol Place affordable housing neighborhood. This phase kicks off construction of 90 housing units, with the whole neighborhood slated for completion by 2020.

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