“Jobs of the Future” is a series focusing on career paths, local job opportunities, programs, and tales of success that highlight North Bay's diverse job market.
During his tenure as mayor of North Bay, Al McDonald adopted the slogan “Grow our City” as a calling card to promote the Gateway City as open for business and investment. The strategy paid off as the City hit an all-time record of $575-million in construction investment and record job creation in the 4-year term. Now the saying still applies as McDonald has moved into the private sector with the opening of his co-working space Port North Bay
“I firmly believe that this space will help our city grow, support our local businesses and professionals” says McDonald.
Port is an office space available to entrepreneurs, professionals, startups, for-profit businesses and not-for-profit organizations where McDonald says, “All you need is your laptop.”
“Here at Port, you can rent an office from 500 dollars per month and just about everything is included – your internet, office furniture, printing, heat, water, coffee, tea, conference and meeting rooms as well as parking. You also don’t have to commit to signing a long-term lease,” he says.
“There’s an opportunity for you to grow and expand. In my opinion, Port will strengthen the business ecosystem in North Bay by providing affordable office space and support for the entrepreneurs or professionals who work out of their homes or coffee shop, to avoid having to pay high long-term lease costs.”
While the pandemic showed there are some conveniences to working from your home, there was a lot that was missed by working alone.
“I believe that we are social beings and the pandemic showed us that. You had to work alone out of your home, but you lacked the personal conversation and meeting with people face to face. During the pandemic you had to meet online or over the phone, but critically you were missing out on what we’re all about as individuals with in-person dialogues and small talk that might spark so many other ideas and interests,” he says.
“Working from home you lose that perspective and that interconnection. The advantages of working in a coworking space are clear and studies have shown 83% of coworkers feel less lonely, 84% of them feel far motivated and engaged and 89% are happier in coworking.” McDonald added
He says Port is set up to be a space where those opportunities take place.
“This can be a space where there are entrepreneurs and professionals from all the different disciplines who are doing wonderful, creative and innovative things. You can have interactions where you’re able to build new relationships and share ideas and find gaps within your own projects and find the people that can fill those gaps for you. Part of what is really great about a co-working space is that you’re meeting people that you wouldn’t normally get to meet on a daily basis. You’re hearing and seeing what they are doing and you can find those opportunities to help each other and leverage your own business for new opportunities by using their services. That is really the value of a co-working space, you’re not alone,” says McDonald.
McDonald says a co-working space takes away a lot of the barriers which entrepreneurs deal with. “I wanted to make the logistics of entrepreneurship as easy as possible and remove expensive barriers. This is where Port excels in reducing costs. The biggest barrier for a lot of entrepreneurs and professionals is access to capital. The second expensive budget line is the need to find a suitable commercial space. Property owners usually want a signed long-term lease. The third is paying all the utilities, taxes, maintenance, internet fees, office furniture and that can be quite expensive. Further, if your business isn’t successful, you have to keep paying the lease. Port takes care of all that.”
McDonald says this idea was born out of what he saw as a need for more support for entrepreneurs and working professionals.
“In my forty-plus years as an entrepreneur and my twenty-plus years in public service, I could see where there were gaps and I believe the ecosystem could be strengthened here in North Bay,” he says.
“If you have had experience as an entrepreneur and public service, you have a good feeling for what's missing and what's not. I thought, with all my contacts and experience, this would be a great fit for me to be a part of that ecosystem in helping get their vision and ideas moving in the right direction, providing mentorship, connecting the dots, and opening doors for them.”
McDonald says this is his sixth start-up as an entrepreneur. “I’m back to my roots, I love this community and I just wanted to make sure that as a city are going to be set up to be very successful down the road.”
He says Port is located in North Bay’s downtown core, the place he believes will be a thriving hub once again over the next 2-5 years.
“I have full confidence in our downtown and I really wanted to be here,” says McDonald.
“Downtown is going to be the space to be in. It’s not just going to happen overnight, but you see the private sector is putting a lot of money into the downtown core. North Bay’s GCIP (Growth Community Improvement Plan) program created in the “Grow our City” mandate is in its fifth year and has been an outstanding success and a great partnership between the public and private sectors.
McDonald says more and more businesses and amenities are locating in and around the downtown which will add to the attractiveness for future investments for our city's core.
“We have fantastic restaurants, cool coffee shops, the waterfront, the splash pad, the outdoor recreational courts and the famous farmers market. There are nice trails nearby and the Kate Pace Way is right here. These extras help attract citizens to the downtown area”
McDonald also points out “If you’re in an office where something unfortunate happens, like a flood or a fire or something that makes your space unusable, it takes a lot of time to find another location, get your phone lines, computers, office furniture and internet set up. With Port, you can just move into a space with your laptop, and you can be up and running the very next day with no commitment. Once your space is ready to go, you can leave Port and head back to your office,” he says.
“Existing businesses and organizations can save considerable amounts of money monthly by transferring to coworking spaces for a fraction of the cost of a normal office building and not having to pay for all the extra space and amenities required for stand-alone offices.”
Port offers personal tours of their space and it can be reached at www.portnorthbay.ca
If you have a story idea for “Jobs of the Future” send Matt an email at [email protected]