WORK will begin this month on two workhubs in Torbay thanks to £120,000 from the European Regional Development Fund and £124,000 from the Coastal Communities Fund, alongside investment from the Torbay Development Agency. Completion is expected to be in October 2013.
The workhubs will complement the existing range of innovation centre workspace by offering a more flexible facility for businesses who do not need permanent space.
Workhubs are an 'office when needed' where local freelancers and home-based businesses can access modern shared facilities including desk space, meeting rooms and collaboration space.
Equipment such as video conferencing will be available, enabling members to communicate effectively using the latest technology.
The Brixham workhub, on the first floor of Brixham Town Hall, and the Torquay workhub, on the first floor above the Visitor Information Centre at Vaughan Parade, will operate on a model similar to that of a gym — with a membership system rather than specific rented desks.
The idea is to create an informal space where small, and often home-based, businesses can collaborate with one another, use top-quality equipment and meet clients in an impressive, but friendly environment.
Research has shown there are over 3,600 home-based businesses in the Bay area, with more than one-in-nine working people in Torbay working mainly from home.
Sixty three per cent of them are self-employed, yet many are working 'under the radar' of business support agencies.
These new facilities will provide a good base for these businesses to create a professional environment in which to develop ideas and meet their clients.
Workhub members will also have access to the TDA's business advisors and the support network they can provide though the TDA and its partners.
Torbay Mayor Gordon Oliver said: "I am very pleased with the latest development in our portfolio of managed workspace for new and growing businesses in Torbay.
"Workhubs offer a professional business-facing facility for home-based and mobile workers, and can offer a unique opportunity for small businesses to get off the ground, network, and deal with their clients in an office environment, enabling them to build their reputation and customer base and create new job opportunities in the future.
"I am looking forward to seeing how these two new facilities and Brixham and Vaughan Parade take shape over the coming months, and to welcoming our first members in October."
TDA innovation centre manager Adrian Sheen said: "Workhubs are ideal places for business advice, training and business start-up services to reach the hidden but important home-working sector of the local workforce.
"They provide an appealing location for business collaboration and networking, with members exchanging ideas and services and feeling less isolated.
"These facilities will bring a new dimension to our portfolio of managed workspace as part of the South West Innovation Centre network catering for businesses looking for flexible space available when they need it."
Colin Skellett, deputy chairman of the local management committee which steers the South West Competitiveness and Employment Programme 2007-13, said: "The European Regional Development Fund is investing in a range of initiatives to help grow new businesses in the Torbay area, including enterprise coaching and start up support.
"Workhubs will complement these investments, extending the valuable support available to businesses by offering an environment in which home workers and microbusinesses can realise their potential."
Workhubs Network Director, Tim Dwelly, said: "I have been involved in setting up Workhubs in other areas, and am looking forward to helping to bring this successful concept to Torbay.
"The two Torbay Workhubs will operate along the same lines.
"However the aim is to create and brand each workhub, at both Brixham and Vaughan Parade, as a distinct local facilities with their own identity.
"I can see Torbay is a great place to invest with much potential for nurturing businesses of all sectors and sizes, including home-based businesses."
The TDA, working with Tim, has begun consulting local home-based businesses to find out their views on how the facility should operate and brand itself in order to best meet their needs.