By GREGORY ZELLER // They’re packing them in at LaunchPad Huntington, with a host of new tenants hanging their shingles inside the year-old co-working space – including three new residents liberated from Brooklyn.
In a reversal of Long Island’s cursed westward migration, a trio of unrelated professionals – including a Microsoft field operative and the Workforce Development Institute’s regional director – has headed east from Kings County to live and work on the Island, with each renting part of the shared Huntington workspace.
They’re part of a flood of new tenants filling the LaunchPad. According to Director Phil Rugile, seven new tenants have moved in since January, marking a 30 percent increase in residents in just five months.
Rugile attributes the increased tenant interest to a host of different factors – primarily, LaunchPad’s social media-heavy marketing efforts and a recent series of events held at the Huntington facility, which have exposed the hip co-working space to new audiences.
“I think the marketing efforts are starting to pay off,” Rugile told Innovate LI. “And the events we’ve hosted have drawn so many people that I think it’s starting to take on an organic quality. A lot of people are seeing the place and talking about it, and it’s generating a real buzz.”
Among recent events: Art Bytes – a showcase of regional visual arts professionals with the Huntington Arts Council – and this week’s STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) Education seminar. The events have drawn impressive crowds, Rugile noted, and also helped expand the LaunchPad beyond its original tech-startup focus.
“We’ve touched on many different sectors,” he said. “We’re not just open to tech startups anymore. By pursuing initiatives with the Arts Council and educational institutions, we’re becoming part of the larger entrepreneurial ecosystem.
“We’re drawing on a larger pool of people, and it’s having a ripple effect,” Rugile added. “I’m getting calls now with inquiries on a weekly basis.”
Among those calling to inquire were the three Brooklyn transplants. The most recent to arrive was Andy Milk, a partner of New York City-based web-development company Kindred Development, who moved recently to Long Island and “decided he was tired of schlepping into the city every day,” according to Rugile.
Milk’s June 1 arrival followed that of Mike Richter, who is not a Stanley Cup-winning former goalie for the New York Rangers but a cloud solutions architect for Microsoft.
“He just moved out here with his family,” Rugile said. “He’s out in the field a lot visiting clients, and he travels a lot, but he needed an office. He could have taken one in Manhattan, but he realized it was easier and cheaper to rent here than to travel into the city every day.”
The third former Brooklynite to take space in LaunchPad Huntington is Rosalie Drago, the new Long Island regional director for the Albany-based Workforce Development Institute, a statewide nonprofit providing economic- and community-development programs.
Drago, who lived in Brooklyn for 13 years and has a long economic-development background, actually relocated to Long Island two years ago and was working at home as a consultant when she decided to “take all that experience and search for something out here,” she said.
She became the WDI’s regional director in November and moved into the institute’s tiny Mineola office, but found she was often on the road between there and Hauppauge, making Huntington – which is also convenient to her residence – a more logical location for a home base.
“I also needed a place where I could convene,” Drago noted. “This is a great place for convening, with the conference room space.”
While the three former Brooklynites and other new tenants are adding to LaunchPad Huntington’s energy, the co-working space isn’t running out of room. Rugile noted that a majority of the 15 total tenant companies don’t rent permanent spaces, but are “come as you are” – that is, their employees come and go, and when they come they simply “find a place to sit down and start working.”
And the Launchpad still has more space to fill, according to Rugile, including room for another row of permanent desks.
If the recent surge continues, managers may choose to cap the number of tenants. “We don’t want this to become an overcrowded space,” Rugile noted. “We want it to remain an open, fun, collaborative, work-driven space.”
But “we’re not maxed out just yet,” he added, and if and when LaunchPad Huntington runs out of room, there are always options.
“There’s plenty of office space around Huntington,” Rugile said. “We can easily look at expansion through mini LaunchPads in other parts of the town. That’s part of the notion of creating an innovation district.”