The current concept of coworking spaces originated a decade ago in San Francisco, according to Todd Greer, managing partner at Exchange 202, a new 10,000-square-foot shared office space opening in October at the former Red Square Agency space on 202 Government St. in downtown Mobile.

“An entrepreneur named Brad Neuberg was working on software projects and wanted to work in an environment where like-minded people could share flexible space and, more importantly, exchange ideas and inspiration. So he started the first coworking space in 2005 at the Spiral Muse,” Greer said.

Since then, the concept has grown rapidly. According to DeskMag, an online magazine that tracks new business trends and conducts several annual surveys, coworking has grown from approximately 600 spaces in larger metro markets in 2010 to almost 6,000 spots in both major and mid-tier cities by the end of 2014.

In Mobile, the coworking movement has been evolving downtown for the past several years.

Urban Emporium, a project of the Downtown Mobile Alliance, initiated the trend in 2011 by providing compact retail space for early-stage entrepreneurs such as retailers looking to sell goods and services in a setting with low overhead and heavy foot traffic.

In 2014, Gallery 450, a 3,400-square-foot, open-air coworking space on Dauphin Street opened its doors and currently houses a real estate broker, graphic artist, freelance writer, photographer and event planner as well as functioning as an art gallery and photo studio.

In 2015 The Fuse Project announced plans for a nonprofit incubation and coworking space to open in early 2016, helping to provide professional facilities, increased collaboration and flexibility to small nonprofits.

The for-profit Exchange 202 caps off this trend with a “soft” opening in October. It was cofounded by Greer, John Peebles and Allan Cameron.

“Being in the commercial office leasing market, Allan Cameron and I had become increasingly aware of changes happening around the traditional concept of office space. It seemed that the number of people wanting this type of arrangement has increased enough to sustain the model long-term locally. Nationwide, some studies show that over half of the workforce may move to this type of model before the end of this decade,” Greer said.

Former Essence editor-in-chief to speak at Chamber business luncheon

Susan L. Taylor, former chief editor of Essence magazine, will headline the Mobile Area Chamber’s Minority Business Conference awards luncheon on Thursday, Oct. 8, starting at 11:30 a.m. at the Arthur Outlaw Convention Center.

The luncheon will follow a business leadership forum highlighting the Chamber’s involvement in minority businesses in the region by recognizing the efforts of state and local companies. Accomplishments made by the Chamber-based Mobile Minority Business Development Agency will also be recognized.

The forum starts at 8:30 a.m. and will feature a panel discussion on small business longevity and sustainability. Topics will include improving business practices, negotiating financial risk, managing staff, evaluating a company’s environmental impact and building relationships.

Guest speakers at the conference include George Mui, global business consultant for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency; Jackie Mustakes, sustainability manager at Robins and Morton, one of Alabama’s leading construction firms; Sharon Patterson, founder and chief executive of the Billion Dollar Roundtable; Dominick Wallace, managing director of Wallace Capital Funding, and Marla Warner, a certified instructor and area sales representative for Dale Carnegie Training by Emerald Coast Leadership Associates.

According to a news release, following 27 years with Essence magazine, Taylor launched the National CARES Mentoring movement, a mentor-recruitment organization active in 58 cities. She also was the first African-American woman recognized by Magazine Publishers of America with the Henry Johnson Fisher Award – the industry’s highest honor for excellence. Taylor spoke at the Chamber’s Minority Awards luncheon previously in 2003.

Registration deadline for the event is October 2 and includes the business forum and the awards luncheon. Cost for seating ranges from $70 per individual to $700 for a table of 10 attendees. Reservations are required and can be made calling 251-431-8607.

Hargrove first among Alabama’s large engineering firms

Mobile-based Hargrove Engineers + Constructors has now topped the list as the state’s largest engineering firm year-to-date, according to Business Alabama’s annual survey. The local firm moved up to the top position from last year’s third-place ranking.

The ranking is based on total design fees, according to the news release. In 2014 Hargrove collected $133.4 million in revenue. As of July 2015 (mid-year) the company collected $75 million in fees.

Business Alabama surveys all of the state’s engineering firms to produce the rankings. The magazine asks firms to answer questions based on design fees, number of employees, largest project under construction and largest project completed in the prior year.

“This award is in recognition of our teammates’ dedication to the service of our clients,” Phil Hamilton, senior vice president, central regions operations center, said. “Every Hargrove teammate in our offices in Mobile, Birmingham and Decatur deserves the credit for this accomplishment. Our approach meets the needs of our clients in a way that consistently exceeds their expectations.”

Founded in 1995, Hargrove Engineers + Constructors is a full-service EPC, automation, life sciences and technical services firm. More information about the company can be found on its website.

Reed earns MAI designation

Foley-based Heron Valuation Group owner Franklin L. Reed Jr. was recently awarded the Appraisal Institute’s prestigious MAI membership designation. The designation is held by appraisers who are experienced in the valuation and evaluation of commercial, industrial, residential and other types of properties and who advise clients on real estate investment decisions.

According to its website, the MAI designation has long been recognized by courts of law, government agencies, financial institutions and investors as marks of excellence in the field of real estate valuation and analysis.

Currently, about 8,000 real estate appraisal professionals worldwide hold the designation with another 3,400 practitioners seeking it. The designation requires successful completion of a curriculum which includes an exam, a written demonstration report and 4,500 hours of qualifying experience requirements.

Reed was recently honored at a meeting of the Alabama chapter of the Appraisal Institute headquartered in Birmingham.