The Hive seeks path forward

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County: Initial funding has been exhausted

By Arin McKenna

The Hive opened its doors on Dec. 7, 2011 as a community project space, an experiment in providing co-work space and facilities, as well as networking and mentoring opportunities to anyone looking for a way to develop an idea.

Less than a year later, 22 of The Hive’s supporters petitioned council for $36,000 to sustain its operations through February 2013 and the opportunity to develop an expanded grant application for its continued operations.

Without some source of revenue, The Hive may have to close its doors at the end of this month.

“The Hive is at a crossroads. Our initial funding is exhausted,” The Hive Steward Dave Jones said.

“We believe there is a big payback for the county of Los Alamos,” Jones continued. “In my estimation, this is the kind of economic development that this county needs. We need to diversify, we need to develop products or services for sale outside of the county.

“Our ultimate goal is to facilitate and catalyze people trying to get things done. Startup businesses would be at the top of the list, but it can be organizations, clubs, even hobbyists or artisans. But our ultimate goal is to further real and sustainable economic development.”

Andrew E. Andrews, president of the Los Alamos Entrepreneurs’ Network, reinforced that point. The Hive helped facilitate the formation of LAEN.

“At a community scale, economic development is pretty simple. It means more cash flowing in than flowing out,” Andrews said. “That means that in this community we have to have products. Those products can be physical, they could be a service, they could be knowledge products, but they have to be products that someone outside this community wants or needs and is willing to pay for.

“The hive is often described as a catalyst for economic development. I would describe it a little bit differently. The hive is where businesses are born,” Andrews said. “It is very important to sustain this entity, and it can provide great payback, not just to the citizens. It can provide great payback to the county government. Because when you see these successes — some provide revenues and some don’t — those revenues can provide the sustaining value base that we need despite what happens with the laboratory.”

For those utilizing The Hive, costs range from a $5 day pass to a premium plan that goes for $180 a month. The use of conference rooms is available at $30 per hour, as is an equipped lab area.

According to information on its website, The Hive is a live experiment aimed at discovering whether an underutilized building can be repurposed to support a co-work community.

At least a dozen people sat through the council meeting to support The Hive’s efforts and with a half dozen providing public comment. Several speakers emphasized the need for an organization such as The Hive to capitalize on the “active brains” drawn to Los Alamos National Laboratory and to retain the skills of those who may have been employed by the lab.

Despite the impassioned pleas, council was unable to grant the request.

“My greatest concern is an anti-donation concern,” said County Administrator Harry Burgess, referring to an anti-donation provision in state law that prohibits counties from funding private entities.

Counties are able to fund private entities that provide services the county feels it should provide to its citizens.
County Resolution No. 10-18 spells out what type of documentation The Hive would have to provide the county, such as details on proposed services, the target population, what outcomes they expect and how those outcomes would be measured. The resolution calls for a committee under the county administrator’s direction to review the proposal and make a recommendation to council.

“We have to have some sort of written guidelines, deliverables and the like at the end of the process, so it’s clear that the county is purchasing a certain set of services for any moneys expended.”

The county’s procurement code may also require staff to issue a Request for Proposals to determine if there are other entities that could provide those services.

Councilor Vincent Chiravalle suggested another source of funding.

“This is not really a service. This is economic development. So is there a way we can fund this using economic development money using the authority that we have from LEDA (Local Economic Development Act)?”

Jones is currently looking into that possibility.

Andrews suggested the county could fund a $36,000 study at The Hive. County Attorney Rebecca Ehlers said that “doesn’t pass the smell test at first glance.”

Council unanimously passed a motion directing staff to investigate the matter with the petitioners and “return to council with information, options and/or recommendations as soon as practicable.”

In a telephone interview the following day, Jones expressed his appreciation for council’s response.

“The support voiced by council and their desire to find a way to help was heartwarming,” Jones continued. “I think they heard the message, I think they appreciated the message and I think they appreciated what we’re trying to do.”

Jones said he realized the severity of the financial crisis just two months ago.

“That all falls on my shoulders. I can point to extenuating circumstances, but the punchline is I have not done my job well enough. I had relied on help from some folks, but I should have taken responsibility and gotten on this sooner.”

Jones is confident The Hive qualifies for grants from the Economic Development Administration and the United States Department of Agriculture rural development program, and that The Hive has supporters who can successfully write those grants. However, the organization needs bridge funding to see it through until the next grant cycle. It can sometimes be six months to a year from the submitting applications to the award of grants.  

Jones is determined to keep the doors open until then.

“This is too important to the community to give up at this point,” Jones said. “So one way or the other we’ll find a way to hold it together until we find a way to meet our revenue needs.”

Those wishing to contribute to The Hive can do so at www.fundly.com/thehive.