Gadsden-Etowah County Industrial Development Authority Nook Case Study

Cultivating and capturing interest from new industries is what David Hooks and his team at the Gadsden Etowah Industry Development do best. As the executive director of Alabama’s Gadsden-Etowah county’s industrial development entity, Hooks and his team are building a dynamic work environment in which to create connections and the three new Nooks in their space are perfectly poised to support this energy.

Within the last year, the City of Gadsden approved a bid to develop 7,000 sq ft of unutilized space at its premier event space known as The Venue at Coosa Landing. An invaluable community resource, the Venue houses three meeting rooms, two commercial kitchens and is an essential mechanism for new growth in the community. The Venue2, as the new space has been named, has been transformed to house eight dedicated offices, and a coworking/collaboration space — where Hooks and his team at the IDA work.

Inspired by seeing how Nooks were used at a coworking site in Birmingham, Alabama called “The Forge,” David and his team thought that Nook pods might be something that would work well at Venue2.  It was decided that three Nook pods would provide its members an additional offering that would make their work easier, more comfortable and inspired. Nook pods, with their unique ability to soften sounds and create a refuge in busy spaces, are a perfect complement to a collaborative space.

Within the space, there is room for roughly 20 people. It is this space where the three Nook Huddles have been installed. A Nook Huddle is a pod with seating for two people, is fully customizable, and is well suited to host both meetings and focused, independent work.

It is the hope of the IDA team that the coworking and networking hub will facilitate new local economic development efforts, encourage entrepreneurship, and foster business growth in Gadsden-Etowah county. Hooks says that he envisions the coworking center will be more than a space where people can work in community, but a space that invites innovation and inspires business incubation. A colorful modern rendering of Albert Einstein has been placed in the bright blue upholstered Nook, a treasure from his former role as director of a think tank at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), and it seems to evoke the feeling and energy that the IDA hopes will fill Venue2. The colors of the three Nooks (red, bright blue, lime green) perfectly highlight the brilliant hues of the Einstein painting and as Hooks says, that they were looking for colors that were bright and cheerful, and the energy is catching. The Nook Huddles are in a collective, set apart by the color of their upholstered cushions, and easy to be moved, should the need arise. The IDA team especially appreciates that when using a Nook pod you can feel like you are separate, in a space that is easier to concentrate while still being supported by the energy and connectivity of a shared space where others are working.

Venue2 is slated to open for coworking in early Fall, 2023. There are currently spaces still available, both in the individual offices and at the five dedicated desks. By design, the space will have some fluctuation, people will come and go, and Hooks has a plan for this, too. Instead of renting desks, Venue2 plans to offer memberships.  Hoping to create a space where people can have the flexibility to use the space at their convenience, or as their routine dictates, but creating a dynamic space that is stronger through its members.

Hooks and the IDA team have many things to celebrate.  The industrial development entity has played an integral role in the soliciting and securing a relationship with the US based globally known company, Ultra-Safe Nuclear Corporation. USNC is a tech company, headquartered in Seattle that seeks to develop clean energy technologies and projects. On June 21, 2023, USNC announced its decision to erect an MMR Assembly Plant in Gadsden, after a year-long search that included the review of 16 states and hundreds of potential locations. And though the site will operate with notably automated systems in its manufacturing, assembly, testing and inspection process, the pending relationship will yield several hundred new jobs for Gadsden-Etowah residents. Hooks was recognized in the announcement by USNC representative, Dan Stout, noting appreciation for the support of Alabama’s governor, Kay Ivey, and her team, specifically identifying Hooks as an instrumental force in the selection process saying that they “especially appreciate the guidance and efforts of April Gray (Department of Commerce) and David Hooks of the Gadsden-Etowah IDA in making this project a reality.”

The Gadsden-Etowah IDA is harnessing creative energy in ways that are not unfamiliar to Nook, through inspiration, clarity of vision, innovation, and strength of the team.