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WKU Innovation Campus offering workspace for businesses displaced by the tornado

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Rhonda J. Miller
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Many businesses across south central Kentucky that were damaged or destroyed by the December tornadoes have an option for a temporary, or permanent, new home.

Western Kentucky University’s 30,000-square-foot workspace in the old Bowling Green Mall is welcoming displaced businesses.

As of now, there are no people working in what’s called the 'Collaborative Smart Space' at the WKU Center for Research and Development in Bowling Green.

The expansive open area is meant to encourage people and businesses with a variety of skills and expertise to share their talents. 

So far, it’s filled only with desks and chairs, sectioned off into spaces for individuals or small groups.  

Buddy Steen is Executive in Residence in charge of the WKU Innovation Campus. 

“We have some very aggressive pricing to help any displaced business, any impacted business. They can come here, within 15 minutes we can have them set up, at a desk, internet capabilities.," said Steen. "We’ve got some private conference room areas that they can use.”

The collaborative space is at one end of the WKU Small Business Accelerator, where companies continue to settle in at individual office spaces. 

There are some private offices in the accelerator available for displaced businesses. 

While the welcome mat is out especially for businesses displaced by the tornadoes, Steen says some may decide to stay and become part of what’s envisioned as a kind workspace and community gathering spot.

“So we’ll have creative class professionals, filmmakers, various folks that are kind of part of the family. We’ll schedule them to come in and meet with people," said Steen. "It’s an informal thing, but it’s a fun thing. It’s a thing that would attract people and again make this a place where people want to be.”

And while this huge facility was once the Bowling Green Mall, the space being made available for use now is not for retail shops. 

However, there are plans for the center to host a café or restaurant, and a small  special events space open to the public, that’s accessible at the intersection of Campbell Lane and Nashville Road.  

Rhonda Miller joined WKU Public Radio in 2015. She has worked as Gulf Coast reporter for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she won Associated Press, Edward R. Murrow and Green Eyeshade awards for stories on dead sea turtles, health and legal issues arising from the 2010 BP oil spill and homeless veterans.
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