Grand Forks' first co-working space began hosting clients early this month, launching the city's foray into a new solution for entrepreneurs looking to cut back on office space costs and collaborate with others.

The 701, a co-working space from local nonprofit Evolve Grand Forks, began a soft opening in the first week of January, according to executive director Collin Hanson. An official grand opening is scheduled for Feb. 23 for the shared office space at 33 S. Third St, in suites C and D of the Old Town Block.

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The idea of a co-working space is to provide an office area for those who want to start a business. For a rental fee, The 701 will provide desks, conference area, a boardroom, kitchen, office supplies and support services such as copiers and printers for startups and existing businesses. Explaining that idea has been step one.

"A lot of folks haven't heard of co-working before," Hanson said.

Initially The 701 just had the basics-some desks, an internet connection, coffee-but it's filling in the space, Hanson said. Monday, they put in a new lighting fixture. Wednesday, they got landlines set up. Inside, everything is still coming together.

For now the site plays host to the Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals, and is having small-business owners work out of the space to give feedback to Evolve Grand Forks. So far, people have been receptive.

"There seems to be a need for an affordable space where people can work in a collaborative environment," Hanson said.

Free coffee, soda and water doesn't hurt, either.

The 701 has partnerships with other co-working spaces across the region, including in Fargo, Bismarck and Rapid City and Brookings, S.D. Those who rent space from The 701 can travel to partner cities and use those offices, Hanson said. Evolve Grand Forks will offer a variety of rental plans, from $15 a day to $200 a month. It also will offer corporate memberships. Hanson said one entrepreneur signed up for a monthlong plan this week.