Tenants already lined up for city-owned HIVE in downtown Grand Forks
Johnny Ryan, the director of the HIVE, said there has been a lot of interest from companies wanting to use the space.
GRAND FORKS – After nearly a year under construction, the inside of the city-owned Hybrid Innovation Venture Engine , the former Grand Forks Herald building, looks completely different.
The interior features conference rooms, classrooms, multipurpose use space, a boardroom, work spaces, offices and tenant suites. Johnny Ryan, director of the HIVE, said there has already been interest from companies wanting to use the space.
“It’s great that it’s right here,” Ryan said of the HIVE’s location. “It’s been pretty easy to have people come through, check it out and be excited about it.”
Overall, the HIVE — also loosely referred to as the "Tech Accelerator" in recent years — supports companies, startups and entrepreneurs centered around the aerial and autonomous systems (UAS) industry, along with the data processing and imagery analysis that goes hand-in-hand with UAS.
So far, more than eight companies have been lined up to use the space, including Airial Robotics, Inc., ISight Drone Services, Vorbeck Materials and Grand Sky.
Interest in the space has also expanded beyond companies in the U.S. Ryan said people from England, Germany and France have toured the HIVE.
“It’s cool they recognize Grand Forks’ ability to really be a big player in this industry,” he said.
With limited leasable space in the building, much of the work space will have a co-working feel. An individual membership will come to a monthly fee of around $150, while those that use a tenant suite will pay a monthly fee of around $750.
Ryan said the proposed tiered lease structure is still awaiting final approval before all the tenants can start fully working in the space. A soft opening of the HIVE is set for May 18, and a grand opening is planned for September.
Ryan said having a space specific to the UAS industry has its benefits.
“I think a lot of what is making this really cool is that it is drone-specific, because a lot of these companies feel way more comfortable talking about their stuff,” he said.
Many of the companies that will use the space have worked together in the past, according to Ryan.
“A lot of these companies have already worked with each other and they kind of ended up here just by chance and they all work so nicely together,” he said. “It’s not like company versus company. It’s more like Grand Forks versus other cities, trying to be the first to do all these drone things.”
Haley Rosaasen, a human resources manager with the city and part of a team that has helped with the HIVE, said programming will focus on the technical and soft skills needed to be successful. Some technical-based training will include computer programming and data processing along with building, automating and coding for drones.
Rosaasen said funding for the training will be covered by the monthly fees tenants pay. Employers that aren’t a tenant of the HIVE will be allowed to attend training sessions by paying a fee.
Offering classes to ensure the tenants are obtaining the skills they need to be successful is a top priority for Ryan.
“Really what I want to do is I want to offer classes that our tenants are asking for,” he said. “If there’s some hole in their technical ability I want to fill that. I don’t want to just guess at what they need.”
While the HIVE originally planned to use the majority of the first floor and about half of the second floor, a recent decision by the Grand Forks Herald to move from the building means even more space can be incorporated into the HIVE. Other tenants that have space in the building include the Economic Development Corp. and Thread.
Seeking a naming sponsor is an ongoing process. In February, the city sent out a request for proposals seeking a corporate sponsor to acquire naming rights for the building. The minimum bid was set at $500,000. During an April 3 JDA meeting, Meredith Richards, the city's director of community development, informed the City Council that no bids have been received. Rooms within the building will be named as well.
Getting the space to the point where it is today has been a lengthy process. Construction in the building started in March last year. Funding for the construction costs associated with the project came from a $1,079,646 grant the Jobs Development Authority was awarded in 2021 from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
The city purchased the building from Forum Communications, which owns the Grand Forks Herald, for $2.75 million in April 2019.
The project was originally set to be substantially completed by August , but because it came in below the estimated cost, added amenities — such as enhancements to the HVAC system, work to the second-floor bathrooms, and audio and visual enhancements — expanded the scope of the project.
As the space gets closer to being fully functional, Ryan and Rosaasen said it’s exciting to see it all come together.
“It’s been a long haul since we’ve purchased the building,” she said. “I was on the project since then and to now see it completely refinished, it’s just remarkable to see the progress.”
Ryan sees the HIVE heightening awareness about the UAS industry in Grand Forks.
“I know I’ve talked to quite a few other people in the industry and they haven’t come across anything like this,” Ryan said.