Hacker Lab looking to open new location

The Hacker Lab is a co-working space that supports local entrepreneurs and innovators in downtown Sacramento.
The Hacker Lab is a co-working space that supports local entrepreneurs and innovators in downtown Sacramento.

Rancho Cordova is closer to getting a Hacker Lab co-working space in the city.

The city’s Economic Development Department recently authorized spending $75,000 to gauge interest and potential demand among residents and workers.

If approved, it would be the Sacramento-based organization’s third location. Hacker Lab’s Midtown location provides budding entrepreneurs with co-working space and offices as well as space for training classes and tools to create prototypes. Membership fees range from $75 to $100 monthly depending on access to tools and space.

Amanda Norton, the city’s economic development manager, said city staff facilitated feasibility studies in 2012 and 2014, which found that businesses and entrepreneurs supported the idea of a “makerspace” or business incubator.

Makerspaces and business incubators are slightly different versions of the same concept – a business incubator caters to people looking to get a business off the ground and who want to get connected with successful entrepreneurs; a makerspace is more focused on providing tools and training for creating prototypes and new products. Hacker Lab offers elements of both.

“This is something that absolutely, I think, belongs in Rancho Cordova,” Councilman David Sander said at a council information session on Monday. “Anything we can do to accelerate it, I think we should pursue.”

Hacker Lab submitted its proposal to the economic development department in September. CEO Gina Lujan said the organization has been in conversations with Rancho Cordova for several years. If the Hacker Lab’s study shows the project is feasible, the new space could open by the end of 2017, Lujan said. Hacker Lab and city staff plans to present the findings to the City Council in April or May.

Diann Rogers, CEO of the Rancho Cordova Chamber of Commerce, said a Hacker Lab would give the city a chance to grow its light manufacturing and small entrepreneurial sectors. Projects coming out of makerspaces often involve building upon or evolving existing products, she said.

“Everything after market you could ever want to do with your car is here,” Rogers said. “What can be built upon that?”

Norton said there are about 50,000 trade or trade-related jobs in Rancho Cordova.

“Being able to provide classes and information to update skills is always important for us,” she said.

City staff identified 15 makerspaces in Yolo, Placer and Sacramento Counties.

Lujan said Hacker Lab’s Rocklin location is expanding from 3,500 square feet to 18,000 square feet.

Several business incubators around the country were founded or partially funded by city governments, including San Jose’s BioCenter, Ventura Ventures Technology Center and the Business Technology Center in Los Angeles.

The $75,000 will come from the city’s Community Enhancement Fund and pay for surveys, two town hall meetings, to research potential space and to develop private sector partnerships.

Funding for the Community Enhancement Fund comes from Measure H, a half-cent sales tax passed in 2014. Of the $7.2 million generated annually, Norton said her department administers about $500,000. Other projects funded from the economic development slice of the money include a grant for a developer to build a new shopping center and loans for small businesses.

Hackathon at Sacramento's Hacker Lab Feb. 8, 2014. Techies form teams and spend 30 hours developing tech or maker ideas.

Ellen Garrison: 916-321-1920, @EllenGarrison

Related stories from Sacramento Bee