Lightning Jar celebrates grand opening

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BENNINGTON >> Bennington's first co-working space celebrated its grand opening on Thursday, bringing out community political , business, and educational leaders.

The Lightning Jar collaborative working space, which officially opened on Oct. 1, is located at 194 North Street, inside the Vermont State Employees Credit Union. According to Dimitri Garder, the Lightning Jar's interim director, the 1,200-square-foot coworking space offers small business owners, entrepreneurs, and the like a space to work surrounded by others like themselves whom they can share ideas and collaborate with. Regular membership costs $150 a month, although discounts are available for longer-term membership, and gives 24/7 access to the space, which includes access to printing, faxing, and wi-fi; a kitchenette and break area; a meeting room; free entry to most social and promotional events at the Lightning Jar, and more. A premium membership is also available, for $200 a month, which offers all of the benefits of a regular membership, plus a dedicated workspace.

The Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, which operates three collaborative workspaces across the state, acted as advisors during the planning stages of the Lightning Jar, and had representatives in attendance on Thursday. Other notable guests includes Garder; Bennington Economic and Community Development Director, Michael Harrington; state representatives Bill Botzow and Mary Morrissey; Bennington County Industrial Corporation Director Peter Odierna; VSECU CEO Rob Miller; Southwestern Vermont Health Care director of strategic planning Jim Trimarchi; Bennington Select Board chairman Tom Jacobs; and current and former Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union superintendents Jim Culkeen and Catherine McClure. Drinks were provided by Kevin's Sports Pub and Restaurant.

The space is named after the invention of Henry W. Putnam, whose home once stood at 194 North Street. Putnam's company manufactured a small mason jar with an easy-to-close clasped lid, called the Lightning Jar. One of the original jars was on display on Thursday.

"Co-working is an increasingly popular working model throughout the country, appealing to freelancers, consultants, and entrepreneurs, and offering a more dynamic and collaborative alternative to a formal corporate office, home office, or remote office," said Garder. Speeches at Thursday's event were kept to a minimum, giving guests as much time as possible for casual networking.

Harrington, who said that he will be occasionally working out of the space, but has not yet, said that Better Bennington Corporation director John Shannahan took advantage of the site during the first week it opened, and spoke highly of the experience. Harrington said that, as the space's membership grows, it will allow for more collaboration between local professionals, as well as providing a space for small business owners who may not have an office of their own, but prefer working in a community space to working at home.

For more information about the Lightning Jar, visit their website at www.lightningjarvt.com.

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