Ben Galvan brought a Texas metropolitan developer to the three-story CivilCorp building to ask what he should do with an empty 25,000-square-foot space on the second floor.

The developer answered with two words: “Google co-working.”
Galvan, president of engineering company CivilCorp, started researching the idea. About a year later, he opened the first co-working space in Victoria on Jan. 3: The Office at CivilCorp.

The space is designed for entrepreneurs, freelancers, designers, startups or anyone who wants to collaborate with others in a professional open office space, Galvan said.

“It’s a new trend that is happening in the bigger cities,” he said. “I thought it would be something cool to have in Victoria.”

Clients of business owners who rent the office space will be greeted by a virtual receptionist, a touch screen that will ring the cellphones of the long-term tenants using the space. The receptionist space is complemented by a painting of iconic Crossroads buildings done by Roger Salazar, a CivilCorp technician, and a lobby with a modern feel.

Office space can be rented by the day, week or month. Executive offices can only be rented for a minimum of six months at a time.
The space offers free Wi-Fi and printing for everyone and lockers for long-term tenants.

“Synergy: If you’re sitting in your living room confined to your space, I think you’ll get a whole lot more out of a work environment where you can bounce ideas off of other people,” Galvan said. “It’s really a millennial idea.”

The space offers 14 open desks, three offices and one conference room. Large windows in the space overlook the Club at Colony Creek golf course.
A kitchenette and free coffee are also provided.

Eddys Velasquez, 25, Brain Bank Media owner, was the first tenant to use the space Wednesday. The company offers marketing and advertising strategies to businesses to increase the flow of customers.
Velasquez usually works from his home, he said.
“That’s one of the reasons I came to the office, just trying to get out of the house environment,” he said. “This is a way to get away from the distractions. At the house, I have my sisters and grandmother.”
Velasquez found the space on Craigslist by searching for open office spaces in Victoria on Google.

Through the space, Velasquez might be able to meet other people with similar businesses, which could spur new ideas for his business, he said.
“This would be a great place for anyone who is looking to focus or anyone looking for a community” he said. “Sometimes, in a lot of our types of businesses, we work by ourselves. Coming to a place like this, you probably have all types of different people: graphics, design people, marketing people.”

In a space like The Office at Civil Corp, people who are starting their businesses can meet people who will help them along the way, Velasquez said.

Co-working spaces are unusual for mid-sized cities like Victoria and more common in large metropolitan areas, said Dale Fowler, Victoria Economic Development Corporation president.
“In a small market like ours, with some of the work that is being done by Victoria College and UHV and their degree plans in technology as well as entrepreneurship, the timing may be just right for Victoria,” he said.
The space could become a model for other mid-sized cities, Fowler said.

“Hopefully, starting businesses will spin off from that space and develop their companies to become larger,” he said. “This gives someone an opportunity to start small. As they become more successful and grow their business, they can move on to larger spaces.”
The concept of co-working is different, said Joe Humphreys, University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center director.
“As a (baby) boomer, boomers are so traditional in their thinking, and this is so non-traditional,” he said.

This gives business owners who operate out of their homes the opportunity to have a professional space to meet clients without a long-term commitment, Humphreys said.

“This is almost like a virtual office where they can have an address, they can have this location that they can work out of, but it doesn’t cost too much,” he said. “It really gives a startup or a small business real opportunities.”

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