theCO Opens Its Doors to West Tenn. Innovators, Entrepreneurs

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A co-working makerspace in Jackson, Tenn. is creating opportunities for entrepreneurs and creatives to collaborate inside a 10,000-square-foot facility.

theCO in Jackson, Tenn.
The West Tennessee region now has an open door for anyone with a business idea.

theCO ( has opened a new facility designed for entrepreneurs, small business owners, engineers, tinkerers, students and creatives in West Tennessee. The community is invited to tour the facility, learn how the region is innovating and show support for the entrepreneurial community at theCO Show & Tell open house July 24, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Now operating at 541 Wiley Parker Road in Jackson, theCO's 10,000-square-foot space houses workspace for new and established small businesses, a high-tech engineering lab for product designers, tinkerers and hobbyists to prototype and build, and includes access to more than 3,000 square feet of event and conference space.

Coupled with more than 50 successful mentors committed to educating and growing local businesses, theCO's economic accelerators are designed to make startup businesses and innovations easier for West Tennesseans.

"We are truly excited to see this kind of innovation in our community," said Dr. Lisa Piercey, vice president of health and wellness at West Tennessee Healthcare and a member of the board of directors of theCO. "The West Tennessee region now has an open door for anyone with a business idea."

The makerspace engineering lab in the new facility includes a 3D printer, an Oculus Rift virtual world headset, an electronics lab, instruments for etching and routing, a welding station and more. Occasional Makerspace Battles will invite competition between innovators in the lab area of the new building.

Membership at theCO is divided into two levels: CO:members have access to shared working space and the makerspace, while CO:workers have a dedicated desk in addition to access to shared space and makerspace.

A membership is not required to attend the many events offered at theCO. At the first of each month, theCO hosts A.M. Creative, a 7:30 a.m. event where a local creative professional or student shares about his or her design process. Events in August will include an after-work meetup for business men and women and an event for those interested in coding and other web-related items.

theCO previously made national headlines with the creation of the CO:de Academy, a collaborative partnership with the Jackson-Madison County School System and, a self-paced web platform for front end development that rivals curriculum available at the collegiate level.

Beginning with the 2013-2014 academic year, the CO:de Academy was in three area high schools and more schools are on track to add it in coming school years. Students participate in a six month coding competition and the winners are rewarded with an all-expenses-paid trip to San Francisco to tour Google, LinkedIn and more.

The U.S. Department of Labor projects 1.4 million computer specialist job openings by 2020, but U.S. universities are expected to produce only enough qualified graduates to fill 29 percent of these jobs.

“We want to help fill that gap by growing programmers right her in West Tennessee,” said William Donnell, lead designist and founder of Sodium Hologen and chief technology officer at theCO. “Our goal is to be as invested in prepping the next generation as we are in supporting current entrepreneurs and creatives in the area.”

About theCO
theCO is a community of entrepreneurs, tinkerers, engineers, creatives, students and developers encouraging economic growth, business development and coding education in West Tennessee.

Founded by five local businessmen: Ben Ferguson, Ben Harris, William Donnell, Drew Ermenc and Barrett Gay, theCO is funded through a combination of private support and LaunchTN, a public initiative created by the State of Tennessee to encourage entrepreneurship and small business ownership.

A board of directors comprised of business owners and community leaders provides experienced oversight for theCO. The board includes Frank Lawrence, Bobby Arnold, Ted Nelson, Lisa Piercey, Sharon Younger, Will Bell, Vicki Burch, Seth Chandler, Jimmy Exum, Gary Grisham, Mike Hewitt, Jacque Hillman, Carl Kirkland, Michael Laffoon, Mark Taylor and Sidney Wilson. To learn more about theCO, visit theCO is also on Facebook (, Twitter (@attheco) and Instagram (@attheco).

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Samantha Linkous
Younger Associates
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