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Iron Block celebrates with open house

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RIBBON CUTTING: The Iron Block Engagement and Innovation Hub had its grand opening Friday at 62. N. Main St. in Frankfort.
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NERVE CENTER: The Iron Block Engagement& Innovation Hub is also home to the Clinton County Chamber of Commerce and Frankfort Main Street.
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NEW LOOK: The Iron BlockEngagement and Innovation Hub celebrated its grand opening with an open house from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at 62 N. Main St. in Frankfort.

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

Iron Block Engagement and Innovation Hub celebrated the completion of Phase 2 of its renovation project with an open house and ribbon-cutting on Friday at 62 N. Main St. in Frankfort.

Shan Sheridan, executive director of the Clinton County Chamber of Commerce, says that the hub means more connectivity and therefore more opportunity for commerce.

“Connectivity brings commerce,” Sheridan said. “It brings community together, and we believe the connection between the business and whether it be non-for-profit, for profit, government, city, council, education – we believe this Iron Block Engagement and Innovation Hub is going to be able to bring folks together. And that is really what it is all about.”

The open house drew dozens of visitors from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday who were able to enjoy food from Angry Donkey and coffee from Frankie's Cafe. And, much like Sheridan said, they did network with each other while checking out the renovated space.

“Angry Donkey is out of Michigantown,” Sheridan said. “They do a wonderful job with not only their restaurant but catering. Culligan Water has helped us out with water. We have Frankie's Coffee House working with us with our coffee. We have some great folks that partner with us not only today but on a regular basis.”

“We had a lot of open space that we enclosed,” said Jason Wilhite, membership and events director. “Instead of one conference room, now we have three. So, it is a lot more usable for our members and our Iron Block folks. Because most of the time, you don't need much more than a conference room for eight to 10. We have two conference rooms that will hold that and then a smaller one that holds six comfortably.

“We also added high speed internet – 100 megabytes per second,” he added. “We have two unisex restrooms that we added, two private offices and two phone booths. One of the requests we had from a member was a private place to make calls, so we put in two sound-proof phone booths. What is old is new again. And we have three lockable desks in the front that folks can rent for $70 a month, and they can have a semi-private office with a lockable desk for their selves.”

“We believe that the opportunity to network can happen anywhere at any time, whether it be at a restaurant or on the back of a napkin when you talk about some ideas,” Sheridan said. “Or it could be having coffee in a nice place like Frankie's Coffee House or eating from Angry Donkey, which we are doing today. The bottom line is coming together and being able to network. And we believe having a space and place to do that is absolutely advantageous for our citizens and our community. And it is such a reasonable price for local folks for $35 a month (who) can come here on a 24-7 basis and really be able to rub elbows with business folks. We have leaders who come in and out of here all the time. It is really just an opportunity to network and connect.”

Sheridan said that part of the renovation was exposing the original metal ceiling and other details meant to capitalize on the beauty of the building's original design.

“You are going to find warmth, and I think you are going to find a welcoming environment and the opportunity to see other faces and other people,” Sheridan said. “So far it has been the 'wow' factor. People come in, and they go 'Wow.'

“This is a transitional building,” he added. “It has been a variety of different things – a bookstore, a salon, a men's clothing store. Now, it is the Chamber, Economic Development, Main Street, Co-Working Innovation Hub. It is a place where a lot of things are going to happen. I think most folks come in and feel like sitting down and having a cup of coffee. They feel like they are invited, and that is how we want them to feel – like this is the place where they could launch their next business.”

Friday was for celebrating the new first floor, but there is still one more phase remaining for the renovation.

“Phase 1 was the external. Phase 2 was the internal first floor, and Phase 3 will be the internal second floor, which will allow us to really go back and take what is already existing,” Sheridan said. “We are not changing a whole lot up there, but we have to make it habitable. We are really excited about that, but we are going to enjoy the celebration this moment, and we are enjoying folks getting used to this being here. It is a great place to come and get to know more about your community. It is also the resource center and the visitors center.”