The effort to convert Newport’s former Sheffield School into a hub for entrepreneurs and high tech businesses took a major step forward this week as Innovate Newport announced a partnership with Workbar, a trailblazing coworking provider that operates nine locations and 12 partner sites throughout Boston, Rhode Island and the South Coast of Massachusetts. 

The agreement represents a significant step forward for Innovate Newport, which is currently transforming the former elementary school on Broadway into a 33,000-square foot coworking, private office, and meeting space designed to spark innovation and build community.

Under the terms of the agreement announced Friday, Workbar will help power Innovate Newport’s staff training, member services, and community building while providing Innovate Newport members access to its more than 20 sites in the Greater Boston area.

“I’m very excited to welcome Workbar to the Innovate Newport community,” said Tuni Schartner, Innovate Newport’s Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “Not only will it greatly expedite the build-out of our coworking space by utilizing WorkBar’s proven best practices, methodology and processes, it will also fuel our efforts to provide a direct link between Boston’s thriving ecosystem and the innovative talent found in the Greater Newport region.”  

According to Schartner, as one of the benefits of joining the Workbar Network, members of Innovate Newport will be able to use any one of the company’s other coworking spaces across the Greater Boston area. Likewise, existing Workbar members will receive reciprocal use of Innovate Newport’s facilities while on Aquidneck Island. 

“Workbar is thrilled to partner with Innovate Newport and support its efforts to cultivate innovation in a geographic region that attracts all types of entrepreneurs-from small business owners to world renown scientists,” said Sarah Travers, Workbar CEO. “From the beginning, this partnership has felt like a natural fit and I am really looking forward to witnessing all the successful ventures that come out of the space.”

“This is an important milestone for Innovate Newport,” said Newport City Manager Joe Nicholson. “The expertise in the coworking industry that Workbar brings will be invaluable as we look to grow Newport’s innovation economy. I’m confident this will be the first of several significant partnerships that will not only benefit the members of Innovate Newport, but the region at large.”

A joint initiative of the City of Newport; the Newport County Development Council, the non-profit arm of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce; and The Economic Development Foundation of Rhode Island aimed at spurring the development of the Greater Newport region’s innovation economy, Innovate Newport is currently on track for a February 2019 opening.