Baltimore-based office space rental agency Kinglet is teaming up with companies in Howard County to give Ellicott City store owners a temporary home to continue operating after disastrous flooding over the weekend gutted the historic Main Street.
On Wednesday, Kinglet spokesman Jeff Jacobson said the Allen & Shariff construction company and BTS Software Solutions, both of Columbia, have opened their doors to offer unused office space in their buildings, providing fully furnished rooms for any affected business driven from Ellicott City.
A typical "guest" company ranges in size from one to six people but the makeup could be 10 small companies with up to two people per company, or it could be three companies of six people, he said.
"But right now, there's a decent amount of space there and we think we'll bring some more hosts onboard," Jacobson said.
By Thursday, BTS Software Solutions CEO David Tohn said the company has already opened its doors to Main Street's CBP Constructors.
"We are honored to host Robert Hooten and his team ... for as long as they need the space," Tohn said. "Helping out our fellow Howard County businesses is an absolute no-brainer."
Hooten at CBP Constructors could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday.
Only nine miles away from Ellicott City, Allen & Shariff and BTS Software Solutions are offering businesses 30 to 45 days of free office space. Offers for short-term commitments would follow, if necessary, varying from month-to-month to 12-month agreements.
The current available space between the two host companies can accommodate up to 20 people, Jacobson said. At Allen & Shariff, located at 7061 Deepage Drive in Columbia, available space includes lounging and quiet areas, WiFi, a kitchen and free parking, all accessible from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Co-founder Zack Shariff said the goal is to work together.
"It's the right thing to do. We're all part of the community," Shariff said. "Anything we can do to help, we're absolutely committed to doing so. We have some space available and, hopefully, there's somebody that we can help."
Similar amenities are available at BTS Software Solutions, Jacobson said, as well as a gym and snack machines. Space at BTS Software Solutions is accessible 24 hours, 7 days a week at their building at 6200 Old Dobbin Lane #190 in Columbia.
Howard Hughes Corporation, in Columbia, has also joined in the effort, according to vice president of development Greg Fitchitt, by coordinating available office space with the county's Economic Development Authority.
"When we saw what happened, we have some available office space downtown, so we reached out to the county and let them know that we'd be more than happy to make space available for any displaced businesses," Fitchitt said Thursday. "It's a small thing just to be able to help out."
As the sole owner and operator of Viking Benefit & Financial Solutions, an insurance and financial planning company at 8054 Main St. in Ellicott City, Jon Levine said the office space being offered by local businesses and corporations is just what his company needs to keep running. Levine said he saw his ground-level business Tuesday night for the first time since the flood and found it covered in thick, wet mud, broken glass and overturned furniture.
The business had only been open about four months.
"My equipment was all over the place," Levine said. "The files that I could get access to were completely saturated with water and muck. We literally had our grand opening about a month and a half ago."
Levine said he signed a leasing agreement with Howard Hughes on Monday, with plans to move into a temporary home in the 30 Corporate Center building on Aug. 8. The office space will be used for client visits and meetings, he said.
He recognized that damaged retail and restaurant businesses aren't as fortunate.
"In a service-based business, I can continue to operate as long as I have a phone," he said. "Overall, I thought the damage [on Main Street] was much worse than what I had seen in pictures and videos, much worse. The videos are shocking, but the aftermath is worse."
Viking Benefit & Financial Solutions may return to Main Street in the future, he said, if flooding issues are addressed.
Ellicott City store owners and residents have been met with an outpouring of support from surrounding businesses and communities that have been raising funds for cleanup efforts after 6.5 inches of rain fell on Ellicott City in a span of two hours.
"What better way to give back to these small companies than to offer some space for them?" Jacobson said. "It's hard to find space that's ready to move into, and that's the nature of our business. No one is going to be selling jewelry out of these spaces, but it lets businesses get back on their feet, have a place to go every day and have a support network."
Those interested in the available office space through Kinglet can go online to www.gokinglet.com, or
send in a request to firstname.lastname@example.org. Fitchitt said business owners can also contact the Economic Development Authority at 410-313-6500 for information on leasing with Howard Hughes.
"Main Street is a treasure for the community and we know it's just going to come back stronger than ever, but it'll take time to do that," Fitchitt said. "If there's anything we can do to help support those local businesses in the meantime, we want to do it."