Lafayette’s business incubator, the Opportunity Machine, unveiled its new Downtown Lafayette facility Friday — potentially bringing dozens of businesses to the heart of Acadiana.
The Opportunity Machine, which was started by the Lafayette Economic Development Authority in 2009, provides workspaces and resources for its member businesses, which are typically high-growth technology startups. The Opportunity Machine was previously housed at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
LEDA acquired the downtown Lafayette building, which had previously been the Karma nightclub and the Knight’s/Lee’s Furniture Store. After its renovation, the property mixes the sleek aesthetic of the technology startup world with the building’s historic roots, showcased by the wooden ceilings and supports.
With the opening of the space, the Opportunity Machine is bringing the majority of its 80-member businesses to downtown Lafayette. The new facility is 22,000 square feet and is located at 314 Jefferson St.
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“This is how we’re going to build for those who have ideas, who have passion, who have a vision,” said Destin Ortego, the director of the Opportunity Machine.
The new building has a variety of amenities for members. There’s a communal space for business members to discuss ideas, along with a large atrium that could be used for events or as another gathering area. There are individual workspaces ranging from out-in-the-open desks with whiteboards to private offices that can accommodate around six workers.
There are also a variety of conference rooms that are available for members, including one that overlooks the atrium in what used to be Karma’s DJ booth and another — called “The Jefferson” — with large windows looking out onto Jefferson Street.
“I walked through this place probably a dozen times, and it’s pretty amazing,” said Tom Cox, the chair of the Opportunity Machine board. “This is the kind of place…where the cool kids will hang out.”
The Opportunity Machine has several membership levels. The shared desk space is the cheapest option, around $100 per month. There are other levels, such as private offices, that require board approval.
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The memberships are by application. Ortego said the board would be meeting soon to potentially approve some new members.
Several local leaders, including LEDA President and CEO Mandi Mitchell, Lafayette Mayor-President Josh Guillory, and state legislators Sen. Gerald Boudreaux and Rep. Vincent Pierre, were at the opening ceremony and praised LEDA and the Opportunity Machine for their work.
The move has been long anticipated by Downtown Lafayette’s leadership, who have said that the influx of new startup businesses could help spur on the continued revitalization of the area.