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The company provides office space, conference rooms and more for people working remotely.

COURTESY PHOTO: OFFICE EVOLUTION - An example of the kind of offices that can be rented by local entrepreneurs at Office Evolution in Hillsboro.While it wasn't intended as a pandemic-focused business, one of Hillsboro's newest franchise locations has proven invaluable to local business-owners during the COVID-19 crisis.

Office Evolution, a nationwide company that offers shared office spaces, has filled a niche in Hillsboro. The demand for this kind of flexible office space has boomed during the pandemic, company officials say.

"Not everyone can work from home," said co-owner John George. "They've got dogs or kids or maybe don't have the equipment or space they need to do their job, so that's what we offer."

Basically, every Office Evolution branch is a space with multiple offices, conference rooms and other kinds of collaborative spaces for people to rent out. The Hillsboro facility is located at 9620 N.E. Tanasbourne Drive. COURTESY PHOTO: OFFICE EVOLUTION - Conference rooms like this one are also an option at Office Evolution in Hillsboro.

Anyone can walk in off the street and use a space if it's available, but people who want to regularly use an office or conference room can pay a membership fee for reduced hourly rates and access to more options. That's a good alternative, the company suggests, for entrepreneurs who don't have their own brick-and-mortar locations yet, as well as for remote workers who aren't able — or prefer not — to work from home.

In addition to typical offices and conference rooms, there's also a recording studio where one could produce a radio show or podcast. Plus, there's a photography studio designed around taking product photos.

The offices have all the machines that are useful to have in a professional setting: printer, scanner, coffeemaker. There's even a mail service and front desk receptionist that all customers can utilize.

George says the idea for opening a branch in Hillsboro actually predates COVID-19.

As a traveling businessman working for a software company, he was often in need of an office for a day or a week in cities all over the country.

"In my other career, I would use these shared spaces as I had to do some traveling around the country," George said. "I thought it was a neat idea and filled a kind of niche for people who don't have an office."

A lifelong Hillsboro resident, George said he noticed that most of these kinds of offices in Oregon were in downtown Portland, so he became determined to open one closer to home.

In early 2019, he and his wife, Jennifer, went to Boulder, Colorado, where Office Evolution is headquartered, to inquire about opening a local branch. By early 2020, they were fully committed to opening an Office Evolution in Hillsboro. COURTESY PHOTO: OFFICE EVOLUTION - In addition to traditional office spaces, Office Evolution in Hillsboro also has a recording studio and other specialty areas for local businesses to rent out.

Then the pandemic hit. In Washington County, thousands of residents suddenly found themselves needing to work remotely — and, in many cases, to meet remotely.

The conference rooms at the Georges' Tanasbourne location have particularly lent themselves toward videoconferencing. He has equipped them with wide-angle lenses that can capture people sitting around a large conference table, plus a microphone that can pick up a person's voice no matter where they are seated.

All of these things have their time and place during a pandemic where so many people had to reshape the way they do business.

But even outside of forced remote working, John George says Office Evolution is meant to help startups and entrepreneurs who are just getting started in their industry.

"You don't have to think about trying to buy a space, buying equipment or managing a lease. You just sit down and focus on your business, what you're good at," George said. "It's hard to get started, and we're kind of trying to take that barrier of getting started away."COURTESY PHOTO: OFFICE EVOLUTION - Shared office spaces like this are a bit cheaper to rent, and some local business owners have started with these and then grown into larger spaces offered by the company.

That was the case for Mona Montano, who recently started her own financial services business called Silver Bridge Retirement, which provides people with retirement advice and ways to maximize their Social Security benefits.

Just starting out, Montano didn't have a way of getting a physical office so that she could start meeting with clients. Initially, she went to her clients' homes. But when COVID-19 came to Oregon, that was no longer viable.

"Committing to all that out the gate was just a bigger commitment than I was willing to sign onto right off the bat," Montano said of trying to find a leased office space in Hillsboro.

And because her business deals so directly with elderly clients, COVID-19 safety was a huge concern.

"Having a place that they could come into and feel comfortable and safe was really important," Montano said. "It's been an amazing experience. … People love the decor here, and the space is really well-furnished and professional."

Montano went from using one of the shared office spaces to now having her own office at the Office Evolution compound. This kind of growth is exactly what the Georges like to see.

"As their business grows, we grow with them," John George said. "And if they outgrow it, we like that … if it's time to start looking for something that's bigger than what we can offer. To watch people get their business off the ground and to see them be successful is really nice."

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