While many businesses are holding back from making big moves as the economy recovers, a Fresno engineering company has taken a leap from one end of town to the other.
Precision Engineering quietly moved last year from its northwest Fresno office, where it was founded in 2002, to O Street in downtown Fresno. The company has been there for four months.
Officials at Precision, which specializes in 3-D, high-definition laser scanning, said the company responded to Mayor Ashley Swearengin's call for businesses to revitalize downtown.
It was also a good opportunity for the company to position itself as a key player in projects like high speed rail, said president and founder Ed Dunkel Jr.
The move was met with trepidation from some of the company's 30 employees, Dunkel said, but most people enjoy the location now.
"We walk across the street to city hall and to the county offices," Dunkel said. "It saves on air quality and other things like that."
The company revived an old building that had become an eyesore. The 15,000-square-foot building, next to Bank of America, was once a beauty salon and a tile company, Dunkel said.
Precision painted the building and exposed the duct work in the ceiling. The company plans to do some landscaping outside.
"We tried to keep the historical ambience," said Bill Skinner, chief executive officer. "It looks like an old-time engineering or architect office in Chicago but with energy-saving features."
Office market stabilizing
Speaking of office space, how is the office market doing?
The Fresno-Clovis office market is stabilizing, according to a report from Colliers International in Fresno. But vacancies at the end of 2012 remain nearly identical to the previous year.
The vacancy rate was 13.01% at the end of the year compared with 13.03% at the end of 2011. That means about 2.7 million square feet of office space is empty out of a total of 25 million square feet in the market, including government-owned buildings.
At the end of 2006, the vacancy rate hit a low of 7.21%.
The report says a lack of jobs and an unpredictable political system are hindering business growth.
Office vacancy increased the most -- between 2% and 3% -- in the airport and southeast Fresno area and in central Fresno. The airport and southeast Fresno have a vacancy rate of 14.5% while central Fresno has a 10% vacancy rate. Northeast Fresno and Clovis have the lowest vacancy rate at 7.93%.
Rising home prices are helping Fresno homeowners regain equity in their homes, according to a fourth-quarter negative equity report released Tuesday.
In Fresno, 58,072 borrowers, representing 38.6% of all mortgage loans, owed more than the value of their home, according to CoreLogic, a real estate tracking company in Santa Ana.
At the end of the third-quarter, 65,004 properties, or 43.1% of all mortgages, had negative equity.
Visalia and Porterville homeowners are also recovering. About 25,436 borrowers, or 37.1% of all mortgage loans, were underwater at the end of 2012 compared to 28,180 loans or 41% at the end of the third quarter.