Clovis News

Clovis firm works on business incubators

After its expansion plans were stalled by the economy, Clovis-based CargoBay is moving ahead with two of its business-incubator-style office buildings.

A train station depot remodeled into offices in downtown Fresno is scheduled to open in about a month, and work will start soon on a building in Elk Grove.

CargoBay Inc. provides working space for small- and medium-sized business, especially startup companies. The company opened its first location near Alluvial and Temperance avenues in Clovis in 2006. It includes office space and storage and can handle light industrial companies.

CargoBay later opened buildings nearby with similar concepts. OfficeBay has small offices and conference rooms with wireless Internet and phone service, with a month-to-month lease. VentureBay is geared toward bigger businesses with six to 12 employees.

The company opened a CargoBay in St. Louis. It planned to expand throughout the western U.S., including an "OfficeBay on steroids" near Copper and Chestnut avenues in Fresno, said founder Case Lawrence.

The economic downturn halted all that, he said. "The last two years have been brutal," he said.

The northwest Fresno project has all its permits, but developers can't find a construction loan to build it, Lawrence said.

"We had projects in Phoenix, Denver, Idaho and Bakersfield that were all under way, and we had to put all of them on hold," he said.

But the downtown Fresno project and one in Elk Grove are moving forward.

Remodeling the interior of the former Southern Pacific railroad depot into an OfficeBay was easier, Lawrence said. The building is near the tracks on Tulare Street between G and H streets. The 10,000-square-foot building will house 37 offices and three conference rooms.

And in Elk Grove, the city is lending $667,000 to remodel a building into an OfficeBay.

"This project will not only seed the community with new business, but also give opportunities to the more than 2,600 home-based businesses in Elk Grove to take their business to the next level," said Elk Grove Mayor Sophia Scherman in a statement.

Finding a private-sector incubator to develop and keep businesses in Elk Grove has long been a goal of the city's Economic Development Corporation, said Executive Director Steve Czarnecki, who first contacted OfficeBay executives more than a year ago.