Small businesses no longer are left out of the tremendous growth in warehousing in the Greater Lehigh Valley.
Among the massive warehouses and distribution centers in western Lehigh County, an Allentown builder is putting up warehouses just for small businesses.
Busch Building Group Inc. is building Compass Business Center, a group of 27 small rental units (1,000 to 2,000 square feet) that will allow small businesses to locate among the behemoths in the Iron Run Industrial Park in Upper Macungie Township.
At 6801 W. Tilghman St., between Snowdrift Road and Ruppsville Road, Compass Business Center was designed with small business in mind, according to George Busch, president of Busch Building Group and managing partner of Compass Business Center.
“Small businesses have limited choices of where to locate their operation, particularly if they require a small space in a highly visible location and need to be close to major highways,” Busch said. “We’re gearing this for someone that’s expanding or even downsizing.”
Susan Post of Prudential Patt, White Real Estate, soon to be Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach Realtors, is the leasing agent for the project. Berkshire Hathaway acquired Prudential, Patt White in August.
The first group of buildings should be completed by the end of this year. Rents will start at about $1,000 per month, according to Post.
Primarily, there will be two units per building. Busch declined to disclose the cost of the project. Lehigh County property records show that Compass Business Center LLC bought the 4.25-acre property in March 2012 for $377,400.
The brick exterior buildings are being built with energy efficient features. Each will contain an office, private bathroom, a 14-foot high warehouse area and large overhead door.
Also included are stylish moldings and interior trim, commercial grade carpeting and hardware and ceramic tile powder rooms, Busch said.
“It’s a new concept of small office/warehouse spaces,” Busch said. “Everything on the market is fairly large.”
The units are suitable for businesses that are expanding, downsizing, opening a satellite office and for those in need of a professional image, Post said.
The planning and land development process for the project took three years.
Sam Ashmar, vice chairman of the board of supervisors for Upper Macungie, said the company needed to secure several levels of approvals, including permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Lehigh County Conservation District and permits for the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. This permit program from the National Environmental Protection Agency, is authorized by the Clean Water Act to control water pollution.
The township also needed to make sure the builder provided enough parking and access to Tilghman Street, Ashmar said.
While Upper Macungie has a large base of industrial properties and big corporations, small business is a critical component to job growth, Ashmar said.
“The small businesses are the backbone of the country,” he said. “They generate a lot of job opportunities. Most new jobs are created by small businesses.”
This project in particular could serve as the foundation for additional employment growth, Ashmar said.
Is this a sign of things to come? Is there a strong need for smaller warehouse and distribution buildings in the Lehigh Valley?
“Personally, I don’t think this is a trend,” said Kashif Raza, president and co-founder of 3LINX, a global order fulfillment service provider based in Allentown.
While Raza said the idea was a smart one, he said small businesses should be free to grow their businesses without physical constraints. Often, a business owner in a small space could find that his or her core business focus is shifting.
“It’s great as a starting point, but is managing a warehouse the best use of my time?” Raza said. “What’s phase two?”
The more a company invests in its building and infrastructure, the more it takes away from growing core business units, which should be a focus for the small business owner, Raza said.