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OBPA tries to fill commerce park buildings by thinking small

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OGDENSBURG — One of the huge buildings at the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority’s Commerce Park is being refitted to house something small.

Though Building 1 is a 30,000 square foot manufacturing or warehousing facility, the authority is transforming it into a small business incubator.

“We haven’t had a lot of people knocking on our door looking for 5,000 to 6,000 square feet,” said Wade A. Davis, the authority’s executive director. “We want to rent out the building in a way that makes sense.”

The space sets itself apart from like facilities by giving companies room to grow from small offices of just a couple hundred square feet into larger enterprises housing dozens — or scores — of workers.

“The thought is that these businesses, as they move in and evolve, will need additional space,” said Mr. Davis. “We’re trying to learn from past situations.”

Mr. Davis’s strategy has evolved from one that tries to attract a large company and major employer to another which tries to cultivate and nourish growing businesses.

“These are businesses that will hopefully site here and expand,” said Mr. Davis. “There’s value in that for us.”

When presenting the idea to the authority’s board of directors, however, Mr. Davis faced some criticism.

“Your business plan is to divide this building up piece-by-piece,” said Samuel J. LaMacchia. “So you aren’t thinking someone who is going to need a big box is coming in any time soon.”

Others on the board of directors complained that the authority would be responsible for power, heat and maintenance of the unoccupied and common areas of the building.

In the past, many of the Commerce Park’s tenants have started in smaller offices and later moved to larger facilities, Mr. Davis said. A building dedicated to small business could prevent smaller offices from carving up other empty space in the commerce park.

“Five to ten years ago we rented things out willy-nilly and got stuck with organization problems,” said Mr. Davis. “This way, we have it conceptually planned out.”

The building becomes the third small business incubator in St. Lawrence County, after Clarkson University’s Shipley Center For Innovation and SUNY Canton’s Small Business Development Center. The authority

Currently, the building houses AB Thermal Technology, Ontario Gasket, Sehco, and an office for Corning Inc. in spaces ranging from 108 to 1,588 square feet.

Mr. Davis told the board that two more clients were interested in the building’s office space.

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