The company has 24 employees, saw its revenue increase 45 percent last year and expects another 65 percent jump this year - one reason Herman is planning a 15-job expansion and branch offices in other cities. But the move downtown from the company's 2,000-square-foot office at 423 Airport Office Park Drive North will provide more than room for expansion, Herman said. The new headquarters - which one day will be just blocks from the $125 million-$160 million Harrison Square project - should also help Aptera attract and keep customers and so-called “creative class” employees often drawn to larger cities. Aptera's average employee is about 29 years old.
“This (project) will bring a whole different dynamic downtown. When clients walk in, they need to say, ‘This is a company I want to work with.' And when would-be employees walk in, I want them to say, ‘Wow!'” Herman said. “I've never been to a Wizards (baseball) game, but if it weren't for Harrison Square, we wouldn't be as interested in downtown. In five years, it should be the place to be.” Harrison Square will include a minor-league baseball stadium, condominiums, shops, a hotel and other features.
Developer Bill Bean, who is selling the building to Aptera, said the high-tech firm will be a perfect fit.
“A number of people (including law offices) looked at the building, but we really weren't interested in subdividing it. Aptera was a little more interesting to us because the company fits in more with the type of jobs the city is trying to attract downtown,” said Bean, who recently bought the Metro Building at 202 W. Berry St. downtown and owns more than 2 million square feet of commercial and industrial space in Fort Wayne. “This is a win for them and a win for downtown.”
According to its Web site, Aptera “specializes in helping companies use technology to become more efficient and competitive.” The company creates custom computer software, designs Web pages and creates other computer-related programs and products.
Government incentives could include an $8,000 grant and up to $15,000 for exterior improvements. Herman said he may also seek tax abatements and other incentives to help lower the cost of the project. Initially the company plans to use 8,000 square feet and make the remaining 4,000 square feet available for lease - until the company needs it.
That may not be long because, as Bean sees it, downtown real estate is fast becoming a hot commodity. “There's absolutely no doubt about it,” said Bean, who bought the First Source Center at 200 E. Main St. four years ago.