CREDC to sell Murata Business Center, asking $1.7M
A longtime technology incubator in the midstate will soon be no more — at least in its current location.
The Harrisburg Regional Chamber and Capital Region Economic Development Corp. has decided to sell the 32,000-square-foot Murata Business Center in Carlisle, which houses the Ben Franklin TechCelerator, as it looks for a smaller space in Harrisburg to replace it.
"Part of the problem with Murata is that it's too big," said Dave Black, the organization's president and CEO.
The other problem is that the facility, which was donated to CREDC in 1997 by Murata Electronics, is a little more than half vacant and the organization is losing "about six figures a year" on running it, Black said.
CREDC has struggled to keep Murata full after larger companies, such as Tex Visions and WebpageFX, moved to their own facilities. Tex Visions is in the Carlisle area, while WebpageFX moved to Harrisburg.
"The last time it was fully occupied was about five years ago," Black said.
In addition, Black said, tech has seen steady growth in Harrisburg in recent years. "There is a general attraction to our urban core areas. That's where younger companies want to be. We think there is a more natural synergy in Harrisburg right now."
Black said he believes the organization, along with Ben Franklin, could operate a smaller tech incubator — maybe 3,500 square feet — and enjoy better long-term success.
The listing price for Murata is $1.7 million, according to Dan Alderman of NAI CIR, the listing agent. Alderman said the flex building could be reused for many purposes, but it's likely that it will be maintained as an office or small warehouse and production space for one or multiple companies.
"We would hope we'd be able to move it in the next 12 to 18 months," Black said.
Current tenants would have the option of using space at a new facility, which would assume the tax-credit eligibility from the Carlisle facility under the state's Keystone Innovation Zone program.
Many CREDC clients have received KIZ tax credits over the years, including this year.
"I think some would come (to Harrisburg) and others would stay in Carlisle," Black said.
Over the last two years, several tech firms have decided to call Harrisburg home.
Local tech entrepreneurs see a growing pool of local talent they can draw from at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology — home to more than 3,000 students — and the potential for tech-related spin-offs.
Entrepreneurs also are finding networking and event support from HU and other partners, including the Technology Council of Central Pennsylvania, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania and the Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central Pennsylvania.
And, of course, many tech leaders see the same benefits as their current and prospective employees: a lower cost of living in Harrisburg compared with most major cities, a growing menu of market-rate rental housing options and more awareness of the ease of commuting to downtown Harrisburg.
Tech entrepreneurs and the organizations that support them have been saying for awhile that they would like to create a tech incubator or accelerator in Harrisburg.
Jonathan Bowser, CEO of the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corp., said the move "makes a lot of sense" for CREDC. Bowser serves on CREDC's board of directors.
"When you look at how Murata has evolved and what is happening in the city of Harrisburg, the evolution of tech companies, it makes a whole lot of sense for an incubator similar to Murata to be in downtown Harrisburg," he said.
Bowser said he's not too concerned about negative impacts on Carlisle. He's optimistic the Murata building will be reoccupied quickly following a sale.
"Carlisle and Cumberland County are still viable (for startup companies) and people want to be here," he said. "Companies are still going to be looking throughout the region for available sites and a workforce."