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This article was published 28/2/2010 (2671 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It didn't take much to persuade one suburban IT firm to go downtown.
Not only did Clear Concepts co-founders Shane Hartje and Scott McKenzie like all the trappings of being downtown -- the nine-year-old firm spent its first two years in leased space above the Chocolate Shop restaurant on Portage Avenue -- but being there also made sense from a business perspective.
They said they moved Clear Concepts out of the downtown seven years ago because the firm had outgrown its space and they couldn't find another suitable location in the area. So they moved to Sherbrook Street, and then to Border Street in St. James. But the intention was always to move back downtown because a number of their major customers were located there, and the central location makes it easier to service clients in other areas of the city.
The groundwork for the company's recent return to its roots -- it moved 10 days ago to a three-storey office building at 325 Garry St. -- was laid about two years ago when Winnipeg businessman Christian Korell bought Clear Concepts. About a year earlier, he had purchased the vacant building at 325 Garry. And because it didn't have an elevator, and therefore limited wheelchair access, he was having trouble finding tenants.
He realized the solution to his tenant problem was right in front of his nose. And the move would be as good for Clear Concepts as it would be for him.
"In the downtown there is a ton of (computer network) users," Korell said. "There are just more business, more people, more action, more everything. And they can just walk out their door and walk two blocks to service a client (at Portage and Main). They don't need to get in a car and drive there, or worry about finding parking."
So last summer he pitched the idea to Hartje and McKenzie, who still oversee the company's day-to-day operations, and they were all for it.
Hartje said they scouted out a number of other potential downtown sites while waiting for the lease on Border Street to expire, "but it (325 Garry St.) had a lot of the things we were looking for, so it wasn't a tough decision for us...."
He said the increased exposure from being two blocks from Portage and Main and across the street from the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce office was also a factor in the decision.
"We want to get more involved with other businesses down here."
Whatever the reasons for moving, the executive director of the Exchange District Business Improvement Zone said he's glad they did. Mal Anderson said there are other computer-related businesses in the Exchange, including a number of web-design and graphic-design firms. However, only one or two offer the broad range of services that Clear Concepts offers.
"I look at all the services they provide... and I think they could be really good for a lot of our businesses that require computer support."
While a lot of network maintenance work can be done remotely, Anderson said there are still occasions when technicians need to be on site. "So it's nice to have them so available."
Korell also owns Barnes & Duncan Land Surveying and Geomatics, as well as the office building its located in at 298 Fort St. He said he bought 325 Garry because its a similar-sized building, and it's only a couple of blocks from the hub of business -- Portage and Main.
He also liked the fact it was a newer building in an area with a lot of older buildings.
"It shouldn't have a lot of (maintenance) issues because its newer, and it's also got a bit of character," he said, citing the brick exterior, copper awnings, and arched windows on the third floor.
He said they plan to set up a computer-training centre on the third floor, and they're putting a gym for their employees in the basement.
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Murray McNeill know at the email
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About 325 Garry St.:
"ö Built in the late 1980s
"ö Brick and concrete construction
"ö Three storeys with developed basement
"ö 6,500 square feet of usable space
"ö Two stairwells (front and back), but no elevator
"ö Owned by Winnipeg businessman Christian Korell, who also owns the tenant that just moved in -- Clear Concepts -- as well as Barnes & Duncan Land Surveying and Geomatics and the office building it's located in (298 Fort St.)
About Clear Concepts:
"ö An information-technology firm specializing in the design, development and maintenance of computer networks
"ö Also offers network security audits, disaster recovery and prevention, data recovery and website design and development services
"ö Founded in 2001 by Winnipeggers Shane Hartje and Scott McKenzie, and purchased in 2008 by Korell
"ö 12 employees and about 300 customers, most in Winnipeg. Also has customers in rural Manitoba, and as far away as British Columbia and New York
"ö Spent its first two years in the downtown, then moved to Sherbrook Street for two years and to Border Street for five years. Moved back downtown on Feb. 19