EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Haverhill

July 31, 2013

Small businesses booming in city

Downtown 'incubator' now home to 40 companies

HAVERHILL — Of 32 small and growing businesses that have set up shop in The Burgess Professional Center since 2011, The Black Tank is the newest and one of the hippest.

Black and purple lights usher visitors through a ground-floor entrance to the company’s 4,200-square-foot show room and research and development area. The entryway was custom built by the owners of the eight-story building at 43 Essex St., within easy walking distance of the downtown train station.

“They built what I needed, an unconventional space,” said Michael Johnson, owner of the engineering design company that specializes in making LED lighting for entertainment, theatrical and architectural markets.

“We love being close to the train station because it lets me recruit workers from Boston,” Johnson said, adding that he moved his company to Haverhill four months ago after outgrowing his previous space in Amesbury.

Before that, like many tenants in the building, Johnson ran his fledgling business out of his home. He lives in Groveland.

The Black Tank is one of more than 40 small companies in the building, most of which moved in after building owner William Nofker and property manager Lisa Fitzpatrick began marketing the site as a “small business incubator” two years ago.

Nofsker moved his manufacturing company from Cambridge to downtown Haverhill in 1982, buying the Burgess Building at 143 Essex St. and the neighboring Lang Building, which he sold in 2006.

Two years ago, Fitzpatrick said they decided to upgrade the Burgess Building and start marketing it to a mix of tenants, specializing in small and new businesses. That includes light manufacturing, professional offices, research and development, and distribution and storage.

“With the downturn in the economy and specifically the downturn in manufacturing, we decided to try something different,” Fitzpatrick said. “The idea is to be ‘turnkey’ for our tenants or we can customize to need.”

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