It's been open 18 months, and already TACKarchitects has been tapped to work on headquarters expansions for a half-dozen Omaha companies.
So busy has the small downtown firm been that it hasn't had time to finish its own workspace or set up a website.
The TACKarchitects projects are part of a recent string of headquarters expansions or relocations that demonstrate how numerous Omaha-area businesses are moving ahead with capital investments even as the fear of a plunge off the so-called fiscal cliff is holding back spending by many others across the country.
Headquarters under construction range from new corporate facilities such as SAC Federal Credit Union's $20 million campus to Amber Pharmacy's lakeside addition to the relocation-renovation of CBSHome.
A sampling of others adding corporate space: ACCESSbank, Gavilon, Tenaska, Gordmans, Hayneedle, Phenomblue and Nebraska Furniture Mart.
“We felt this wave coming,” said Jeff Dolezal of TACKarchitects, whose workload includes two proposed expansions that haven't been made public. “It's an exciting time to be in our profession; it's an exciting time to be in Omaha.”
Driving the commercial construction, say economists and business leaders, are historically low interest rates, more affordable building costs — and a local economy that has been relatively insulated from the national recession that stunted spending.
Eric Thompson, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln economist who directs the Bureau of Business Research, said a diverse employer base has spared Nebraska from taking too hard a hit from any single struggling industry. He said the Omaha area has been buoyed lately by well-performing sectors such as agriculture and insurance.
Throw in the low unemployment rate and a relatively robust housing market — real estate information source Trulia just identified the Omaha-Council Bluffs metro area as one of the Top 10 healthiest markets — and consumers are more likely to shop and feed the economy, he said.
“Since we're in better shape, our local firms are able to feel confident in expanding,” Thompson said.
Patrick Corrigan, president and CEO of ACCESSbank, said the Omaha bank has enjoyed a surge in customers and at least a 25 percent annual growth in assets the past few years. Executives were eager, he said, to make the move Dec. 17 to a larger and more visible corporate headquarters site near 87th Street and West Dodge Road.
He suspects other companies making similar moves felt as if they'd sat long enough on the sidelines, waiting for the presidential election or some other outcome. “People realize they need to make the investments to keep their business growing,” he said.
In the case of SAC Federal, President and CEO Gail DeBoer said the credit union saw double-digit asset growth in each of the last four years. Some employees were crammed in basements. The company knew for a while that it needed to expand, she said, and finally pulled the trigger to ensure that it got in on attractive construction prices.
“Bids are less because of the competitive climate right now,” she said.
Some headquarter expansions as well as new businesses are helped financially by state tax credit incentives. Since 2006, about 150 Omaha metro-area projects have received such assistance, according to the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber President David Brown said his staff and other economic development officials return to the Legislature each year to try to improve incentive packages that enhance development.
Another factor likely bolstering business is population, said David Drozd with the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Center for Public Affairs Research. Nebraska ranked in the Top 10 states for smallest birth decline between 2007 and 2011. “The better your population growth, the better demand for goods and services,” said Drozd.
The state's “brain drain” also was plugged, Drozd said, noting that movement of people into the state was the best in 2010 since 1996. “Why move to typical destinations such as Chicago that have higher unemployment rates? The incentive isn't there right now, which has led to our overall stronger economy.”
Omaha native Dolezal agrees, saying that he and his two partners, also raised in Omaha, like recent progress in the local cultural and professional scenes and can't see relocating, despite other job offers.
The trio, which includes Chris Houston and Rebecca Harding, broke away from other jobs to form TACKarchitects in mid-2011. Business has been fueled by connections. For example, the architects liked ACCESSbank's startup spirit and became a customer. Later, the bank hired the group to design its new headquarters.
“It snowballs,” Dolezal said.
Contact the writer: 402-444-1224, firstname.lastname@example.org
Room to grow
This is the first in a weeklong series of stories about companies in the metro area that aren't deterred by the fiscal cliff and are building, expanding or renovating headquarters here.
Today: Amber Pharmacy
Coming Monday: ACCESSbank