ASHLAND — Eric Hansen considers True South Solar's half-mile current move to the Railroad District to be a major milestone.
The solar installation company's general manager and co-founder remembers what it was like the last time his business occupied new quarters five years ago. The combination office and warehouse on Hersey Street was nothing like the new digs — the paint was peeling, ceilings were sagging and pipes burst after a cold snap.
"It felt crowded and gnarly, but it had bones," Hansen recalled.
But the rented fixer-upper was just what a thriving, young company needed at the time.
"We did the math, and threw a bunch of money at the remodel," Hansen said. "We knew if we were there five years, we'd break even."
That five years has passed and staff growth forced the company's hand, prompting the move to larger space at 125 Clear Creek Drive in the Railroad District.
That move might not have been possible if True South Solar had held out for classier confines early on.
"We did a fair amount of market research," Hansen said, "after growing for several years and reinvesting our profits back into the company, and reinvesting some more."
But with light industrial space going for between $1.20 and $2 per square foot, Hansen considered it serendipitous when he happened on the worn-down Hersey property.
"Five years later, we're walking away from an improved property, leaving it better than we found it," he said.
Solar energy adoption has exploded during the past decade, and the company's size has reflected demand. Five years ago, the company had a half-dozen employees; today the payroll is 20. Rather than look for another restoration project, Hansen found the relatively plug-and-play location on Clear Creek Drive, paying Larry and Nancy Morgan $815,000 in March.
A staff shoehorned into 2,700 square feet at the Hersey Street location suddenly has elbow room to the tune of 4,511 square feet.
"There was only so much room for desks at the old location," Hansen said. "We recently hired people who were wandering around with laptops, looking for a place to call their office. People were officing in the back warehouse. We built a small phone booth in another unit, and someone was working in the kitchen; it was silly. We knew the old facility was limiting our growth and efficiency. We saved our nickles and reinvested so that we were able to make this big move."
Centrally located for customers in a town that has long prided itself on use of solar technology, True South will even have a substantial showroom.
"It's a milestone for us to remain in the community and have downtown access for customers and employees who like to ride their bike and walk to work," Hansen said. "I was concerned we might have to move out of the downtown area just to fulfill our goals."