A blank canvas. That’s what Jim Fisher sees when he looks at an empty suite in the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center at Allentown Economic Development Corporation in South Allentown. For the past 2.5 years the facilities manager has been the artist painting on the blank canvas whenever he helps new clients fit out their space.
Depending on what they manufacture, the space might need a lot of build out, or very little. But either way, Fisher likes that it lets him create something new. “I have always liked to work with my hands. I am good at teaching myself whatever I don’t already know. I love classic cars and in my spare time I work on them, so I’m also a mechanic.”
Fisher joined the AEDC staff in December 2013 after a career transition from civil engineering where he was a project manager for 22 years. After a layoff in 2010 he found himself getting a CDL license and driving trucks to Newark every day for three years. Then in November 2013 a call from AEDC Executive Director and former co-worker Scott Unger lead to a job opportunity with the organization as its new facilities manager.
As fun as creating new spaces may be, Fisher is also the staff member that everyone calls when something goes wrong in the building. “We have 24/7 maintenance here,” he said. “If there is a leak, or a broken pipe, or the power goes out, I’m the first call all of our clients make, and often the first one on the scene to solve the problem.”
Bridgeworks isn’t the only facility Fisher oversees. He manages over 2 million square feet of real estate for AEDC, including properties downtown, and buildings on the parcel of land next door to Bridgeworks, among others.
And because AEDC is a nonprofit organization, Fisher is sensitive to all expenses. “I watch the budget closely and try to save money where and when I can,” he explained. “Whenever I can I like to recycle what we already have, what’s been used before. I did that a few years ago when I re-purposed old light fixtures from the basement for the renovated Flex Launch and Coworking Space. They were from back in the day when this building was a Mack Trucks manufacturing facility. They still worked fine and just needed a bit of cleaning up.”
Last year’s Flex Launch and Coworking Space renovation is among Fisher’s favorite projects during his short tenure. He’s currently involved with the build-out of the largest unit in Bridgeworks where a current incubator client will be expanding into.