November 14, 2006

Space provides elusive Charleston treat: parking

Sheila Watson  /  Charleston Regional Business Journal

In its mission statement, Applied Technology & Management calls itself "stewards of the environment." That description could apply not only to the company's approach to its services as a marine, coastal, environmental and water resources engineering, design and consulting firm, but also to its outlook on providing a comfortable working environment for its employees.

Tony Maglione, vice president of ATM's South Carolina/Georgia Coastal Region, said squeezing the 29 employees of its local office into a 4,500-square-foot office in Mount Pleasant was "beyond uncomfortable."

The Mount Pleasant office had limited parking, which forced the company to lease additional parking spaces at a shopping center down the street, Maglione said."It was especially bad on a rainy day in the winter, having to walk all that way to get to work," he said.

Such cramped and inconvenient working conditions did a disservice to the staff, Maglione said. "These talented people are hard to find," he explained. "You can't recruit someone so talented and bring them into a space like that. Even if you're paying really well, that doesn't make up for tight quarters that you have to come spend eight, 10 or 12 hours a day in. Plus, people of this caliber want not just a nice place to work, but a cool place to work."

Maglione found the coolest of cool places at the Fountain Walk building with the assistance of Ernest Andrade, executive director of the Charleston Digital Corridor. ATM took over the entire third floor of the building, which includes a section with showers and lockers. The second floor houses several businesses, including Charleston's IMAX theater, a yoga studio, a health club and a Just Fresh restaurant. The first floor provides the icing on the cake for ATM employees: a parking garage.

ATM's lease gives the company 13,500 square feet, which is more than it needs at the moment, so the extra office space will be leased, short term, to small startup companies. "We're not in the real estate business, but we have this extra space," Maglione said. "It makes sense to use it this way, helping other businesses get started or at least get into the Charleston market."

Maglione said ATM prefers businesses that are "compatible" with what ATM does, meaning a digital, knowledge-based company, which is the type of companies that often contact Andrade for assistance.