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Commercial Real Estate

Why Comerica Bank Transformed a Call Center Into a Small Business Hub in Southern Dallas

In the year since Comerica invested $5 million into renovating an old, unused space into Comerica BusinessHQ, the facility has already served thousands.
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Courtesy of Comerica Bank

Comerica Bank is beginning to see the fruits of leveraging what used to be a shell space into a hub primed for cultivating small business origin stories. The space off East R.L. Thornton Freeway used to be a customer contact center with low ceilings and a sea of cubicles. But when those jobs were funneled to Detroit, Brandon Jones, senior vice president and director of external affairs with Comerica, was presented with an opportunity in the form of an empty shell of space. 

Quickly, Comerica kicked off an 18-month process that involved getting input from area business service organizations and focus group meetings centered on how the space could become a resource for small businesses in Dallas’ southern sector. It turns out there was a need for business meeting space, and Comerica had a chance to tap into it. “In the southern sector, I think there’s one Starbucks, and that’s at RedBird, right?” Jones said. “So if you needed to have a coffee meeting, you needed to sit down and have a meeting with somebody, there was no way to have it.”  

Through various discussions, a vision emerged for a hub that could support “high-need, high-opportunity” small businesses in southern Dallas. “It needed to be multifunctional,” Jones said. “It needed to be—number one—a communal space. So it needed to be a place where organizations and business service organizations could come and host programs, and it’d be like a central hub for small business support.” Incubation opportunities came through a partnership with Veteran Women’s Enterprise Center, and any business operating in a “high-need, high-opportunity area” with revenues under $1 million are able to use the shared open workspaces for free.

What manifested was an 8,000-square-foot collaborative space complete with incubation space, private office space, coworking and meeting areas, and even a content creation room. The ceilings were heightened and furnished with statement light fixtures. A variety of seating options were added including benches, tables and even a sectional that can be moved for programmed events. In a headnod to the southern Dallas community, doors to incubation rooms and office space feature the names of area neighborhoods like Dolphin Heights and Chalk Hill. The site also offers incubation fellowships and technical assistance programming. The Oak Cliff room, named for the area’s largest neighborhood, is reserved most days out of the week for some sort of programming, Jones said. 

Comerica BusinessHQ opened its doors in May 2023. In the year since, the facility has served 2,400 people with its programming, enrolled 165 members including small business owners and nonprofit members, overseen 4,400 hours of coworking and provided an estimated $16,100 of in-kind rent for an incubation nonprofit partner. The building’s transformation represents a $5 million investment.

The hub has attracted members from a variety of industries like accountants, attorneys and catering services, Jones said. It has also brought in nonprofits focused on helping businesses at different stages of inception. That includes Bootstrap Entrepreneurs, a nonprofit that has helped over 75 startups with insights, strategies and resources for growth and has awarded seven LLC grants in multiple industries since May 2023. Bootstrap Entrepreneurs CEO Booker T. Spencer said operating his organization from Comerica BusinessHQ allows the Bootstrap Entrepreneurs to funnel resources towards a community impact rather than towards overhead. “What would take us five years to penetrate the market, the curve is brought down to a year and a half,” Spencer said. “It’s about getting resources based upon our mission, and getting resources to those that we’re trying to serve and help. We can get resources to them quicker.”  

For Jones, success looks like seeing a member’s scale hitting the $1 million mark because of what the hub provided. “We have to be in it for the long term,” Jones said. “It’s nothing that we’ll realize tomorrow, I think, but once we start looking back in a few years, we’ll see a lot of businesses who have flourished and who were able to get past that hump of that three to five years. Because most businesses fail within that very critical three to five years because they just don’t have the resources. They don’t know what to do. They may have the greatest idea in the world, but if you have nobody backing you and giving you all that information that you need from an operational perspective or from a financial perspective, they’ll fail, right? And so as many businesses as we can get over that hump, I would love to see that number increase.”

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Audrey Henvey

Audrey Henvey

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