KGET 17

2 years in the making, Bitwise building just a few cosmetic touches (and one pandemic) from opening

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — You’ve heard of revenge of the nerds — computer geeks who become cool once school’s out. Well, there’s nothing nerdy about the newest digitally driven business on 18th Street. If a company can have a personality, Bitwise Industries is an extrovert — and one of the cool kids.

It’s written all over its face: Bitwise’s psychedelic exterior practically jumps out and introduces itself. But on Wednesday the company showed off its inside too.

Private offices, co-working spaces, classrooms, Zoom booths, kick-back areas, a tap room, a backyard patio.

Who says programmers and code writers live solitary  lives? Bitwise, based in Fresno and now in Bakersfield, looks about as collaborative and interactive an experience as one can find these days.

Bitwise Vice President Amy Thelen, the company’s senior officer in Bakersfield, says Bitwise’s goals for the Kern County workforce are nothing short of transformative. She said the days of local companies and institutions farming out web design and data integration jobs will soon be over.

“For every one tech job you add in a community, there are four additional supporting jobs needed for that,” she said. “So, we want the money pouring back into our community. I talk to people at the Chamber, people at the city … for a long time they were outsourcing technology projects for example website redesign or data integration or building an app for them.

“And so, Bitwise, after you take our classes, we have a technical business that oftentimes students go into tech consulting and they land their first job. And they build websites for businesses or public institutions or whatever it might be. The point is that that money can go right back into our economy.”

The Turk’s Building, as they’re calling 1701 18th St. based on its previous incarnation as a business machine store of that name, is 98 percent finished, with only cosmetic touches remaining.

So what’s the holdup? Thelen says some tenants are already in place but as for the public grand opening, they’re waiting for the pandemic to recede in a sufficiently satisfactory way. Until then, it’s limited occupancy and masks all around.

The other half of the Bitwise’s foray into Bakersfield, the Vincent’s Building, as it’s called for the time being, will be ready for occupancy perhaps by spring 2022, subject to the same restrictions. That half of the enterprise will be primarily classrooms.

And awkwardly situated in between the two is the Porterfield Hotel. Maybe that’s a story for another day.

 This stretch of downtown Bakersfield was one of the city’s liveliest long before Bitwise decided to move in and make it livelier.

The pandemic changed all of that. But post-pandemic — whenever that might be — that’s another story. The promise that Bitwise offered two years ago is starting to look more and more realistic.