History: Various organized shared office space environments began to arise spontaneously in a number of places in the late 1960’s and early ’70’s. During this time, particularly in Southern California, the concept caught on with Attorneys and other law professionals who wanted to operate their own practice and yet still have access to the facilities, amenities, and prestigious image that would come with working for a larger firm. Thus “Executive Suites” were born. Gradually, more and more companies, in an ever growing list of industries, began to realize that they too could share in the cost savings by taking advantage of the economies of scale created when individual companies share the cost of common resources and office infrastructure. The industry expanded in the early 1980’s and then reached a plateau during the commercial real estate recession of the late ’80’s and early ’90’s. During this time, the industry was largely made up of local and regional firms. In the late ’90’s large companies and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT’s) invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the industry and, consequently, it went through a massive consolidation. Since 2000, regionally dominant companies have emerged which have the ability to provide all the up-to-date technology and facilities yet offer a more personalized service than the largest providers. Today, there are over 5000 facilities in North America and more than 7500 worldwide.

What is an Office Business Center? Office Business Centers are shared office space facilities, which are fully equipped, staffed and furnished. For a monthly fee, customers receive the use of an office (or offices) with necessary services such as VoIP phone systems, telephone answering, unified messaging, efax, and network management. They also share common areas, such as furnished & staffed reception area, business lounge and restrooms, with other clients in the facility. Additional business services, such as digital color copying, printing, scanning, accounting, and IT support, are generally available and are billed as used. These facilities are also known as executive suites or office business centers.

How They Are Used? Office Business Centers are used as primary offices by startups and other small businesses and organizations. Larger corporations have historically used the facilities for sales and field offices, but are increasingly using them to reduce their real estate holdings, lower their risk, and provide a “greener” work environment for their employees. Start-ups and home based businesses use business center facilities and conference rooms part-time or in a monthly bundle of services called a Virtual Office that gives a small business the look and feel of a large corporation.

How Large are they? Office Business Centers typically consist of one or two floors in an office building. They range in size from 10,000 to 75,000 square feet and they tend to be somewhat larger in North America than in Europe or elsewhere in the world.

How Much Does it Cost? Depending on the location of the center and the location and size of the office in the center, the monthly fee for a full time office generally ranges from $500 to $2,500. Virtual Office solutions range from $100 to $500 per month depending on the bundle of services and location (Boise vs. NYC!)

Who Uses Them? Office Business Centers are often used by entrepreneurs, professionals, small businesses and startups. Larger companies also use the facilities, often in multiple locations, to set up networks of sales and branch offices. They are also used by government agencies, retired individuals and as temporary quarters by organizations of all sorts for projects. Common industries include Attorneys, CPA/Tax Prep, Real Estate, Financial Planning & Insurance, and Software Developers.

About The Author


Keith Warner
Managing Partner, Silicon Valley & Marketing

Keith has over 15 years experience as President and co-owner of American Executive Center prior to joining PBC (rebranded as Pacific Workplaces), and is a highly regarded figure in the OBC industry. He holds a B.S. in Finance from Santa Clara University.