BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – Following the furloughing of all Bitwise employees, the offices in Bakersfield mirrored the situation in Fresno with doors locked and phones not being answered.
Staff members were also placed in employment limbo and told that banks might not honor their paychecks right away – and both city and county officials are also figuring out if their agreements with Bitwise will be honored following this latest development.
The city of Bakersfield has had several contracts with Bitwise over the years including two that are still active. One is a $640,000 workforce development contract with Bitwise, according to City Councilman Andrae Gonzales. About half that money has been spent according to the agreement – and Gonzales said city officials expect Bitwise to live up to the remainder of the contract.
Kern County and the city of Bakersfield also have an ongoing CARES Act agreement with Bitwise of not more than $750,000 for the implementation of an Apprenticeships & Diverse Talent Program, according to the city.
City Councilman Bob Smith, who is personally invested in downtown Bakersfield, said he admired the Bitwise mission but has been concerned with the company’s rapid growth.
“Very fast, very big,” he said. “They were in Fresno for a couple years and came here and I think they have great programs and a great vision. But they seem to be expanding very rapidly. … I’m hoping for a reset where they get back to what the original vision was.”
Bitwise Bakersfield occupies two prominent historic buildings in the city center, across the street from the Padre Hotel. The lights were on and the wifi functioned as usual Tuesday morning. The only difference – no Bitwise receptionist. No Bitwise employees at all. The co-workspace tenants weren’t completely sure what was going on.
Chelsea Baker, an independent insurance broker, enjoys the environment.
“I didn’t know they were having trouble, honestly,” she said. “But I would like for it to stay open. I really like co-working.”
The situation didn’t seem to be affecting the tenants much. That was certainly the case with Robert McDonald of Northstar Technology Group.
“There’s nothing really that we need to stress about because we’re tenants of the building,” he said, “but it is a little inconvenient.
Efforts to reach co-CEO Jake Soberal have been unsuccessful. Executive Vice President Amy Thelen, who runs the Bakersfield operation, said she was not able to speak to the situation but expressed hope things would come together.