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Freedom Real Estate, Torch Technologies, Invariant Break Ground on Mixed-Use Facility

Freedom Real Estate & Capital, Torch Technologies and Invariant Corp. have announced they will be breaking ground on a mixed-use facility in South Huntsville, with a targeted completion date in summer 2021.

The groundbreaking ceremony, cancelled due to COVID-19, was set to take place at the end of April. This new development follows the 2019 completion of Torch’s Technology Integration and Prototyping Center.

Freedom, a real estate investment company, will develop the facility at 4040 Chris Drive, and has leased the first two spaces to Torch and Invariant, with opportunity for an additional tenant. The multi-tenant building will house up to 92,000 square feet and will feature a mix of office, research and development labs, light manufacturing, assembly and integration space along with a high bay.

Torch, a 100 percent employee-owned services and solutions defense contractor founded in 2002 in Huntsville, has shown its continued commitment to the redevelopment of and investment in South Huntsville through the rapid growth of its Huntsville headquarters. Torch’s campus consisted of two buildings in 2015 and, just five years later, the company is breaking ground on its sixth building.

Rendering shows the Freedom-Torch-Invariant facility from the south parking lot.

“We are proud to work alongside the city and state in our continued efforts to improve the standard of living in our South Huntsville community,” said John Watson, president and CEO of Torch.

Invariant, a Huntsville-based engineering services and software development company founded in 2001, is expanding into the facility to support its continued growth.

“We are excited to grow and expand into this new facility that will provide our employees the resources needed to ensure quality services and products are delivered to our customers, and we are proud to be a part of Huntsville’s continuing success,” said David Anderson, president of Invariant.

The project is part of a continued effort to redevelop South Huntsville.

The city has been working to reclaim, modernize and upgrade the area along South Memorial Parkway to encourage investment and redevelopment in the area, and is seeing progress with the announcements of new projects, including Hays Farm.

“Torch has been a catalyst for South Huntsville’s revitalization since the very beginning,” said Bekah Schmidt, CEO of South Huntsville Business Main Association. “The new facility at 4040 Chris Drive is a mixed-use facility with a state-of-the-art laboratory and premier manufacturing space.

“We look forward to seeing this project completed next year and appreciate Torch’s continued investment in South Huntsville.”

Bill Roark, co-founder of Torch Technologies and CEO of Freedom Real Estate & Capital, said, “We are proud to be able to contribute to economic development and growth in South Huntsville. This community is our home, and we look forward to watching it grow and thrive for years to come.”

Huntsville Business Journal Sitdown with Success: Bill Roark

Sitdown with Success is a feature of the Huntsville Business Journal spotlighting local entrepreneurs and their path to success and advice for future entrepreneurs.

It’s easy to see why employees on Torch’s campus, that is home to Torch Technologies and Freedom Real Estate and Capital, LLC, are so happy.

We sat down and spoke with Bill Roark, Torch’s co-founder and Freedom Real Estate’s CEO, and it was clear to see that employees are a top priority of the 100 percent employee-owned companies.

Bill Roark on his key to success: Good people. I’ve been able to surround myself with really good people. (Photo/Steve Babin)

And it is because of the employees and management’s vision and direction that Torch Technologies was one of the Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies in America, according to Entrepreneur Magazine, and on multiple selections on the Inc. 5000 list recognizing the Fastest Growing Private Companies in the U.S.

How did you get started in the business?

Torch Technologies was founded in 2002 and I stepped down as CEO from Torch at the end of 2018. Torch and Freedom are sister companies and under the umbrella of Starfish Holdings for which I am chairman of the board. Freedom Real Estate was started, mostly in the beginning to be an alternative investment for the profits Torch Technologies was making. It was a way to diversify a little bit and it’s been very successful.

What obstacles did you face/how did you overcome them?

Early challenges were cash flow.  The company grew very quickly and started to hire people.  We had to have cash to pay them.  We initially used my home equity line of credit, but as the company continued to grow, we took on some angel investors.  We were fortunate to get good investors who were supportive of the company and were not invasive into the operations.

How are you able to keep your business relevant?

We are constantly updating and changing things to respond to a changing market.  Every year assess exactly where the company is.  We also look at where we want to be two years from now.  We then develop a detailed plan to make the changes to make that happen.

To what do you attribute your success?

Good people. I’ve been able to surround myself with really good people.

Early on, I reached out to a lot of folks I had worked with in the past that I knew who were good and those people knew others who were good. We generally get people who fit our culture that want to be here; that want to be doing what we are doing. The people and the culture are really what have driven us.

One of the key things is that everyone has a stake in the outcome.

Everybody is an owner. If the company does well, then they do well. There’s motivation for them to have the company do well.

When the employees are the owners, they benefit from the success of the company.

What is important to your company culture?

Being good stewards of the community.

That has been with us since the early days. We try to always give something back to the community and grow that as we grow. Some of the big projects that the company will take on are decided on the executive level, but we have created a community within the company that decides how to spend the company money.

Any employee can volunteer and help with Torch Helps, the employees decide which community charities are selected.

Several years ago, we considered leaving south Huntsville, but the mayor encouraged us to stay and asked us to help revitalize South Huntsville, so we did. We started buying buildings such as the Freedom Center and Office Park south.

We have spent close to $20 million revitalizing old buildings in southeast Huntsville and bringing them back to a premium where people would want to be in them again.

What advice do you have for future entrepreneurs?

Learn as much as you can about the business area you want to go into.

If you want to start a business in engineering, you will need to get a college degree, a few years of experience and get some customer relationships such that you have the influence to be able to bring the contracts to the company that you start and the experience to justify bringing in those contracts.

It’s important to build relationships with companies that can help you and with government personnel that would be willing to provide the funding.

Also, for decades, we had that belief that everyone needs to go to college to be able to do business. I don’t think that’s as true anymore. There are lots of good trades out there and there’s a shortage of people to work those skilled trade jobs.

 

 

 

 

 

Turner Construction Completes Work on Torch Technologies Integration and Prototyping Center

Turner Construction has completed work on Torch Technologies’ Technology Integration and Prototyping Center.

The $10 million facility at 4050 Chris Drive in Huntsville is part of Torch Technologies’ growing campus in South Huntsville and consists of a 35,000-square-foot, two-story office space with an attached 10,000-square-foot high-bay facility. It incorporates offices, labs and open vertical spaces where large pieces of equipment can be installed and tested.

Torch Technologies continues to invest in its South Huntsville campus, supporting the City of Huntsville’s efforts to redevelop South Huntsville, a once vibrant area of town that is seeing an increase in development.

The new Technology Integration and Prototyping Center is located across the street from the Freedom Center, a project Turner completed in 2017 that included the renovation of a 40,000-square-foot, four-story building at 4090 South Memorial Parkway to create Torch Technologies’ current headquarters.

“Our previous experience building defense and aerospace facilities in Huntsville and elsewhere made us ideally suited for this project,” said project executive Lee Holland of Turner’s Huntsville office. “We’re very pleased to continue our partnership with Freedom Real Estate & Capital and Torch Technologies and to help in the continued revival of South Huntsville.”

Collaborating with Turner on the project were Matheny Goldmon Architects AIA; 4Site (civil engineering and landscape architecture); SSOE (mechanical and electrical engineers); and PEC Structural Engineering.

“Having worked with Turner in the past on the construction of the Freedom Center, we knew the outstanding quality of work that the company is capable of delivering,” said Bill Roark of Torch Technologies and Freedom Real Estate. “Our Technology Integration and Prototyping Center will enable Torch to take on more complex projects than before, including developing instruments to advance warhead testing.”