Torch Technologies CEO and cofounder Bill Roark vividly remembers the day Mayor Tommy Battle convinced his homegrown tech company to stay in South Huntsville.
“We had been looking at building in Research Park and picked out a lot to where we could walk to Bridge Street very easily,” he said. “We had the Mayor and Chamber over and put up our plans. We showed them the lot we had picked. We had a draft, an artist’s concept of what a building would look like on that lot at that point.”
But the Mayor, who listened carefully to Torch’s plans, had something else in mind.
“He said, ‘We really need you to stay in South Huntsville,’” Roark recalls.
Roark and his team initially balked at the idea. The area where Torch was operating along Memorial Parkway Southwest had been suffering from blight, outdated facilities and an increase in crime. As more buildings along that stretch of the Parkway went dark, Torch’s leaders felt it was time to try something new.
However, all that changed after Mayor Battle weighed in.
“He started engaging in all the reasons why we needed to stay in South Huntsville,” Roark said. “His concern was that if we left these buildings, they would never re-light. With one of them already dark, the other ones would not light up again.”
‘Success breeds success’
Working closely with the City to revitalize the area, Torch later began a multimillion-dollar renovation of its existing facilities and development of a new headquarters and conference center at 4035 Chris Drive. Since then, the employee-owned company has continued to grow along with its sister company, Freedom Real Estate & Capital, which remains committed to helping South Huntsville thrive. They have helped to revitalize South Huntsville with major redevelopments at two new multiuse facilities along Chris Drive, Office Park South and Planet Fitness. Other developments are also in process.
Roark, thankful Torch stayed the course in South Huntsville, said the past 5-7 years have been critical for the area. A close ally of the South Huntsville Main Business Association, Roark is proud of how far his community has come.
“The growth in South Huntsville businesses and the revitalization have really started to take shape,” he said. “It takes a little while to get the ball rolling, but once you get it rolling, you can get it rolling quicker and quicker. Success breeds success.”
In 2018, South Huntsville Main was designated a Main Street Alabama Urban Main Community. Dedicated to creating a vibrant ecosystem in South Huntsville, the nonprofit organization serves as a central point of connection between the City and South Huntsville businesses.
A recent Top Prospects Survey conducted by Jay Schlinsog with Nashville-based Downtown Professionals Network shows South Huntsville is shining brighter than ever. With 1,400 respondents, the survey provided the following insights:
- 79% – Percentage of respondents who describe recent trends in South Huntsville as “improving or making progress”
- 49% – Percentage of non-residents who are or may be interested in living in South Huntsville
- 93% – Percentage of current South Huntsville residents who are very or somewhat likely to recommend South Huntsville to friends and family as a good place to live
- 92 – Number of potential growth prospects
To see the full survey results, click here.
Council Member Jennie Robinson said the growth South Huntsville’s experiencing is a “win for all of us.”
“The results of the most recent South Huntsville Main survey show that almost 80% of respondents believe that South Huntsville is improving or making progress,” she said. “This result is particularly impressive when viewed in comparison to 2019 responses to the same question, which showed only 24.7% of the people responding thought South Huntsville was making progress. It tells me that people are noticing the incredible investments that have been made by businesses in new buildings and by the City in improved infrastructure.”
As more people consider moving to South Huntsville, Madison County Commissioner Phil Riddick said the area becomes more attractive to homebuilders. With more rooftops comes more retailers, restaurants and entrepreneurs, as well.
“I am so glad to have been able to play a part in this resurgence of South Huntsville,” he said. “It has been an ‘all hands-on deck’ effort between the City, County, South Huntsville Main Business Association and many other individuals. As we are having success and can show it with things like these survey results, more people want to chip in and help.”
Katie Patterson, hired as South Huntsville Main’s Executive Director in June 2021, is tasked with supporting, promoting and advocating for all businesses in South Huntsville. Recognizing the value of public-private partnerships, Patterson works closely with elected leaders to continue moving District 3 in a positive direction.
With so much opportunity on the horizon, Patterson is excited to witness South Huntsville history in the making.
“This is the most rewarding job I’ve probably ever done aside from raising my son,” she said. “It’s incredibly rewarding to start a project and to see it through completion.”
To learn more about South Huntsville Main, visit their website at southhuntsvillemain.org.