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From politics to parenthood, it’s been a year for John Roberts

What a year it has been for Freedom Real Estate’s John Roberts.

At 30 years old, Roberts joined Huntsville’s Freedom Real Estate as the development director in September, after running his first-ever political campaign as one of six candidates for Alabama’s Fifth Congressional seat in the Republican primary. He is also a proud first-time father.

Roberts graduated from the University of Alabama where he studied political science, business, and municipal administration.

After interning with PowerSouth Energy Cooperative in Montgomery where he worked closely with civic and business movers and shakers, he knew he wanted to work in economic development.

More recently, Roberts was director of Government Affairs & Workforce Development for the Huntsville Madison County Builders Association and Business Retention & Expansion director for the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber.

At the Chamber, he was a project director managing various aspects of Huntsville-based economic development projects that were closely tied to commercial real estate and development, as well as politics.

“Merging politics with real estate is not that much of a transition,” he said. “Both are very relationship-based. When done correctly in a way that positively impacts a community or individuals, it’s a rewarding career and I feel very fortunate to have had these opportunities.”

At Freedom, those relationships and experiences fit perfectly with the diverse team Freedom Real Estate is building here in Huntsville.

The commercial real estate firm, founded by Torch Technologies CEO Bill Roark, is involved in many aspects of the business from brokering properties to tenant representation; marketing properties; and working directly with Freedom’s development and construction arm. They also use their experience to advise and consult with local developers, organizations and businesses entering the development process.

“With so much local commercial development happening right now in and around Huntsville, Bill saw a gap in the needs of businesses and organizations when it comes to the direction and development of large capital construction and leasing projects,” Roberts said. “Whether it is helping people who are new to the process with basic procedures like choosing the right contractor; ensuring scheduling stays on time; negotiating fair financing terms and ensuring contracts are fair, to more complex processes like rezoning and making sure the overall decisions they are making along the way, are good decisions.”

Huntsville is in the top 25 cities with the largest land mass per city-size. When including Morgan, Madison, and Limestone counties, that is a significant footprint and it is spread out in pockets.

“Those pockets are starting to be filled in and, what is exciting about Freedom, we will be a direct participant in filling that out in a way that is conscious of the Huntsville’s vision and what leadership would like to see,” said Roberts.

“We are unique because we develop our own properties. We have close allies with local government partners who we know have a vision. We are on the same page when it comes to certain products, so although we do not take orders from anyone, we try to meet those needs.”

He said one of the things Freedom is doing very well, and that has been an asset along the way, is using the diversity of Huntsville’s economy to meet those needs.

“We have been a space and defense town for so many years, but if you look back 20 years ago to when Toyota Motor Manufacturing landed here, economic development began snowballing and it has continued up through Mayor (Tommy) Battle,” Roberts said. “We knew we couldn’t just rely on the federal government and its budget. We had to make sure we have the manufacturing base to support that; we had to entice companies in health care and biotechnology like HudsonAlpha.

“Mazda Toyota didn’t just wake up one day and say, ‘Hey, let’s build a plant in Huntsville’. It was because Huntsville has a reputation for delivering.

“And even more than that, it just makes business sense to extend a collaborative effort across the region, not just to Huntsville, but into Morgan, Jackson, and Limestone counties.

“We have leaders who check their ego at the door, and make sure that collective vision makes projects work.”

Since Freedom and regional leaders understand and support business, Roberts said they figured out how to partner with the community to help everyone succeed.

“When you compare us to comparable markets, we deliver better results because we understand there is enough to go around,” he said. “Multiple large companies and groups can headquarter here and be successful, and that gives everybody the opportunity to win.”

Roberts also said the development arm of the company has taken off in the past couple of years, and is expected to be even more so over the next 12 months.

Freedom has two big projects breaking ground first quarter 2023, he said.

The first is 700,000 square feet of industrial warehouse space, to be built in phases, in north Huntsville across from the Toyota Motor Manufacturing plant.

The second is a four-to-six-story, 72,000 square-foot office facility at Hays Farm in south Huntsville.

In regard to his political career, Roberts said he knew he had a narrow window to winning and was up against some very well-established opponents.

“I finished third out of six candidates and I prefer to win,” he said. “But looking at two-month-old John Jr., I am having the most fun I’ve ever had.

“When I look at that baby every night, I am also glad I can be there to tuck him in at night.”

(Courtesy of 256 Today)

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