When Jack Fite and his brother started Fite Building Co. in their hometown of Decatur in 1976, they knew they wanted to sleep in their own beds every night. Unlike most general contractors, who often work on out-of-town projects for months at a time, the Fites made a conscious decision to choose projects that were close to their north Alabama home.
With a focus on geography rather than a specific type of construction project, the company developed expertise in a variety of types of construction, including churches, schools, office buildings, retail projects and in recent years — as growing numbers of high-tech companies have made their homes in the Huntsville-Decatur area — corporate headquarters offices.
“For many years, we have focused on working out of a smaller geographic area, so we’ve done a lot of different project types, ” says Jack Fite, who now serves as president and CEO of the company. (His brother left the company years ago.) “We have built a lot of corporate headquarters offices, but that was not by design; it was the work that was available in our area. As the technology sector in Huntsville has grown, more companies wanted to locate in this area and build corporate offices here. More than anything, we’ve benefited from our geography.”
Over the past decade or two, Fite Building Co. has developed deep experience and expertise in two sectors of headquarters offices — high-tech corporations and industrial manufacturers. For instance, in Huntsville’s Cummings Research Park, Fite has constructed headquarters offices for companies like AEgis, Kratos, Premier Professional Systems, LogiCore, Griffin Aerospace and Gatr Kubik. Most of these companies fall into the high-tech sector and are located in the Huntsville area to be close to the missile and defense installations at Redstone Arsenal.
In the industrial space, Fite also has built a reputation for building headquarters locations, or Southern headquarters locations for a number of manufacturing companies. In Decatur, Fite’s industrial headquarters projects include Independence Tube, Magic Steel, Jemison Dempsey and Monarch Steel. Fite also has constructed headquarters offices for Toledo Molding & Die in Tennessee, AK Plastics in Athens and several industrial headquarters in Mississippi.
“Many of the industrial companies we work with are based internationally or in the northern United States, and they wanted to establish a headquarters presence here to be close to Nucor Steel, ” Fite says.
After building the headquarters locations, Fite Building remains on site for some industrial companies to perform maintenance work. “We just keep a crew at their plant and handle whatever construction needs they have. If they want a wall built or concrete poured, our crew does it, ” Fite says.
ABOVE The Pinnacle Building is a three-story office and retail project built for the Village of Providence in Huntsville.
Having What It Takes
Over the years, Fite’s deep experience in building corporate offices and headquarters locations has made the company a go-to candidate for such work. In addition to experience, Fite Building Co. is attractive to corporate and industrial customers because of its exceptional pre-construction services.
“Scheduling is a big part of it, ” Fite says. “Most of our corporate clients in north Alabama are under tight time constraints with government contracts, so we have to work within their time frames and get the work done on schedule.”
In addition, Fite Building’s design-build services have been helpful in securing many industrial clients. “Our industrial customers appreciate our ability to budget the project with little to no drawings, and then budget again when the drawings are ready, ” Fite says. “It takes good designers to do that well, and our area is blessed with good designers that we have good working relationships with.”
With just more than 100 employees, Fite Building Co. is nimble and more flexible than many of its larger competitors. That is another characteristic that helps the firm win customers for corporate and industrial headquarters projects. “Every customer has its own unique requirements and preferences, and we have to be able to be flexible and work with them, ” Fite says. “Sometimes it means being able to get on a plane to go look at a building they like.”
Fostering Ongoing Growth
As Fite Building continues to grow, the company has begun in recent years to undertake projects that are farther away from its home base in Decatur. Currently, the firm is working on projects in Birmingham, Nashville and eastern Mississippi, as well as North Alabama.
Fite Building uses subcontractors to perform much of its work on the job, but the company self-performs some tasks, including excavation, concrete work, metal building erection and hanging doors.
While the company continues to bid on projects that are in the open bid market, most of its work is negotiated directly with the client, Fite says. “We are fortunate that most of our work is based on a negotiated fee, but we keep our hands in the bid market as well, because we want to make sure our work and our fees are competitive and that we’re providing the value that our clients expect.”
Nancy Mann Jackson is a freelance contributor to Business Alabama. She is based in Huntsville.
Text By NANCY MANN JACKSON