September 12, 2011

State of Alabama
Press Release: Alabama Department of Commerce

Huntsville-based Business No. 10 on Inc. Fastest-growing Private U.S. Companies

September 11, 2011

The leadership team at Connected Logistics is, from left, Billy Pratt, director of operations; Jeannie Terrell, director of finance; Bill Boyett, director of human resources; and CEO Forrest Burke. (Glenn Baeske/The Huntsville Times)

HUNTSVILLE -- A simple sign bearing the company's name marks the corporate headquarters of Connected Logistics. Inside the suite in Building 2 at Progress Center, you won't find a fancy lobby and no-frills offices are standard here, even for CEO Forrest Burke.

This is the same company that was just ranked 10th on Inc. magazine's 2011 list of the 500 fastest-growing private companies in the country.

"It's one of the biggest firms in Huntsville nobody has heard of," says Burke. "But that's OK."

The rewarding part of the work, he said, isn't the remarkable growth or the accolades, but "having soldiers thank you because they got their supplies faster."

Connected Logistics, a service-disabled, veteran-owned small business, works with government and corporate clients in designing and managing complex, large-scale supply chain and information networks. Among its customers are the Department of the Army, Army Materiel Command, Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems, Defense Logistics Agency and large federal contractors.

"We help government migrate to cloud computing," Burke said. "It allows you to implement software changes more quickly at lower costs and allows you to manage user activity and defend the network more consistently."

The company's mission: "Making the soldier's life easier by dealing with a complicated supply chain in innovative ways -- with better software, better networks, better analytics."

The company has found a niche, Burke said, "at the intersection of logistics and networking."

And that niche helped the company earn its spot on the Inc. list. The firm had a three-year growth rate of 10,112 percent, with revenue climbing from $121,000 in 2007 to $12.36 million in 2010. It was the top growth firm in Alabama.

"We figured we'd be in the top 50," Burke said. The No. 10 ranking was a surprise.

Connected Logistics is on track to nearly double its revenue again this year, he said. "And what we have in bookings for next year" represents a 50 percent increase.

Burke retired in 2007 after a 20-year career in the Army - culminating in an assignment as chief technology officer for the Army's deputy chief of staff for logistics, responsible for the capital planning and integration of business networks for the Army.

That same year, he founded the company in Huntsville, where he had lived in the mid-'90s. For several years, he was an aide to former Redstone Arsenal commander James Link.

"I fell in love with Huntsville," said Burke, 45, a Boca Chica, Fla., native who grew up in Montgomery. "This is a superb place to live and work; you're surrounded by incredibly talented and creative people."

The company grew steadily over the years, and there are now just over 60 employees companywide, with plans to hire another dozen. "There are also another 35 to 40 independent consultants helping us," he said.

The majority of the company's engineers, he said, are in Springfield, Va., supporting two of the largest IT programs in the Army - the Army Enterprise Systems Integration Program (AESIP) and Power Projection Enablers (P2E), the Army's cloud computing program.

"Most small business owners will tell you the people they hire make the difference" in their success, said Burke. "We've been incredibly fortunate to hire some very talented people," who were willing to join a young company.

Connected Logistics' Inc. ranking just shows that small companies can survive and even thrive in a tough economy.

"It boils down to lower costs," Burke said. "We're smaller, so we don't have as many hierarchies. As government contracts, we're in a position to provide more responsive services because leadership is closer to the client.

"Sometimes smaller is better."

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