Defense Co. TechWise makes move downtown

Colorado Springs defense contractor TechWise is moving its headquarters to downtown Colorado Springs.

The company is moving from its offices at 2860 S. Circle Drive to the Braxton building at 6 N. Tejon St.

While the move will only bring 18 of Techwise’s 200 jobs to the downtown office, it represents another step in a greater clustering plan to lure defense companies downtown.

Aside from longtime tenant Vladimir Jones, the 6 N. Tejon building sat mostly vacant after Chase bank moved out in 2009.

But the building, which sits at one of the area’s busiest intersections at Tejon and Pikes Peak Avenue, has been the hub of downtown activity since The O’Neil Group announced plans to purchase it in July.

Kevin O’Neil began moving his defense company, Braxton Technologies, and its 94 employees, into the building last month. And Real Estate company Hoff & Leigh announced plans to merge some business operations with O’Neil and begin several downtown projects, including adding retail storefronts to the building.

TechWise CEO Shawnee Huckstep, a member of 6 N. Tejon’s ownership group, said the move downtown just made sense.

“This building a great location. We’re excited about the synergies with Braxton and Vladimir Jones in the same building — and there are still some other possible tenants,” she said. “It’s a great move for us.”

Huckstep founded TechWise in 1994 and the business initially provided IT training to business professionals, but expanded into military training and exercise support in 2006.

Since then, the company has added defense strategy analysis, training, exercise and operational support and staff augmentation for the military. It has more than 200 employees locally and additional military analysts, technical experts, service providers and management staff in locations around the world.

The company has experienced at least 50 percent growth during the past three years, and in 2011, opened offices in the United Arab Emirates to support a military contract in the Middle East. The company is proud of the fact that it recruits half its employees from Colorado, and once they are finished with their term overseas, most return to the state.

Local employees are excited about the move, Huckstep said.

“There’s just such a culture, a community downtown,” she said. “And we want to be a part of that. Downtown has a spirit of camaraderie, of community that we miss out on being away from the city’s core.”

The company is renovating the space, and a move-in date is not yet available.

TechWise is exactly the kind of company that the community should recognize and celebrate, O’Neil said. “The fact that TechWise is moving into the building — an international company — is a very big deal for the city,” he said. “This is a successful business that is committed to this community. These are very exciting times for us.”

O’Neil said Braxton’s employees had enjoyed the change.

“I see them everywhere,” he said. “We’re meeting at Phantom Canyon, and our people are there too,” he said. “It’s great to be a part of something, to be building something.”

TechWise plans to renovate and lease the entire fifth floor of the building, leaving only the lobby of the 130,000 square foot building still vacant.

At 23,000 square feet, O’Neil said there would be more tenant announcements in the coming months.

“We’ve just rolled out the lobby to the commercial realtors,” he said. “And we think it’s going to look like an indoor mall — one main area with smaller offices and stores.”

In fact, the O’Neil Group will be taking some of the ground-floor space, he said.

“We think there will be more interest,” O’Neil said. “Since The O’Neil Group is a merger and acquisition company, we can find partners to work into the space. We’re looking forward to having the building completely occupied.”

The O’Neil Group and other investors purchased the building last summer for $5.8 million, after Bank of America foreclosed on the California-based investment firm that owned the building. At the time of the purchase, the building only had two tenants, advertising firm Vladimir Jones and the Melting Pot restaurant.