Building innovation hubs: Kirk Bradley’s recipe for success

By Gene Galin

Pittsboro, NC – In a wide-ranging question and answer session after his “fireside” chat on October 26, local Mosaic at Chatham Park developer Kirk Bradley shared insights into his real estate ventures, development projects, and the dynamics of innovation and community building.

The Birth of Governor’s Club

Bradley reminisced about the Governors Club, a project he embarked upon at the age of 25. He highlighted the importance of patience and dedication in crafting a successful community. Even a decade later, it continues to be a point of pride for him. Kirk feels that Governors Club has served as a nucleus for bringing together individuals who now contribute to the welfare of Chatham County through nonprofits.

Bradley expressed his admiration for the self storage business but acknowledged it came a little too late for him. Nevertheless, the fun in creating and nurturing projects keeps him going, despite acknowledging the challenges that come with it.

Importance of Networks and Hubs

The conversation moved towards the importance of networks and their role in fostering innovation. Bradley emphasized that innovation hubs require a blend of physical facilities, communication infrastructure, social organizations, and people to thrive. These hubs become places where budding entrepreneurs can meet and share ideas, eventually leading to the growth of the community and its economy.

He shared how Massachusetts invested a billion dollars in creating wet lab facilities, addressing a critical bottleneck in the conversion of research into companies. In Chatham County, having broadband with high-speed internet has been a game-changer, enabling start-ups to thrive. The presence of such facilities and infrastructure fosters innovation and a collaborative atmosphere that entrepreneurs and companies find hard to leave behind.

Balancing Growth with Social Connectivity:

An intriguing point was raised – if these hubs are designed for growth and innovation but people don’t want to leave, how does one ensure they break free and spread their wings? Bradley responded by explaining that as companies expand, they naturally move into larger spaces but still want to maintain proximity to their social networks. The development should focus on providing a variety of spaces and facilities that cater to these different needs, ensuring that the entrepreneurial spirit remains undeterred.

He shared his vision for “79 West,” where companies can start in smaller spaces, graduate to larger offices, yet stay connected to their social network. The aim is to create a self-sustaining ecosystem, where businesses, both big and small, can coexist, collaborate, and flourish.

Addressing Affordable Housing and Education

The conversation shifted towards the challenges of affordable housing in Chatham County. A sustainable economy relies on affordability and education. Bradley acknowledged the supply and demand issues and proposed that increasing housing options could alleviate some of the affordability concerns. The idea is to cater to a broad spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds to ensure the economy’s vitality while preserving the quality of life in the county.

Bradley also emphasized the importance of education and employment. Providing avenues for people to get better jobs and improve their skills can also address the affordability issue. Furthermore, improving education and job opportunities plays a vital role in empowering individuals and fostering community involvement. In this context, he highlighted a space in the Mosaic project that could be utilized for tutoring services, further supporting the community’s growth.

Fulfilling Moments of Mosaic

Bradley shared two moments that brought a broad smile to his face in the journey of the Mosaic project. The first was the massive turnout of 1,800 people to enjoy an unforgettable band performance. The sheer scale of the event and the community’s response exceeded his wildest expectations.

The second moment of joy was witnessing a 21% increase in educational attainment in the area. By curating services and connecting people with the right resources, they have successfully helped students and families tap into educational opportunities, creating a positive impact on the community.

Motivation and Drive

The audience delved into Kirk Bradley’s motivation and drive. Bradley acknowledged the challenges and problems that inevitably come with real estate development but stressed the importance of perseverance. He recognized the value of a strong support system, including friends, family, and business partners, who have helped him navigate the complexities of long-term projects.

Strategies for Balance: Finding Harmony between Family and Business

Balancing family and business is a constant challenge for entrepreneurs, and Bradley shares his insights on achieving harmony. He organizes his day and week around family time, prioritizing weekends for quality moments with loved ones. While he continues to dedicate substantial hours to his work, he has consciously reduced his workload to strike a healthier balance, ensuring that both his personal and professional lives thrive.

Watch video: Favorite Projects and Moments in a Q&A Session with Kirk Bradley – 10.26.23

00:17 Favorite kind of projects

  • Enjoy the self storage business and wish I had gotten into it earlier.
  • Also proud of creating Governors Club and the positive impact it has had on the community.

02:47 Investment in wet lab facilities led to a significant impact on research turning into companies.

  • Wetlab facilities were a key factor in converting research into companies, leading to a billion-dollar investment over 10 years.
  • Broadband connectivity is a significant issue, with Chatham Park investing in new fiber infrastructure named Brightspeed for faster internet speeds.

05:15 Creating a collaborative workspace with separate areas for research and socialization.

  • Providing spaces where researchers can have privacy for their work and also have opportunities for interactions and breaks.
  • Curating a variety of service providers and professionals to support startups and offer different experiences.

09:33 Making things affordable and improving education are key to building a sustainable economy.

  • Finding solutions to affordability challenges in storm water, energy efficiency, and housing.
  • Improving education and job opportunities to ensure a broad socio-economic spectrum and community involvement.

12:11 The program offers credits for Technical and Career paths, as well as University Credit.

  • The majority of students are expected to pursue Career and Technical paths, which meets the workforce’s skill worker needs.
  • A significant number of students also opt for University Credit, fulfilling the knowledge worker aspect.

14:51 More connectivity to the university and the campus.

  • The Sanford solution is a wastewater and water solution that will solve the water problem in Pittsboro.
  • The Sanford merger will ultimately ensure that water problems never occur again.

17:24 Finding solutions for supply chain problems in real estate projects

  • Electrical component shortage delaying apartment construction
  • Learning from successful development projects for long-term success

19:51 Kirk finds a balance between family life and business life.

  • He organizes his day and week around family time, especially on weekends.
  • He still works a lot but has reduced his hours to find a better balance.