I had the good fortune to be able to sit down with Doug Edgeton, President of the Piedmont Triad Research Park, for a few minutes last week. With a backdrop of the PTRP construction, we talked a little about the PTRP expansion project, and about Doug himself:
Q Tell us about your role at the Piedmont Triad Research Park.
A I get the privilege of serving as the President of the Piedmont Triad Research Park. It's a large-scale development in downtown Winston-Salem being led by the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. We've taken on that charge to create space, not only for us, but for the entire community. PTRP is a benefit Winston-Salem, Forsyth County, and the Triad. We hope to be substantially completed by 2023.
Q What do you enjoy most about your job?
A The wonderful opportunity to see and interact with all of these small businesses and to work through this development. I've learned so much about things I never would have guessed that I would ever need to know about--pollutants in the ground, new technology for removing pollutants in the ground, etc.. I've really earned a great education throughout the whole process.
Q Speaking of education, does what you're doing today relate to what you studied in school?
A I have an undergraduate degree in Hospital Administration, a Masters in Public Health, and a Masters in Business Administration. This does relate very much to the business component, but not so much the masters in public health, at least not to date.
Q How did you get to where you are today? Did you have a mentor or some other inspiration?
A This ties together very much with growing the Medical School. I'm the Chief Business Officer for the Medical School. What we've been looking for is a way to increase the size and scope of the Medical School. In order to do that, we needed space to accommodate that growth. As we started looking for opportunities to create space for the Research Enterprise, we realized we needed a large enough footprint for 150 years and that's how we started acquiring property downtown.
When we began acquiring property and developed a Master Plan, Reynolds American approached us and said, would you like to include these abandoned factories in this project, because we think it's very exciting and could transform the community. So as we started down that path, I had many mentors, and many people advised me on how to make this become a reality.
Q How did you come to Winston-Salem and end up doing what you're doing?
A I was at the University of Alabama at Birmingham at the University of Alabama School of Medicine for 20 years before coming to Winston in 2000. I was recruited up here as the Principal Business Officer and Vice President for Wake Forest Health Sciences.
Q What do you do when you're not running the PTRP?
A I enjoy spending time with my kids, who are growing up fast and my wife. I spend a fair amount of time doing things in Winston-Salem.
Q What advice would you give to young people who would like to do what you're doing?
A Fortunately I do get a chance to mentor students at Wake Forest frequently. My advice to them is if you are going to try to do the research park part, there are different stages as you look around the country. We're in the Early Development stage so this is more real estate, real estate law, orientation toward some company recruitment. As you get into the more mature park, it's more about company recruitment and retention. My advice generally is to gain as much experience as you can with the commercial real estate world and know a lot about what it takes to make science commercially viable because that's going to be what happens in most parks.
Q What do you expect to be doing in 10 years?
A I hope to be finishing up Phase 2 of the Research Park and continuing to work at Wake Forest Baptist Health and the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.
Q What was your first job?
A The first one I got paid for, other than mowing grass and things like that, was as the Cash Manager. I sat in a room that was a former elevator shaft and I had safes that had alarms all around me. I counted money and managed a large cash operation at the University of Alabama.
Q Where is your favorite place to vacation?
A We like to go to Key West. That's been a favorite spot of my kids since we attended a meeting down there. As they've grown up we've continued to go back fairly regularly.
Q If you could pick anyone, which 5 people would you invite to a dinner party, living or dead?
A It would be a mixture of really interesting people. Paul McCartney--he's really cool. I would love to sit down with Bill Clinton and talk to him for a while. It wouldn't be bad to have George Bush there to get the other side of that coin. If you could really go back, I'd like to talk to Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson.