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Conversations with the Council featuring Brian Curtin, Executive Vice President at BRPH

"Growing up in the Washington D.C. area in the '60s and early 70s, the space race was intriguing." The excitement ignited our nation's curiosity allowing us to imagine what life was like beyond the stars. It was a time of discovery that sparked the curiosity of a young boy named Brian Curtin, who had previously dreamed of being a third baseman for the Washington Senators before they left to become the Texas Rangers. "I've always had this innate ability to put things together. As a kid, it was erector sets, and I was good at math, which led me to pursue mechanical engineering." He studied it at the University of Maryland, landing an internship at the NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and a fellowship at the Naval Research Lab, where he worked on a developing technology called GPS. "Of course, today, it's everywhere, but what I love about my work is if we have an idea, we can create it, then we see it, feel it, touch it, and then we get the benefit of its success for a very long time. Seeing those ideas come to fruition and change the world is fascinating."

His fascination eventually brought him to BRPH, where he's been for the last 33 years. "I am one of those people who could not wait to get into the office on Monday, even before the President." Today, he is the President and serves as the CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors. "BRPH was founded in 1964 to support NASA’s mission to put a man on the moon. We have grown from a mostly engineering firm serving the space industry to a full-service architecture, engineering and construction company that works on a range of highly technical projects, from space flight facilities to thrill rides. In addition to aerospace and entertainment work, we also serve the defense, manufacturing, commercial, education and hospitality sectors."

Some of their projects you've probably experienced first-hand such as Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal Orlando, Sesame Street Land at SeaWorld Orlando, and Gateway: The Deep Space Launch Complex at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. They also provide highly technical support at the launch and processing facilities for Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and aerospace companies Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, and Raytheon. "We take seemingly impossible issues and come up with solutions that have never been done before."

Brian is an empathetic, driven leader who sets the company's vision and then works with his team to develop and execute the strategy. "We hire and train the best talent, and as a learning organization, we challenge the team to achieve continuous improvement. I encourage regular check-ins to ensure accountability, but I delegate and empower the team to promote their personal growth and unleash their potential for greatness." They have 325 employees and are ranked 279 on Engineering News-Record’s Top 500 Design Firms for 2023. Most of the team is in Florida. They also have offices in Alabama, Arizona, California, Georgia, South Carolina, and Washington. "In the 1990s, we transformed to an employee-owned company, where each employee is granted stock each year. We decide what we want to do and the type of clients we want while maintaining a friendly small business atmosphere and culture."

Employee culture is very important to them. They focus on collaboration, mentoring, and a commitment to team building. They clean the beaches, support schools, and raise money for The United Way, Junior Achievement, and other worthwhile causes. "We live and work in the communities we are aligned with. Our people have big hearts. They like to give back."

They also actively participate in economic development in the areas where BRPH has offices. "The Palm Beach County Economic Council has a proud history of accomplishments that have improved the quality of life and the caliber of business in our community. They have a strong track record of identifying and tackling critically important issues. As a member of the Palm Beach County business community, I'm proud to do my part to assist that effort." Brian, a two-year member of the Council, says his membership benefits his business and industry. "Being a part of the Council gives me a deeper knowledge and insight into the direction that local leaders are, or should be, taking on public policy. That helps me make more informed business decisions and identify broader trends early on, for the benefit of our South Florida clients and those beyond."

However, he says critical policy issues need to be addressed. "Among the most critical issues facing our county are the lack of sufficient infrastructure to alleviate traffic congestion as well as the ongoing shortage of affordable housing. We must also continue to focus on attracting professional services and other clean industries to take advantage of the many growth opportunities currently on the horizon and raise our average wage. This will not only diversify our economy but also help the county withstand any economic downturns. Keeping tax rates low and offering economic incentives to new or relocating businesses will also support those initiatives." But he is optimistic about the business climate over the next 10 years and has a few thoughts on improving it even further. "I'd like to see Palm Beach County add more professional services, especially financial and investment services, as well as technology services for computing-web-based and software. We should also build upon our aerospace manufacturing specialties and encourage the growth of corporate headquarters versus regional offices to ensure more decision makers will reside here."

As for Brian, he and his wife Gayane live in Boca Raton with their year-old daughter Ani and five-month-old son Davit. "I've got little mouths to feed, so I'll be working for a long time," he joked. Brian also has three older children from his first marriage, which tragically ended when his wife passed from pancreatic cancer. His 30-year-old daughter Alexis, a horticulturist, is working in the Netherlands to find a way to make vegetables pest-resilient, 28-year-old Tommy is in culinary school, and 27-year-old Rachael is a lawyer in Dallas. "Today, kids are smarter than ever. Every generation thinks the world is going to hell in a handbasket. From what I've seen, it's getting better. Maybe they can't all locate a country on the globe, but they can identify ten other more important  things."

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