Outside of the office he’s known as our real estate expert responsible for helping negotiate the largest expansion in the Science Center’s 55-year history, delivering new buildings and revitalizing Market Street with new landscaping, restaurants and an apartment building. Inside the organization, he’s known for his leadership skills, witty commentary and stints as Office Holiday Party emcee. Curt Hess has been at the Science Center for 15 years, and last week he took over as our Interim President & CEO. Curt is a busy man – he’s also maintaining his role as Senior VP Real Estate – but he found the time to answer a few questions about his tenure at the Science Center, his family, and the future. Get to know our interim CEO below.
Flying Slippers: You’ve been at the Science Center for 15 years. How has the organization changed since you started here?
Curt Hess: It didn’t take long before I realized what a great place the Science Center was. In spite of the Science Center being a real gem for the region, it wasn’t well known locally. Interestingly, it was much better known outside the region and internationally! The organization has improved dramatically over the last 15 years. There has been a continued focus on our existing programs and we added a number of new programs that have just been incredible – QED, Phase 1 Ventures, Quorum and FirstHand just to name a few. Further, we have strived to make our uCity Square campus more of a live, work and play environment adding residential and retail. Lastly, we’ve done a much better job telling our story thanks to Jeanne Mell and her team!
FS: What has kept you at the Science Center for so long?
CH: Pure and simple, the Science Center’s mission - to inspire and lead a diverse and inclusive community of innovation and entrepreneurship that nurtures and scales economic development through technology commercialization, business growth and civic engagement. If you read our economic impact study, it provides a really good overview of what we have accomplished over the past 50+ years. And even though I spend 90% of my time working on real estate, it is the other 10% of my time interacting with scientists, entrepreneurs, and innovators that makes my job so interesting and rewarding. Plus, I work with a team of wonderful and dedicated colleagues that are equally passionate about our work.
"And even though I spend 90% of my time working on real estate, it is the other 10% of my time interacting with scientists, entrepreneurs, and innovators that makes my job so interesting and rewarding."
FS: When you’re not at the Science Center (which isn’t often), what do you do with your free time?
CH: Hike, bike, ski (but not enough), travel and spend time with my family.
FS: Your son has a startup. Do you ever give him any pointers you’ve picked up along the way?
CH: That's a pretty good story in and of itself. He graduated college with a dual major in finance and information systems and worked as an information systems consultant right out of school. He loved the people he worked with but couldn't see himself in that field long term. About a year into that first job he started a business that he worked on nights and weekends. He was creating photo and video assets for travel brands (tourism boards, hotels, etc.) and helping to educate them on how to best market their brands on social media. After he left his job he went full time on his business for about a year and worked on several projects outside of the country. It wasn't until just recently that he was offered a full-time position with Marriott International essentially doing the same thing: filming content at various properties, helping with brand activations and running several of their social channels. He linked up with the Director of Creative Content over at Marriott through a connection he had made while in school. But to answer your question, yes. My wife and I certainly give him pointers. And even though he doesn't always want to listen to "dad," one thing that I tell him repeatedly that he's taken to heart is that relationships are everything. A strong network is essential to success in any industry.
FS: What have been some of the standout moments for your tenure at the Science Center?
CH: It is always great to watch a new building under construction, so adding 3711, 3737, 3601 Market (and now 3675 Market) were real highlights. In addition, I was extremely involved in the design and construction of all three incubators on campus, the design and construction of the seven-block Market Street streetscape project and the two-block Innovation Plaza project. I am very proud of what my colleagues and I accomplished to make these projects a reality.
FS: What other goals would you like to achieve?
CH: We would love to attract a major life science, biotech or technology company from outside the region to Philadelphia and uCity Square. Amazon would definitely check that box! In addition to that, just continue to focus on all of the amazing programs that we currently have at the Science Center.
FS: What are you most looking forward to?
CH: Hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon this summer! And then hiking back up to the top!