Adam Klein is Director of Strategy for Capitol Broadcasting Company—a diversified communications company that owns and operates businesses in television, radio, commercial real estate, technology entrepreneurship, and residential building supplies.
Prior to his role as Director of Strategy, Klein led The American Underground, a campus for entrepreneurs started by Capitol Broadcasting in downtown Durham. Under Klein’s leadership, Google for Entrepreneurs designated The American Underground as one of only eight sites in the country to be part of its Tech Hub network. And at a time when cities are struggling to reinvent themselves, The American Underground has become a national model for how to transform a once-depressed downtown into a magnet for high-growth companies. In total, The American Underground is home to more than 275 startup companies across 120,000 square feet of space—four buildings in Durham and a location in Raleigh.
Prior to The American Underground, Klein was Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce. He led the Chamber’s entrepreneurship efforts, working to accelerate Durham’s position as the hub for entrepreneurship in the Southeast. Klein co-founded two initiatives, the Bull City Startup Stampede and The Smoffice, which brought nearly 40 startups to downtown Durham and earned national media attention as well as “The Most Unconventional Economic Development Project in the World” award from the World Chambers Congress in Doha, Qatar.
Klein is originally from Brecksville, Ohio, and received his undergraduate degree from Denison University where he was a two-time Academic All-American in golf. He holds a Master of Regional Planning with a specialization in economic development from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
1. What is in your pockets?
Just my wallet. I’m traveling light today. Usually my wallet and keys, and I often have a Diet Coke with me as well.
2. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?
Two things that are top of mind. One is we are about to debut a refreshed brand and website for the American Tobacco Campus (“ATC”). They just turned 15 years old at ATC, and had a good amount of success, but we’re setting our sights on what success is going to look like for the next 15 years. It’s just time to refresh our brand.
And then related to that, ATC purchased the Ford dealership site next to campus. It’s about 11 acres right in the middle of downtown Durham, and we’re really excited. We’ve done the initial master plan for that project, a heavy, very dense mixed-use project that we’re hoping to finish up fundraising for and beginning construction. I’m excited for that project because it’s going to mean a lot for downtown Durham and its continued growth as a job center. It will be a mixed-use project with residential, office space and retail.
3. What is your favorite coffee spot?
I’ve really enjoyed the pop-ups that we’ve done around campus but I remain loyal to Beyu Caffe on Main Street. Dorian Bolden, who opened that shop, took a big risk and bet on downtown nine years ago now. Lots of vibe in there and I continue to see a lot of entrepreneurs in and out of that space. So that’s my favorite.
4. What keeps you up at night?
Well, if it’s not our one-year-old daughter crying, then it’s probably the direction that Durham is heading over the next 15 to 20 years. One of the most important things that we need to get right as a city is to continue to grow our economy and ensure that we’re creating lots of jobs in the city and not just focusing on entertainment, nightlife, and fun and funky restaurants, but really being a job center.
You’ve seen good economic growth in the city for the last 15 years, but not all of that’s been even. There are parts of our community that aren’t benefiting from the jobs that are being created and that’s one thing that has to change over the next 15 years. I think Durham needs a headquarters. We need a large consumer-facing brand to plant a flag here. Policygenius announced their location coming late last year. I think that’s a big move, and Durham landing a few more of those would be really important for the future of the city.
5. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?
If I’m getting a drink, I love to go to Bull McCabe’s downtown. I like that it feels local, familiar and comfortable. For a bite to eat I’ll go with Pizzeria Toro. I like that you can see the food being made right there fresh. I like the energy of the space. It can be fun to do with friends or to go on a date with my wife.
6. What is next for you or your organization?
This year is going to be a big year for our organization. We are rolling out the new brand for the American Tobacco Campus. We’ve been putting in a lot of work in the last year to make some big changes on campus. We’re adding new restaurants. We are going to make some strategic moves to really create one of the more dynamic places to hang out in the triangle here at ATC.
We are seeing a pretty clear uptick in the number of companies creating secondary headquarters in the triangle, and in Durham in particular. We’ve had several of them announce pretty sizeable locations here. For example Terazo is going to build a big IT-help development shop in Durham here at American Tobacco. Look at Avalara. It’s a publicly traded company that’s growing by leaps and bounds. Oracle continues to grow here and TiVo just signed on for a longer lease in a really cool space here at American Tobacco.
They’re seeing that they could find incredible talent and be in a place with great quality of life. It’s fairly easy to recruit people here and that makes me really excited, both for the startup ecosystem as well as the broader community in terms of jobs that are being created. This place is seen as a destination and as a place that brands and companies want to be a part of and are finding what they need to grow here.