CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Charleston Rotary Club got a chance to hear from one of the leaders in Silicon Valley on Monday, a West Virginia native.
Brad Smith, a Marshall University graduate, executive board chair of Intuit and chair of Nordstrom spoke to the club members on the importance of entrepreneurship and education, and how those two should intertwine to push West Virginia into the future.
“I think we are at the intersection today between our historical accomplishments as a state and a tremendous opportunity ahead,” Smith told MetroNews. “The path forward is going to be education and entrepreneurship. We spent time talking about those two things.”
Smith, who was born in Huntington and grew up in Kenova, was the CEO of Intuit from 2008 to 2018. He announced in August he was retiring from that position.
During his speech, Smith said the state needs to use “abundance mentality” when it comes to education as a united education front leads to more opportunities for students to become entrepreneurs.
“The economy is growing, jobs are growing, technology is shifting under our feet,” Smith said. “It’s an opportunity for all of us to participate.
“In the state, abundance mentality basically means that we all need to work together. We may have competitive jerseys when we play sports but we all have one state to support and one future to create for our students.”
Smith told the group that he plans to meet with educational leaders from all parts of the state in an attempt for that mentality.
“I love what our universities, our community colleges, and our K-12 teachers are doing,” he said. “What we have to figure a way to do is do it in concert. Play the orchestra together.”
“Find a way to solve the problem as one as opposed to thinking of doing it with multiple efforts. That’s the opportunity ahead of us.”
Smith is no stranger to his home in West Virginia. He said he was in town to participate in the 50th anniversary festivities of Marshall University’s Lewis College of Business and its schools, which are named the Brad D. Smith Schools of Business.
In November, Smith gave Marshall a $25 million gift to benefit the Lewis College of Business.
The company he used to lead, Intuit, is now having a major impact on the state.
Intuit officials, along with Smith, made the announcement in March that the company will open a “prosperity hub” in downtown Bluefield that will create up to 500 jobs. The prosperity hub will include a customer success center for the Intuit product QuickBooks and an innovation lab to help small businesses.
Bluefield beat out hundreds of other towns and cities across the United States. Smith said the pick of Bluefield from the selection committee did not come as a surprise because he knows what West Virginians are a special breed.
“No matter how many people I bring to West Virginia, when they get exposed to the talent in the state in Silicon Valley, the Silicon Valley says ‘How do we get more of these West Virginians to be apart of what we’re doing,'” he said.
“I’ve always known we were one of the best-kept secrets in the world and now we are letting that secret out. West Virginia is about to shine.”