Our Town: On Duty: Bridget Harrington

Eamon Queeney

“Everyone’s ideas are different … Skilled talent is the secret ingredient for Raleigh.”
–Bridget Harrington, executive director, Innovate Raleigh

Bridget Harrington has travelled the world, but it’s Raleigh that she’s chosen to call home. She is now the executive director at Innovate Raleigh, a nonprofit encouraging the city’s entrepreneurial spirit through networking and various other events. “Our mission is to make Raleigh one of the top five innovation hubs in the United States,” she says. For now, she’s the one-woman show, tapping into resources from her board members, as well as new partnerships with Wake County Economic Development and the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce.

Among the group’s events are its annual summit of panelists, like chef Cheetie Kumar, with unique breakout sessions about topics from business funding to parking. Future projects are widespread and imaginative, including an in-the-hopper urban prototyping workshop. Harrington says events must keep reinventing, in order to connect the creative community and “bring together on and offline.”

Innovate Raleigh will also host start-up weekends, including seminars and even the construction of parklets, tiny urban green spaces. Taking these initiatives from cities like San Francisco, California and Boulder, Colorado, Harrington hopes the myriad plans will bridge many diverse parts of the community, and in the process unearth thinkers throughout the area. “Our goal is to connect you the correct resources within the city,” she says.

Harrington first came to North Carolina to attend UNC-Chapel Hill’s School of Media and Journalism. She then launched and eventually sold her own PR firm in New York City before a stint in San Francisco and, finally, moving to Raleigh to be close to family in the state. Among Innovate Raleigh’s accomplishments are the booming HQ Raleigh start-up coworking space downtown, and negotiating a direct flight from Raleigh to San Francisco; Harrington’s well-rounded background (she’s also a certified public accountant and speaks fluent Japanese) has matched the job so far. Even more so, the setting is right. Harrington says Raleigh is unlike any other city, and she loves the large-city growth with the twist of Southern hospitality. “The enthusiastic community is something that’s uniquely Raleigh.”  –Catherine Currin