Ch@t: Hodge’s Institute for Defense and Business brings DoD, private industry together for best practices

Posted 1/3/20

Major General (Retired) Jim Hodge is the president of the Institute for Defense and Business (IDB), a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit located in Chapel Hill. A West Point graduate, General Hodge — who lives …

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Ch@t: Hodge’s Institute for Defense and Business brings DoD, private industry together for best practices

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Major General (Retired) Jim Hodge is the president of the Institute for Defense and Business (IDB), a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit located in Chapel Hill. A West Point graduate, General Hodge — who lives in Governors Club — is proud to have played football for the Army team, where he had the chance to compete against both UNC and Duke. Hodge and his wife, Michelle, moved to the area from Colorado Springs specifically to take this job with the IDB and have thoroughly enjoyed living in Chatham County. He’s used the experience, leadership and broad network he developed over his 34-year Army career to lead the IDB over the past five years. The IDB provides executive education producing two important results. IDB alumni depart more confident and capable of leading meaningful change in their organizations and they are empowered to reduce government waste by increasing effectiveness and efficiency in Department of Defense (DoD) business processes. You can view the IDB’s website at www.IDB.org.

Most of our readers probably haven’t heard about the Institute for Defense and Business. What does the Institute do?

The Institute for Defense and Business is a unique organization. It was chartered by the state of North Carolina and the University of North Carolina in the late 1990s to help address challenges in the areas of logistics, trade, transportation and commerce within North Carolina.

The IDB, an education and research institute, was designed to bring DoD and private industry together in an academic setting to discuss common issues and challenges, which was unheard of during that time period — the goal being that upon return to their home organizations, the DoD participants could reduce waste and increase efficiency by applying best business practices learned from private industry.

And when you think about logistics, supply chain and complex industrial manufacturing, it’s easy to see how efficiencies in those areas could lead to significant cost avoidance or cost savings.

And as time has passed, we’ve also had the chance to work with the Department of Homeland Security and the Veterans Administration. We’ve since pursued opportunities to develop programs across a variety of topics that range from strategic policy and planning, to cybersecurity, enterprise resource planning software and many more. The IDB wouldn’t be agile enough to respond to new education requirements if it wasn’t for our location here in Chapel Hill, because it gives us convenient access to a large pool of incredibly talented faculty from all the esteemed universities in the area. As you know, their reputation is second to none and they raise our programs to a higher level.

It’s extremely gratifying to work for an organization that’s designed to make our government better by improving the critical thinking and leadership skills of those who attend. For me, it’s very nice, because I have the opportunity to give back, and giving back feels good.

Dealing with the Department of Defense and private industry obviously has national level implications. Can you explain what impact the IDB might have on the RTP the local community?

There’s the obvious benefit of revenue that’s associated with arranging for all the things you need to run a program, like faculty, classroom facilities, lodging, meals and transportation. Local businesses, UNC, Duke and N.C. State have all benefited in that regard. But I think there are additional benefits that aren’t directly related to revenue.

I don’t have to convince you, because you already know this, but this is an incredible area! It has so much to offer. Many of the DoD participants haven’t been to the Research Triangle area before and this area easily makes a positive impression on attending students.

I’m a great example. Thirty-four years in the Army and I was never stationed in North Carolina. But I was excited to take this job because I had attended a couple of programs at the Kenan Flagler Business School’s Rizzo Center while on active duty. The impression it made on me was enduring and when I had an opportunity to live and work here, I took it without hesitation!

The same thing happens to our students. For them, it’s a Chamber of Commerce moment. These visits always serve to create a lasting impression. There is additional benefit the IDB offers to the local community. Every year the IDB arranges for five senior retired DoD and DHS leaders to serve as IDB Executive Fellows and they interact with the students in our programs.

As you can imagine, given their experience, expertise and leadership skills, they serve to elevate the quality of our classes. And for the past three years, we’ve arranged for the Fellows to collectively come to Chapel Hill to participate in a panel discussion that’s open to the public. It’s exciting to organize an event that allows the community to interact with this special group.

People have enjoyed hearing the perspectives of these senior leaders and the opportunity to ask questions. This year’s panel was open to the public and held in November at the Governors Club in Chatham County.

Tell us more about the IDB Executive Fellows...

The Executive Fellows Program began in 2005 and since that time more than 85 senior retired flag officers and senior executive service leaders have served in this capacity and visited the Research Triangle area.

This year’s cohort of Generals and Admirals represent all four of the military services and the U.S. Coast Guard and range in rank from two stars to four stars with 177 cumulative years of service to the country. Their collective experience and expertise are incredibly impressive. Every year in September, we hold a special induction ceremony in Washington, D.C., and we’ve been fortunate to have the support of the N.C. Delegation, especially Congressman David Price, who has provided remarks at these ceremonies numerous times over the years. The Fellows engage with our students as mentors, speakers, coaches, advisors, and in some cases, even critics by providing valuable feedback.

As a non-profit, are there opportunities to help other non-profits in the area?

There are a couple I’d like to point out, because it’s always nice to be able to support one another. For several years, IDB employees have donated food items to the CORA Food Pantry and earlier this year we were also able to participate in and support the CORA Golf Tournament. Although we didn’t golf all that well, I know our contributions helped.

The IDB also provides an annual donation to the Fisher Houses at both Ft. Bragg and Camp Lejeune that provide housing where military and veterans’ families can stay while loved ones are receiving medical treatment. In addition, the IDB also supported the Gary Sinise Foundation by attending the Wall Signing and Key Ceremonies for the Chatham County home built for wounded veteran USMC Sgt. Michael Frazier and his family. Also, many IDB employees have volunteered to assist with local holiday Toy Chest efforts.

In transitioning from your military career, how have you and your wife adjusted to life in Chatham County?

I think we’ve adjusted very well. You may have been able to tell from my earlier comments that we’re very fond of the area. The people are great and we’ve met so many wonderful friends. On the day we were moving in and waiting the delivery of our household goods, we received enough snow that the driveway needed to be shoveled and I didn’t want any of the movers slipping on snow and ice. Of course, my snow shovel was on the moving truck. But my neighbor saw the predicament and offered to let me use her shovel and the next thing you know, she invited us to come over for dinner that night. It’s hard to beat neighbors like that and they’ve been very good friends.

But it’s not just the people, the area has so much to offer. Michelle is a bit of an extrovert and makes friends easily and when she’s not making friends, she likes volunteering. She volunteers at the CORA Food Pantry and is also a mentor for the Chapel Hill–Carrboro Schools’ Blue Ribbon Mentor-Advocate Program. She takes mandolin lessons from Bart Urbanski in Pittsboro and not that I’m advertising, but she loves spending time in Pittsboro…at Bynum Front Porch, Vino, Postal Fish, the Pittsboro Road House, New Horizons and Deep River Mercantile to name a few! Friendly, interesting people, beautiful scenery and great things to do. What’s not to like?

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