Alumni Spotlight: Tighe Bullock

Young Alum Uses Dual Degrees in Entrepreneurial Endeavors

In life, there are those who are sluggish and those who hit the ground running. Occasionally, you might find someone who sprints before they even hit the ground. One such person is 2011 graduate Tighe Bullock.

Bullock tackled a double major during his time at B&E, pursuing degrees in accounting and business management with an area of emphasis in entrepreneurship. But two years before he donned his cap and gown, he started his own real estate development company.

The objective of Bullock Properties, LLC, has been to renovate and revitalize dilapidated structures located in Charleston, West Virginia's West Side. While maintaining his duties as a student in Morgantown, he acquired and renovated two commercial buildings in Charleston and secured a grant for remodeling the building's exterior. By the time he and his crew were done, the buildings were home to a hair salon, tutoring facility, office space, apartment building, storage spaces and a log cabin.

"We particularly focus in historical preservation," Bullock said. "I really like the idea of creating something out of nothing, where nobody sees any value. Bringing together the right parties and the right conditions to create something everybody else had given up on. My efforts, combined with a lot of other hardworking people in the West Side, have really turned the area around."

While the project's completion is a source of true pride for Bullock, it didn't come easy.

"It was hard. There was one semester where I drove home to Charleston every single weekend without exception. Many of my friends thought I dropped out. My social life took a beating but it was absolutely worth it in the long term," Bullock recalled.

All of his hard work landed him on Morgantown Magazine's "30 Under 30" list, a tribute to the best and brightest young talent in Morgantown. He was thrilled with the recognition.

"It was a great opportunity to meet a lot of young, interesting people with the same attitude about the future of Morgantown and the state of West Virginia in general," he said. "I see a really bright future. I'd like to see us diversify our industry within the state because I think we're not using our best resource, which is our people. But that goes back to education."

And according to Bullock, who is currently a student at the WVU School of Law, a quality education has been fundamental in assisting his business aspirations.

"The business school prepared me really well. My accounting degree has helped me be very comfortable with my projections and numbers (when going to banks for financing)," he said, recalling challenging, but fair, experiences in accounting classes with Dr. Jack Dorminey and Dr. Ade Neidermeyer. "They expected a lot out of us and treated us as professionals."

Bullock began his construction career in Charleston at Gaddy Engineering Co. in 2002 at the age of 14. He started from the bottom, sweeping floors and taking out trash. Over the years, he gained new responsibilities that accompany experience, and by the time he left the job to attend college, he was running the job site as a foreman.

"That's really why I wanted to study business - I figured that was the next step. I want to keep doing construction, but I want to do it on a larger scale," he said.

Bullock said that he also puts his management degree to good use each day while managing crews of 5-10 workers.

"(My degree has been helpful when) getting all the teams focused and oriented toward a goal," he said. "It's very interesting managing a construction crew. I'm about half the age of many of the guys working for me. I really have to command their respect. By that, I mean I have to show them that I know what I am doing. That I can do everything that I'm asking of them. I lead by example."

Sometimes, Bullock hires young high-school or vocational-school students to his crews. He says it's important to give them a sense of responsibility and make sure it is rewarded.

"I'll take a young kid and show them how to do something. Once they have it down, I'll tell them 'Okay, you're responsible for this now.' I'll do that two or three times and then give them a raise," he said. "I think that creates an intrinsic reward with people that enables them to find empowerment in their jobs. Everyone benefits from that kind of leadership and I think that the B&E school taught me that."

In addition to finding academic success and starting his own business, Bullock has also served his hometown of Thurmond, W.Va., as a city council member since 2009. The town is tiny – with only five residents listed for the 2010 census. But the experience in local government has been an important one.

One of Bullock's goals has been to market the city as a tourist destination. Thurmond rests right along the New River in beautiful Fayette County, W.Va., a prime location for whitewater rafting, climbing and hiking - all activities he has had the pleasure of enjoying since his youth.

"We get a decent amount of money from the state, and we've done several projects. We founded the first city park. We are trying to get the whole town on a septic system. We're still dealing with 19th century issues. But it's been great at piquing my interest in the whole political process," he said, noting that he recently entered the race for the West Virginia House of Delegates – 32nd House District.

Two recurring themes throughout all of Bullock's activities have been a love for the state of West Virginia, and the ability to look ahead.

"I've always been very future-oriented. You have to make some sacrifices in the short term to reach the goals you want to see yourself reach in the long term. College is a great time to do that. As soon as I get out of law school, I'd like to go back to what I was doing before on a much larger scale."