As a child growing up in Greensboro, David Robinson had an interest in how machines worked –
a fascination that may have driven his parents a little crazy.
“I did take apart everything and got yelled at a lot for taking stuff apart,” Robinson said. “TVs, computers, cars. Sometimes I put them back together. Every once in awhile. Just figuring out how things worked was interesting.”
That boyhood interest led Robinson to advanced degrees in aerospace engineering at N.C. State University and, in 2004, his founding of Corvid Technologies, where he remains president.
The Mooresville based-company just broke ground on a new $28.9 million corporate headquarters just east of Interstate 77 Exit 31.
Corvid provides computational physics analysis support to the defense and automotive industries. Its customers range from the U.S. Department of Defense, to U.S. Olympic teams, to the motorsports industry.
“Basically, what we do is we model really complex physical events on big, giant supercomputers,” Robinson explained.
These complicated and precise projections save time, money and more importantly, lives, he added.
“The idea is if you can model it on a computer before you ever build it or before you test it, you can save the government time and money,” said Robinson. “You can also develop weapons and defensive solutions that are more optimized rather than developing an armored vehicle, putting it in (combat), having guys die and then coming back and seeing what’s wrong with it.”
The same goes for motorsports customers.
Instead of testing on a real-life track and risking the car or driver, Corvid creates proposed technologies called virtual design development.
‘Bumbled my way’
Robinson said he fell into founding Corvid 14 years ago.
“I had no aspirations to run a company,” Robinson admitted. “I just fumbled my way into it.”
Despite not doing “real good in high school because I was lazy,” Robinson earned undergraduate, master’s and doctorate degrees in aerospace engineering.
He worked in the computer science field for a few summers in the Research Triangle Park area while attending school, but soon realized that wasn’t for him.
He earned his pilot’s license and, after earning his doctorate in the late 1990s, took a job at the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia, where he worked for five years.
Robinson had no desire to go into upper management there and ultimately decided “civil service wasn’t the life for me,” he said.
Instead, he was awarded funding through the Small Business Innovation Research program and sought to continue work he enjoyed.
“I left and came here and somehow bumbled my way into Corvid,” he said.
Familiar with the Lake Norman area from vacationing here and from having friends in the motorsports industry, Robinson founded Corvid Technologies in 2004, with its first office in a Mooresville strip mall.
Corvid Technologies has since grown to 160 employees in five offices across the country, with the expectation of hiring 40 more by the end of the year, Robinson said.
Robinson attributes the company’s near 30 percent year-over-year growth rate to customer satisfaction.
“The vast majority of our growth is word of mouth,” he said.
Moving up … and out
Corvid has repeat customers dating back to its early days, Robisnon said
Such growth means Corvid will move from its third location, a 13,500 square-foot facility on Overhill Drive with 110 employees, to the proposed $28.9 million corporate campus.
The 15-acre site, at Mooresville’s southern edge, is about a mile from Lowe’s corporate headquarters and just across Lake Davidson from Ingersoll Rand’s corporate headquarters.
There, Corvid has the option of expanding to another 10 acres if needed, Robinson said.
The proposed main facility totals 90,000 square feet, while a data center for high-performance computing, a mechanics lab and a prototyping lab is expected to total an additional 25,000 square feet, he said.
The facility is targeted for completion by June 2019 and is expected to add 367 local jobs over five years with an average salary of $110,000, he said.
“I’m looking forward to having all this over with so we can go back to business,” Robinson said.
Iredell County and the town of Mooresville approved a combined $2 million in tax incentives for the company, and the state is providing $9 million through its Job Development Investment Grant program.
While this state and local money was important in the company’s decision to pick North Carolina for its headquarters over Oklahoma, home to the company’s parent organization, Chickasaw Nation Industries Inc., Robinson joked that he picked Mooresville because he didn’t want to move to Oklahoma.
Joking aside, Robinson said the real reason he based Corvid’s headquarters in Mooresville is the many universities within a three-hour drive that regularly churn out graduates with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering, computer science and mathematics, he said.
“It’s a nice talent pool to recruit from,” he said.