As we continue to spotlight our employees and the unique background and skills they bring to the Silicon Ranch team, we shift the focus in this feature to Matt Beasley, our Chief Marketing Officer. Matt’s global marketing expertise strengthens SRC’s business development activities, as his previous work experience includes postings in New York, Tokyo, and London to develop and implement marketing strategies for large multinational clients. At SRC, Matt’s focus is on expanding project development to new markets and on creating tailored marketing, community engagement, and media plans to help our partners maximize public awareness of their solar energy commitment. In addition to his role at Silicon Ranch, Matt also serves as the President of the Tennessee state chapter of the Solar Energy Industries Association (TenneSEIA).
In the following interview, Matt shared a bit of his personal background and how that led to his work at Silicon Ranch.
Tell us about your background and experience and how that led to work in the solar industry?
I have a varied background in business development, as well as in marketing and brand development. I started my career in London on brand development and then worked all around the world on major consumer brands. In the middle of that, I got into business development in the infrastructure space, and it was there where I developed my interest for all the things we take for granted that keep our country going. I had worked primarily with transportation and flood control infrastructure, but it wasn’t until later that I developed an interest in energy infrastructure.
I knew Matt Kisber and Regan Farr from their days in state government work and followed their careers because I had tremendous respect for them. When they started Silicon Ranch, I was working in London but knew that for the right opportunity, my family and I would want to return home to Nashville. I followed their progress, and the timing of my return to the U.S. and their team expansion was a perfect fit. I’ve now been with Silicon Ranch for nearly three years.
How did the infrastructure sector help you apply the business knowledge you gained to your current role?
In all the different roles and industry experiences I’ve had, it is always fascinating to see how transferable those experiences are. There’s a common thread that covers all of those, which is, in ways, the backbone to our economy. The surface transportation infrastructure and what it means to the communities it serves has a lot of overlap with energy infrastructure. Essentially I’ve come to appreciate that it’s how every category of our infrastructure works together to connect communities and keep America competitive on the world’s stage. But it’s also about relationships. Though Silicon Ranch is a highly technical business, it’s inherently a personal business, which is all about building the right relationships with your partners and the communities you serve.
You’ve mentioned the phrase “a social license to operate” when referring to Silicon Ranch’s work before. Tell us what that phrase means.
A social license to operate is an expression we use to describe the general acceptance or approval we receive from the communities in which we site our projects. Because Silicon Ranch develops to own all of our projects for the long term, we have to build the right relationships and understand how meaningful those relationships are at the local level for the life of the project. It’s not something we earn and is unchanging. It’s something we earn every day and never take for granted.
How do you develop the right relationships with your partners and communities?
One of the things we say often at Silicon Ranch is that “once you’ve seen one solar project, you’ve seen one solar project.” What that means, in short, is that every project is slightly different and comes with its own nuanced challenges and opportunities. When we approach a project, each community has its own needs and attitudes toward solar energy. A lot of the projects we do are the first large-scale renewable energy projects these communities have seen, so we often have to take a step back and begin with information and education that helps these communities know what to expect from our projects and also from us.
How do you continue engagement with the communities you serve?
Many of our contracts at Silicon Ranch are 20 to 30-year projects, which means we are committing to being a member of the community for decades. This is a different mindset and way of approaching the development process. While many people focus almost exclusively on the environmental impact of our projects, there’s also great value to the economic development impact these projects can make for a community, not to mention how that community can brand itself as a business-friendly place with cutting-edge infrastructure. Essentially, we’re working with local economic development authorities to give them another tool in their toolboxes as they are recruiting businesses and industries to locate to their areas or regions.
In what other ways are you building and growing the Silicon Ranch brand?
So many companies take for granted the value of their brand. With my background in brand development, I understand how this can influence the way people perceive our company and our goals for their communities. Beyond the financial impact we have, one of the most direct ways we have an impact on the communities we serve is through the relationships we develop with schools and educational institutions. With the evolution for how science and math curriculum is presented, the renewable energy industry will be a more important and appealing future career path for the next generation. That’s one of the things we focus on in the communities where we have projects. Some specific examples include a partnership we have with Mead High School in Colorado, where they have developed a novel program called Mead Energy Academy to educate students in all types of energy, including renewables. This has been an exciting partnership for us to demonstrate the value of our organization but also to have a direct impact on the next generation, which is truly rewarding for every member of our team.
What do you think makes Silicon Ranch unique?
A few things truly stand out to me about Silicon Ranch. One is our founders and their public service experience, which is an important part the DNA of our company. The second thing is Silicon Ranch’s business model of long-term ownership. Unlike many solar developers who develop projects to sell them to third parties, Silicon Ranch owns and operates our entire portfolio. When you approach something from the mindset of owning it, naturally you will take a different approach to how you develop, design, build, and maintain it, and this underscores our commitment in terms of doing what we say we’ll do. Having that same commitment has led to our success rate at Silicon Ranch. It’s truly a testament to the organization’s values.
Tell us about the culture of Silicon Ranch.
One of the things I admire the most about the ways in which Matt, Reagan, and David (Vickerman) have built Silicon Ranch is in the deliberate and selective ways they have built the team. With careful selection of talented team members, we have a strong and diverse team. That makes it fun to be a part of what we’re doing at Silicon Ranch.
What are you most proud of?
I’ve been fortunate to work in a lot of different industries all over the world, but the work we’re doing at Silicon Ranch to bring cutting-edge technology and energy infrastructure to rural communities—that they can be proud and that makes them progressive and helps them recruit new industry to their communities that generates real jobs—that’s an exciting thing to be a part of and what I’m most proud of at Silicon Ranch.
How do you spend your spare time outside of work?
We have a daughter Laura who just turned three and a son Wilson who will turn one in January, so my wife Louise and I certainly have our hands full at home! But I will say without any hesitation that being a husband and father brings me greater joy than anything else I’ve ever done.