Family Affair

Booming high-tech research company a Wright State family affair

photo of The Bridges Family at Peerless Technologies

The Bridges family at Peerless Technologies Corporation. (Left to right: David Bridges, James Kunk, Andrea Kunk, Marcia Bridges, and Michael Bridges).

A plaque celebrating a hole-in-one sits on the bookshelf in the office of Michael Bridges, president of Peerless Technologies Corporation.

The 51-year-old Bridges says the ace occurred “way back when” during one of the first rounds of golf he ever played.

After teeing off on the par 3, 14th hole at Twin Base Golf Course on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Bridges’ ball vanished.

“We looked and we looked and we looked,” he recalled.

Exasperated, Bridges was tramping back up the course across the green and preparing to throw down a new ball when he pulled up the pin and there it was—a hole-in-one.

It turns out that hole-in-one wasn’t the only one for Bridges. But the second ace had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with smarts, skill, and hard work.

Bridges hit a hole-in-one with Peerless Technologies, a high-tech, military-focused research and consulting company that in 10 short years has steadily swelled to more than 85 employees and operations in six states.

Peerless is a family affair. Bridges’ daughter, Andrea Kunk, is the chief financial officer. His son, David, worked at the company managing its information and communication systems, until his recent commission as a cyberspace operations officer in the Air Force.

All three are graduates of Wright State University, as is Bridges’ wife, Marcia. Even Andrea’s husband, James Kunk, is a Wright State grad. And Peerless is filled with employees who call Wright State their alma mater.

Bridges graduated from Wright State in 1981 in systems engineering, mechanical options. It was a well-rounded technical discipline that didn’t lock him in to any one thing.

“It gave me a fundamental solid education that I could take in many different directions, and that’s what I did,” he said. “I had the training to become a specialist, but took it in a direction of becoming more of a generalist in terms of business.”

The direction Bridges took was to build a 20-year career in defense contracting, working for firms from San Diego to Washington, D.C., before returning home and then starting his own company in 2000.

Bridges borrowed the name of his father’s company—Peerless Transportation and Storage—then called on his daughter to set up an accounting system and lay other groundwork for the new business. He also enlisted the help of The Entrepreneurs Center, a Dayton technology business incubator that nourishes startup companies.

Barbara Hayde, president of The Entrepreneurs Center, said Bridges instantly immersed himself into doing all the right things.

“He’s an excellent salesperson. And he’s a risk taker,” said Hayde. “It’s not one bit of surprise to me that he’s as successful as he is.”

Peerless headquarters, which sits just outside the fence line of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, hums with scientists and engineers working on computer, human-performance, and intelligence technologies for the military and other federal clients. More than half of the company’s professional staff holds security clearances.

“We do some classified programs, but I would say much of that is much more mundane than you would think,” Bridges said. “But the ‘mundane’ adds up to protecting the country.”

Peerless is currently working on a program for the Department of Homeland Security. It involves developing computer software for building owners that will enable them to determine the best locations in buildings to install sensors that detect the release of chemical or biological weapons by terrorists.

For example, said Bridges, the software would point the operators of Wright State University’s Nutter Center to the prime places to temporarily install such sensors if President Obama paid a visit.

Peerless was among six companies that recently won a $93 million Air Force contract to provide medical, computer, and financial support for the transfer of the U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine from Texas to Wright-Patterson as part of the Base Realignment and Closure Act.

The aerospace school examines the stresses of aircraft and spacecraft travel on the human body. In addition to the 1,100 jobs that will be transferred or created at Wright-Patterson, the move is also expected to generate as many as 250 contractor-related jobs for doctors, nurses, molecular biologists, and other professionals.

Peerless announced the contract award during a news conference at Wright State. The company’s subcontractors include Wright State, the Wright State Research Institute, the Boonshoft School of Medicine, and the medical school’s Division of Aerospace Medicine.

Bridges grew up in Dayton and began attending Wright State when he was still a senior at Stebbins High School. Before he graduated from Wright State, he put in several stints at Wright-Patterson, working in the Flight Dynamics Lab and at the Air Logistics Command Headquarters. Bridges later moved to the Aeronautical Systems Center, where he worked on the F-16 jet fighter program.

Bridges’ affection for military aircraft is hard to hide. The walls at Peerless headquarters are lined with photos of military planes, including the exotic Bird of Prey, a black-project aircraft designed to demonstrate stealth technology.

There is also a tribute to aviation history. Wooden propellers hang motionless on the walls of the main stairway as if frozen in mid-spin. And a faded handbill trumpeting Charles Lindbergh’s national tour following his famous trans-Atlantic flight peers out from behind a glass frame.

The headquarters is a stone’s throw from Wright State, which was more than just a center of learning for Bridges. He met his wife-to-be at the school library, where she worked as a summer hire. The two were married a year later and currently live in a country home near Yellow Springs.

Marcia Bridges, who graduated from Wright State with a degree in biology in 1983, recently completed her master’s degree in counseling and hopes to use the family’s horses to do equine therapy, in which horses are used to promote emotional growth.

Son David graduated from Wright State with a business degree in Management Information Systems (MIS) in 2006 and completed the Master of Information Systems cohort in 2010.

The couple’s daughter, Andrea Kunk, graduated from Wright State in 2004, also with a business degree in MIS and then earned her MBA from Wright State in 2007. She has been invited to become a part of Wright State’s newly formed Information Services/Supply Chain Management Council.

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