I arrived in Dayton in the fall of 2005 with absolutely no intention of staying.
It was the second stop on what I expected to be a 20-plus-year Air Force career. After a short time, I recognized that my passion was well aligned with the mission of the Air Force Research Laboratory where I was assigned and, at the end of 2008, I decided to leave active duty and continue my work there as a civilian employee of the Air Force and make my home in the Dayton area.
There were many factors that fed that decision. As a new father of two kids, the quantity and diversity of the parks in the area were a significant driver, as was the density of good schools in the area. We knew that by staying in Dayton they could have a well-balanced and active upbringing as they navigated their childhood years which was, and still is, important to us.
A personal driver for me was the world-class talent that I was able to interact with every day. As a naturally curious person, I could count on constant professional growth just by being around such smart and driven colleagues and community members.
As the years passed, I was exposed to more great companies. I discovered companies big and small, like WinSupply, Henny Penny, 361 Interactive and countless others. That exposure nudged me to leave the Air Force and co-found Mile Two in 2015. As a company working at the cutting edge of technologies such machine learning, self-piloting airplanes and other human machine teaming capabilities, Mile Two could exist and succeed in almost any market — including Austin, Boston or San Francisco — but we chose to locate our headquarters in Dayton because we knew we could be just as successful here.
After 16 years, we are still here, both professionally and personally, and plan to stay because Dayton provides great access to world-class problems to work on, the talented people to tackle those problems, the universities to develop the next generation of problem-solvers and the environment to raise our kids.
While I will never discount my own upbringing in the hills of West Virginia, Dayton has become home to my family and my business. I feel privileged to experience a great meal at Sueño after an exciting basketball game at the University of Dayton or a cold beer and some pool at King’s Table after a youth basketball game with the family and friends we have built in the Dayton area.
Jeff Graley is a veteran, serial entrepreneur and the co-founder and President of Mile Two.
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