Mining boss walking in footprints of activist grandfather

Michael Brown, president of Barrick Gold USA, moderates a discussion during the 61st annual Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum at the Las Vegas Convention Center Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017.

Michael Brown’s grandfather was a coal miner and union activist who was disabled in a mine accident. “I like to think I am carrying on his activism by looking after our miners and working to sustain and protect their jobs and families,” says Brown, who in 2016 was appointed president of Barrick USA after more than 20 years with the company, and last year moved to Southern Nevada. Barrick employs 22,000 people internationally, including 3,700 in Nevada and 110 in Southern Nevada.

Do you have any recent news you’d like to share?

Barrick will host a technology hackathon here in Las Vegas with our partners at Switch, Cisco and UNLV. It will be on the Switch campus March 9-12.

Has there been or do you foresee any expansion at Barrick’s IT operations in Henderson?

Barrick opened its Henderson office in September 2015 with 30 IT employees supporting our global operations. We have since grown to more than 100 employees, and the space is now home to our global Supply Chain, Finance and Digital departments. In the fall of 2017, Barrick completed an expansion of our space at 2270 Corporate Circle, adding approximately 7,000 square feet to accommodate the growing team. We have also expanded to a second location at 2275 Corporate Circle that houses our “Codemine 2.0” and Digital projects teams. The Digital teams at our Codemines are working with cutting-edge technologies to revolutionize traditional mining for the digital age.

What is the Nevada Corporate Giving Council and what is your role in the organization?

I am a founding member of the NCGC. The council’s mission is to build connection by bringing together senior executives working in corporate philanthropy in Nevada. Together, we are working to create a deeper understanding of community issues and to achieve measureable social change. NCGC conducts an annual poll related to corporate giving practices and publishes the results in the annual Nevada Corporate Giving report.

Tell us about this month’s Construction vs. Cancer event that Barrick sponsors.

Barrick applauds the American Cancer Society’s work to provide resources and support to those in our community whose lives have been touched by cancer. The Construction vs. Cancer event is a fun way for Barrick and our employees to get involved and help make a difference for some of the youngest patients and their families. We hope it will be a fun and memorable day for all.

What other organizations or charitable endeavors are you involved in?

Barrick supports community organizations including Nevada Ballet Theatre, Opportunity Village, Three Square Food Bank, Communities in Schools of Nevada, the Public Education Foundation, After-School All-Stars, Spread the Word Nevada, the Springs Preserve, Anti-Defamation League and Legal Aid of Southern Nevada. In my private life, I am a major booster of the women’s national rowing team, which has won gold in the past three Olympics.

How do you find your philanthropic passion?

My friend Dr. Eva Ritvo just published a book — “BeKindr” — in which she profiles small acts of kindness by individuals. It has inspired me to look for small anonymous opportunities where a little help can make an enormous change in a life. I have helped some young Dreamers by paying the Homeland Security fees for their applications to stay in the country. I have two daughters adopted from Siberia. I would never want them caught in that kind of a situation.

What is the best business advice you’ve received?

“Do you want customers or clients?” In my case, I want partnership. A partnership is built for the long game and is grounded in trust and transparency.

In public life, I am mindful that an elected official is the embodiment of the will of the voters, and remains accountable to the voters, and so the obligation falls to me to find the acceptable win-win solution to any public policy challenge. I am troubled today by the vilification of those willing to give their time to serve in public office.

What’s your greatest professional achievement?

I tend to finish something and then move on to the next endeavor without looking back. Last year, I was honored to receive the Public Education Foundation’s Hero Award. I am first generation to college with an undergraduate degree from Ohio State University. That included two years at Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio. The president of the community college has just invited me to give the commencement address there in May. I like when life comes full circle.

Where’s your favorite place to explore in Las Vegas?

As new condo owner, it would be Target, the Container Store, Lowes and West Elm. However, I am determined in the spring to find time to explore downtown, and I have got to make a trek to Searchlight.

What’s the biggest issue facing Southern Nevada?

The success of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s economic development program, the emergence of professional sports and the recent reform of corporate and personal taxes will bring another wave of population growth. That will place stress on water, education and infrastructure. Unlike the last round of growth, this time we will have resources like Brookings Mountain West, the Guinn Center, Las Vegas Global Economic Alliance, and Council for a Better Nevada to help address the challenges.

Where do you see yourself and your company in 10 years?

Barrick is leading a digital revolution of the mining sector. We have just opened “CodeMine 2.0” in Henderson, where we have dozens of young technology professionals working on state-of-the-art systems to deploy into the mines. Nevada’s geology is plentiful, and mining will continue to be the foundation of the state’s rural economy. Barrick will remain the leader. We are the only mining company with a presence and commitment to Southern Nevada. This is my 24th year at Barrick, and my 30th in the gold sector. Nothing is slowing me down.

As a recent transplant to Southern Nevada, do you plan to reside here long-term?

I spent 20-plus years here as one of the most frequent guests of the Desert Inn and then the Four Seasons. Some of my closest friends are here in Las Vegas. Since surrendering my Virginia driver’s license, I have been elected chairman of my condo board, am rowing on Lake Las Vegas and joined Epiphany Episcopal Church. That afternoon in April when I put Nevada license plates on my car, I felt at home.

Whom do you admire?

In Nevada, I have always taken cues from Jim Murren and Jan Jones Blackhurst. As business and community leaders, they seem to find the right creative balance.

The expression “creative balance” comes from the title of a long-forgotten but inspiring book by the late Elliot Richardson, the attorney general who resigned when President Richard Nixon ordered him to fire the Watergate special prosecutor.

I had the good fortune to work with the amazing Sen. Harry Reid both in Washington and Nevada. I have just finished an excellent biography of Clement Atlee, the founder of post-war modern Britain.

What is your biggest pet peeve?

I am not good at standing in lines, and I have a fierce reaction when I see the civil rights of others being suffocated.