January 12, 2023 - Fort Worth Report

Hillwood leader wants to promote Fort Worth as hub for mobility innovation

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By the time Ian Kinne was in middle school, he jokes that he was the only one in class who knew what a 20-foot equivalent measurement unit was — a type of measurement for large container ships. Talking to his father about the railroad was his informal education into logistics. 

“We talked about containerized freight, we talked about railroading, and I didn’t appreciate it until I really got older,” he said.

Now 28, Kinne is thinking about the future of logistics and transportation — such as autonomous cars and semi-trucks as the director of logistics innovation at Hillwood, the company behind AllianceTexas’ mobility innovation zone. His job is to bring companies to Alliance that want to test and commercialize technology. A win for him is getting a company to ultimately open a distribution center or manufacturing facility in the area. 

Kinne also serves on the city’s entrepreneurship and innovation committee, a group that works to find ways to make Fort Worth a more tech- and business-friendly city. Kinne’s name came up while talking to people around his district about additions to the committee, Fort Worth Council member Leonard Firestone, who chairs the committee, said.

Kinne is young and from Fort Worth. He has a pulse on contemporary economic development and innovation, specifically in the autonomous vehicle and mobility space that Hillwood is developing, which makes him a great addition to the committee, Firestone said.

“He really understands that kind of futuristic innovation as it applies to economic development through real estate development,” he said. “And so I think he’s got just a terrific view through that lens.”

Through an economic development lens, Kinne makes Fort Worth a better place as he recruits companies to Hillwood that creates jobs and helps market the city as tech-friendly, Firestone said. 

Working in innovation

Ian Kinne isn’t a “techie.” You won’t find him putting on virtual reality headsets or getting the newest phone, he said.

“But when you talk about logistics technology, I’m a nerd,” Kinne said. 

About a third of his job is real estate, and the other part is exploring the future of logistics and transportation. He attends conferences around the world to get ahead on the latest emerging technologies. Some ideas he’s come across are flying air taxis, autonomous vehicles and 5G, hydrogen-powered vehicles, drones, autonomous yard trucks and AI-driven warehouse automation. 

“It’s cool to kind of think about (how) things are changing,” Kinne said. “It’s cool to be part of that change, and do it here.”

Watching his parents work — his father at BNSF and mother as a nurse anesthetist — provided good role models for him while growing up in Keller. He said they balanced successful careers with being good parents, and showed the value of hard work.

“I had two parents who were passionate about what they did, thought that it was good to expose their kids to kind of why they’re passionate about it, what they found that they enjoyed in it,” he said. 

Kinne attended college at Texas Christian University. He switched his major six times. Growing up, he had an eye on Hillwood, the real estate development and investment company based in Fort Worth. He watched Hillwood’s Alliance grow while he was in Keller, where his backyard was a cattle pasture. 

“I wanted to work in real estate development because I saw what Hillwood did out here,” he said. “When I got old enough to realize that was the company I was like, that’s where I want to work.”

Two days after graduating from TCU in 2017, Kinne started working as a marketing manager at Hillwood. His first involvement with logistics innovation was a side project. Hillwood started working with Uber as the company attempted to develop and test flying air taxis and later launch in Texas. Kinne was asked to figure out the infrastructure and logistics required to make something like that happen. 

Three years later, Kinne is working with companies that are testing out new software and technology as a full-time job. 

Kinne’s experience turning a side project to a full-time gig informs his advice for people aspiring to be a leader: Be open to new ideas and be willing to do more than what the current role asks someone to do. 

He believes the region sells itself once companies know about Alliance and the DFW area. Another key is support, he said. 

“I think that’s what Hillwood has been really good job of doing that just through the 35-year history out here,” Kinne said. “It has just been bear hugging customers and just having that conversation of, not just (being) your landlord, but what do you need? And how do you grow with us and how do we grow with you?”

“Committed to Fort Worth” 

Jessica Miller, the co-owner of the real estate firm M2G Ventures, worked with Kinne when he was an intern at M2G, and described him as an eager, confident and extroverted person. She thinks curiosity is part of what makes Kinne a good leader. 

Curiosity “is one of the biggest things today that you need to go far and lead people,” Miller wrote. “It is almost impossible to do anything innovative if, at your core, you aren’t curious and want to promote curiosity in the people you lead.” 

Alongside his job at Hillwood, Kinne has a role in the Greater Fort Worth Real Estate Council Young Leaders Council Steering Committee. 

Karen Vermaire Fox, the president of the Greater Fort Worth Real Estate Council, said Kinne has been a member for about five years and has volunteered to help with a variety of events. 

Kinne has worked to bring more TCU students to the council’s Panther Den, a group that teaches young people about the real estate industry. Fox described him as thoughtful and eager to jump in and make something work.

“He’s aware of what the goal of the project (is),” Fox said. “He is great at connecting different people to different things, and using his resources and his skills of getting people to do their best things. And then he does make it fun so you want to kind of be on a committee with him.” 

Fox believes Kinne’s contribution to the council signifies that he will continue to contribute to Fort Worth as his own opportunities and career grows. Kinne is dedicated to Fort Worth, she said. 

“I think that’s an important thing: You’ve got to buy into Fort Worth before you can make it better,” Fox said. “And I think he’s bought in. I think he’s totally committed to that.”

Ian Kinne bio

Birthplace: Fort Worth, but grew up in Keller

Moved to Fort Worth:  2013

Family: Parents, Patrick and Kathryn. Brother, Sean. Sister, Megan. 

Education: Bachelor’s of business administration, major in finance and with real estate emphasis, minor in energy technology and management 

Work experience: Director of logistics innovation, Hillwood (May 2020-present); marketing manager, Hillwood (2017-2020); real estate finance, acquisitions and development intern, M2G Ventures (2016-2017) 

Volunteer experience:

TCU Real Estate Club Mentorship Program

TCU Young Alumni Board Member

ULI Building Industry Leaders / Boys & Girls Club

Greater Fort Worth Real Estate Council YLC Steering Committee

Annual volunteer at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo Greeting Committee

First job: Johnny B’s burgers in Southlake

Advice for someone learning to be a leader: Be open-minded to new ideas. Be the “yes guy,” especially when you start. 

Best advice ever received: It’s better to be consistently good than occasionally great.