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Lightbridge Academy Announces Craig Murray as New Chief Development Officer

Murray will help the fast-growing early education and child care brand develop in untapped markets and position incoming franchise owners for success.

By Luca Piacentini1851 Franchise Managing Editor
SPONSOREDUpdated 4:16PM 08/15/22

ISELIN, N.J. –  Lightbridge Academy, one of the nation’s leading early education and child care providers, has experienced impressive franchise growth this year, expanding into both new and existing markets with eight unique signings for a total of 14 new locations to date. Building on that franchise development momentum and ensuring incoming franchisees have the support they need to thrive, Lightbridge Academy is expanding its development team with the addition of Craig Murray as the new Chief Development Officer. Murray will lead and oversee the franchise development team, leveraging his experience to create a repeatable, best-in-class development process that enables the Lightbridge Academy brand to scale in a responsible manner.

Murray brings 15-years experience as a real estate developer in the dental industry, where he worked for three major dental organizations, built over 300 dental offices in 20 states and managed a $180 million book of business. Murray’s most recent role was as a Divisional Vice President for Dental Care Alliance, where he helped the company scale its operations by establishing best practices across over 100 offices. 

When the opportunity presented itself to make a change and join the Lightbridge Academy team, Murray said all the stars aligned. 

“It was all about timing — I was looking for a chance to apply my operational and development experience and help to bring an organization to the next level,” said Murray. “When I heard about the opportunity at Lightbridge Academy, it sounded like the perfect next step. Over the past 25 years, they’ve done a great job expanding responsibly throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Now that it is time for the brand to grow nationally, I am excited to be in a leadership role that allows me to help advance the company’s growth plans. There is plenty of room for high quality early education businesses and I gravitate toward industries that make a difference and add value. Best of all, working at Lightbridge Academy, will give me the opportunity to give back to families and children by opening more child care centers.”

And Murray could seeLightbridge Academy was on the cusp of major franchise expansion

“As a more regional brand, the company has tremendous opportunity to move into prime markets all over the country where the demand is strong, but other large competitors are sold out,” said Murray. “Franchisees can go out there quickly and deliver a top-notch service that is uniquely child care and family-centric. The Lightbridge team has proven its ability to offer a robust level of support, especially for those coming to new markets.” 

Murray says his new role will include leveraging his experience to make the onboarding process even more seamless. As an accomplished development strategist, Murray’s vision and expertise in business performance has propelled growth as a results-driven project development professional in multi-site real estate, construction, and provider-based mergers and acquisitions. He brings outstanding broker relations, the ability to identify prime site selections, and effective lease negotiation skills along with a successful track record of reducing lease expenses.

“We can bring a new speed to market by tapping into long-term relationships across the country with developers, real estate brokers and construction firms in order to build best-in-class educational child care centers for our franchisees,” Murray said. “As soon as we sell a franchise, my team will be there step by step to walk them through the people, processes and systems that are in place to move them from signing of an agreement to opening their center.”

For example, Murray says one initiative Lightbridge Academy is currently working on is the process of “land banking” certain target markets. “What that means is that we can go out and find land with a developer, build the center ourselves and then market the opportunity to identify a franchisee who might want to take over ownership but doesn’t want to wait to build their own center,” he said. “We are going to proactively go out and find sites that we think are ideal and jumpstart the process. This will shorten the time to market and make it much faster for franchisees to get operational.”  

By the end of 2022, the Lightbridge team hopes to add 15 new centers across the country and is targeting several markets primed for growth, including TexasVirginia and Florida

“Overall, my goal is to create a replicable, best-in-class process and development team that can scale the organization as quickly and responsibly as possible,” said Murray. “At the same time, we need to deliver best-in-class locations and facilities so franchisees can meet the growing demand of the families and communities they serve. I look forward to helping owners achieve their goal of business ownership and expanding their childcare portfolios.”

CEO of Lightbridge Academy Gigi Schweikert expressed her appreciation for Murray’s deep experience and alignment with the company's core values, culture and ability to lead the development team at Lightbridge Academy. 

“As one of the fastest-growing franchises, we are pushing full steam ahead with our franchise development plans, and Murray’s extensive development expertise, business and leadership skills, and market knowledge will be an invaluable resource for Lightbridge Academy franchisees,” said Schweikert. “We're looking forward to entering more communities with our Circle of Care® to make a difference for families in new markets across the East Coast and the South.”

Learn more about franchise opportunities at

About Lightbridge Academy: 

Established in 1997, the company was founded as a family business based on core values and a Circle of Care philosophy that places equal importance on the needs of children, their families, teachers, center owners and the community. Lightbridge Academy provides quality early education and child care programs to children aged six weeks through kindergarten. The company currently has over 125 child care centers either open or in development throughout Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. In response to COVID-19, Lightbridge Academy launched The Lightbridge Promise as the Gold Standard for health & safety in the childcare industry. In 2022, Lightbridge Academy was featured for the 7th year on Entrepreneur Magazine's Franchise 500. In 2020, the company was featured on the Inc. 5000 ranking, Franchise Times Top 200-plus awards, and on Newsweek’s 2021 list of America’s Best Customer Service.

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