Industries that Love Winston-Salem, and Why: Part 1

Industries that Love Winston-Salem, and Why: Part 1

Life Science and Biotech thrive in W-S. Here’s why

In economic development, individual regions tend to focus their efforts on specific industries. In this series of posts, we’ll examine why several individual industries have focused their expansion efforts, ultimately, in Winston-Salem, Forsyth County.

Life Sciences and Biotechnology

With the steady growth of life sciences and biotechnology-related businesses, one might assume that any community has a legitimate shot at being the location of choice for one of these forward-thinking companies. In reality, there are key elements that tend to make certain locations stand out over others.

In the case of Winston-Salem, some of those elements revolve around where and how innovation tends to happen. For instance…

Academic chops

It’s fun when the hometown college has a great football team. But real academic quality tends to be the main attraction for big brains, big ideas and big business. More importantly, quality of academics has to extend beyond ivy-covered walls to state institutions and community colleges. And it’s not something that happens over night. For generations Winston-Salem has nurtured its universities and colleges as they have grown into regionally, nationally and in some cases globally recognized academic and research institutions.

Dedicated environment

Any community can throw the words “research park” in front of an office park and claim they have the perfect place for science or tech-related businesses. In truth, the research parks that succeed are developed with purpose in mind. Particularly for life science and biotech, parks must be designed and created with innovation and collaboration in mind. Piedmont Triad Research Park in downtown Winston-Salem is an urban campus based on those exact objectives with a hearty technology backbone and community-wide support.

Innovation street cred

Businesses and institutions want to be where innovation tends to happen, perhaps because they see it as a sign that an area is conducive to creativity and collaboration. Successful breakthroughs in regenerative medicine, nanotechnology, along with innovative programs in biotechnology have earned Winston-Salem a well-deserved reputation for a culture of creativity.

Naturally, other attributes play significant roles in the decision to start-up, expand or relocated here. But it is the community’s understanding of and commitment to creativity and innovation that companies love.

What factors make other industries’ hearts beat faster? We’ll dive into another industry in Part 2.

So good to be so low

So good to be so low

Low cost of living leads to high ranking for Winston-Salem

A recent blurb in the Winston-Salem Journal reported that our fair city ranks as one of the least expensive places to live in the world.

The Cost of Living Survey for 2011, conducted by Mercer LLC, ranked Winston-Salem 18th out of 214 cities after comparing cost related to things such as housing, food, clothing, transportation and entertainment. Winston-Salem made the list in 2010 at number 17 as well.

This underlines one of the factors that makes Winston-Salem, Forsyth County such an appealing place for businesses interested in expanding or relocating. What makes this ranking all the more significant is when you realize how much you can get for your money here. Winston-Salem manages to be remarkably affordable while still offering an exceptional quality of life.

Although cost of living is only one of several data points to consider when deciding on where to grow a business, the area’s combination of positive attributes (i.e. infrastructure, relatively easy access to major markets and available workforce) is what makes Winston-Salem a ideal choice.

To learn more about the survey, visit the Mercer website (a copy of the report is available for purchase).

Location. Location. Lo — you get the idea.

The economy makes it clear — location is more important than ever.

Everyone knows the old real estate adage. Now that gas prices have shot up and property values have plummeted, what used to be a tired cliché has made a monumental comeback as a fundamental truth. Location is absolutely critical. Efficient access to markets both domestically and internationally is a mandatory for any business wanting to grow. But, even to maintain position in the marketplace requires careful consideration of where to place manufacturing and distribution facilities. The flow of activity coming into North Carolina, and Winston-Salem, Forsyth County is a good indication of the importance of location. Relocation and expansion has continued, due, in part, to Winston-Salem’s ideal spot in the Southeast. Positioned midway up the Eastern Seaboard, the area combines many of the economic advantages associated with setting up shop in the Southeast, yet closer proximity to more consumers who are ready to buy.

”Located within 600 miles of more than half of the U.S. population, approximately 60% of the nation’s industrial and consumer base is within a two-day drive, or a two-hour flight of Winston-Salem.” — WSBI Executive Summary

Throw in the region’s robust transportation and infrastructure, and Winston-Salem’s location comes close to being perfect. Of course, the businesses that are here already know that.

The key to Winston-Salem’s success?

Try these 3 on for size.

People often ask us what is the key to Winston-Salem’s success in attracting businesses to our area of the Piedmont Triad. We always respond that there isn’t one factor. Sure, there are times when one thing pushes us over the top. But in truth, it’s the overall combination of qualities and attributes that gets us into the game.

With that in mind, here are three key reasons why Winston-Salem, Forsyth County is where businesses want to be.

1. Workforce quantity plus quality

This is a big one. The combination of available workforce and advanced education programs has put Winston-Salem on many companies’ short lists for expansion and relocation. In fact, the training programs being developed by Forsyth Technical Community College have even attracted the attention of the last two Presidents of the Unites States, with both dropping by for visits during their respective terms.

2. More bang for your buck

A low cost of living is one of those attributes that many communities in the Southeast can claim. However, Winston-Salem can take it a step further. Not only is Winston-Salem’s cost of living at 92% of the national average; the community manages to offer outstanding infrastructure, schools, and amenities normally associated with more “high-dollar” cities.

3. Innovation is contagious

Winston-Salem calls itself the “City of the Arts and Innovation” for good reason. After nurturing a diverse arts scene since the city’s humble Moravian beginnings, Winston-Salem’s culture of creativity has now spawned innovations in life sciences, nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing. The real difference here is collaboration, a vital part of transforming great ideas into real world applications.

Now, to be honest, these are three important reasons. But, they are not the only reasons. Although, in our experience, workforce and worker training has made a big difference in tipping the final decision in our favor, it truly becomes a matter of how all of the factors come together. In the big picture, Winston-Salem just about has it all.


Update: Cat effect building momentum

Supplier summit a key milestone

Much has been made about the effect that the Caterpillar advanced manufacturing facility could have on the local economy. One of the most important benefits resides in Caterpillar’s selection of area suppliers and vendors.

As construction moves along on the new facility, the Cat Supplier Summit (scheduled for June 3) is a critical milestone in realizing the deal’s full economic potential. The event is proof, not just of the company’s commitment, but of the broad-reaching benefits that are the result of close collaboration between business and community.

Education and training programs are coming together quickly via Forsyth Technical Community College, and we are close to seeing the first round of jobs coming into the area from Illinois. However, the expansion of related businesses around Caterpillar could turn the Cat win into an even bigger success story.

The Summit is a chance for local suppliers and vendors in a range of categories to learn what Caterpillar expects, what they look for in partners, and how local companies can rise to the top of the list.

The Summit also seems to be the beginning of an important phase for job seekers. According to an article in the  the Winston-Salem Journal, no jobs have been posted for the new facility in Winston-Salem. However, the article quotes Forsyth Technical Community College president, Gary Green, as saying that the college will begin assessing job seekers in June, with most initial openings at the facility being contract jobs.

More information about the Summit is available via the Winston-Salem Journal website.