The return of optimism?

Will the real economic recovery please stand up?

Several months have passed since the word “recovery” was first uttered in reference to the current economic state. At first no one seemed to be buying it, or buying anything else, for that matter. Then phrases like “double-dip” began to surface more often than Seinfeld reruns. Fast forward through the holidays and the predictable January hangover.

Now that Q1 has passed the midway point, has there been a shift in the glass-half-empty versus half-full conundrum? Have people (business leaders and consumers) simply decided that enough is enough? There seems to be growing optimism related to employment and long-term economic health.

Lets look beyond the recent break in the weather for reasons for this apparent new-found positive outlook.

Several indicators are moving in the right direction

We borrowed a Mar. 8 chart from Money-Rates.com to show how the numbers tend to be inching toward growth. And the new home starts numbers just released are even better. Is it enough to constitute economic elation? Certainly not, but it is good news.

Who cares about the indicators?

At least in part because employment lags behind overall economic growth, consumers are not letting the statistics drive their purchase decisions. What matters to people is the tangible — “do I have a paycheck or not?” The result is a consumer base that is still highly cautious about their spending.

Companies are succeeding right here.

Specifically in Winston-Salem and the surrounding Piedmont Triad region, there are many examples that could be used to cite an economy on the rise. We’ve gone on about Cat (with good reason) but other successes may be even more convincing (with a congrats to Jeff Garstka, former-WSBI VP, and his recent success expanding Lowe’s Companies data center operations in Wilkes County).

Fundamentals are in. Aren’t they?

Is the long road to recovery paved with solid fundamentals? Are companies returning to long-term profitability rather than short-term gains that undermine core value? Are consumers actually choosing to save instead of spending what they don’t have? Do they have a choice?

Okay. That last one was more of a question. What do you think? Is there reason to be cautiously optimistic?

 

What’s behind #1?

For the seventh consecutive year, and the ninth time in the last 10 years, North Carolina ranks number one in Site Selection magazine’s list of states with the top business climate. You can read the article here.

However, one area of the article may hold a key as to why North Carolina has spent so much time on top. And it is summed up nicely by Keith Crisco, NC Commerce Secretary:

“We work just as hard on a project with 42 jobs as we do on a project with 860 jobs… That’s how you do well… They’re all a big deal these days. It’s like the Johnny Cash song ‘One Piece at a Time’ — he built that car one piece at a time, and that’s how we’re going to transform the [circumstances] we’re in right now.”

Could this be the difference maker in North Carolina’s economic development efforts? That local and state organizations exert every bit of effort to make expanding or relocating to NC as attractive to smaller businesses as it is to the big boys?

To understand why NC leaders take this approach, think of the suppliers that typically follow a major manufacturer into a new location — smaller companies that, when combined, can add up to a major lift in employment, among other areas. Also, consider what, in part, makes a state or local community less sensitive to economic ups and downs — a diverse range of industries and sizes of business.

Success by association?

Naturally, with the Southeast dominating much of the top 10 spots, NC excels in part because of its location, infrastructure, available workforce, relatively low cost of living, and excellent quality of life. But when a business knows that a state is going to go the extra mile to help your business succeed in its new home, that could be all the incentive a business needs.

Understanding the “Cat” effect

With good reason, the Caterpillar advanced manufacturing project in Winston-Salem has drawn much attention. The facility is under construction and the expected boost to local employment and the area economy is certainly the development story of the year here. However, the real impact is yet to come.

Caterpillar Comes to Winston-Salem/ Forsyth County

Caterpillar picks Forsyth County, NC

Let’s call it the “Cat” effect. It’s the wave of activity and interest in Winston-Salem created by such a major global manufacturer having shined a spotlight on what the area has to offer. Cat’s exhaustive process of selecting Winston-Salem allows site consultants and business leaders to see more clearly the advantages and unique qualities that make the area ideal.

What’s in the spotlight?

Was there one “difference maker” in the Cat deal? Although Cat execs cited multiple reasons for selecting Winston-Salem there are a few attributes that stand out, not just in this project – but in many of Winston-Salem’s successful economic development projects.

The availability of skilled workforce, the robust infrastructure, and our ideal location are givens. These are “cost of entry” attributes that any community must have in order to make the cut. But the real difference continues to be collaboration.

Winston-Salem is gaining a rather impressive reputation for bringing business, government and community leaders together to provide incoming businesses with what they need to thrive.

Caterpillar groundbreaking ceremony in Forsyth County, NC

In addition, area companies, local government and educational institutions have drawn national attention for their ability to collaborate in the development of sophisticated training and workforce education to fit specific industry needs. (Not to mention, the ability of the area workforce to quickly adapt to new industries and new manufacturing processes.)

Where does the “Cat” effect lead? With the Cat facility groundbreaking complete, there’s still a long way to go. And in this economy, there are few, if any, certainties. But, Winston-Salem is certainly looking good in the spotlight.

Advanced Manufacturing in Winston-Salem

Too often when North Carolinians look back at both manufacturing and the economy in our state from years past, they think of the empty factories and textile mills left as distant reminders of what was once a staple industry.  While one can’t help but be nostalgic over the changes that have occurred over the last 25 years, the future state of North Carolina manufacturing has the potential to far surpass the era gone by.  For Winston-Salem, potential opportunities abound as advanced manufacturing practices continue to grow and be refined due to industry increases in efficiency, innovation and precision.

North Carolina and Winston-Salem have become hubs for a new brand of manufacturing, bringing with it infrastructure and high-paying engineering and computer science jobs.  Certainly anyone following Winston-Salem’s economic development initiatives are familiar with companies like Dell, BE Aerospace, and of course the new addition of Caterpillar.  These companies, along with countless others, have built the necessary foundation and workforce to make Winston-Salem a more than viable location for this booming industry.

Currently the manufacturing industry employs 12% of the city’s workforce, placing it slightly behind the health care industry for most local jobs.  This trend exists not only in our community, with 500,000 jobs statewide credited to the manufacturing industry, accounting for nearly 20% of the state’s Gross Domestic Output.  This output totals to just below 5% of the nation’s manufacturing output.

In addition to creating jobs, the advanced manufacturing industry will provide opportunities for Winston-Salem in a great number of capacities.  The new jobs, unlike many of the former manufacturing positions are primarily highly paid positions.  In fact the average output of a manufacturing employee rose 40% in the decade from 1999 to 2009.  Now with the economy rebounding and many feeling the same as Doug Oberhelman, Caterpillar CEO, when he claims that there will be no double dip recession, and boldly states how “(Caterpillar) intends to play offense and win”, the future looks optimistic.

North Carolina’s manufacturing sector has now showed positive growth for 13 straight months and is giving no sign of slowing down.  Schools like Forsyth Tech have instituted phenomenal programs readying the local workforce for this complex yet exciting and growing industry.  While Caterpillar will continue to stand as a huge achievement for advanced manufacturing in Winston-Salem, we at Winston-Salem Business Inc.are more than confident that it won’t be the last major company to make Winston-Salem its home.

How Life Science can Bring Life to Winston-Salem

At the heart of Winston-Salem’s push into this fascinating and burgeoning field is the Piedmont Triad Research Park (PTRP), featuring studies in the areas of Regenerative Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Nanotechnology, and many more.  While the park contributes heavily to the broader scientific community, they also have a “track record of turning scientific hypothesis into commercially marketable concepts”, thus putting money back into our community.  The master plan for the PTRP includes developing over 200 acres and creating more than 27,000 jobs in the east Winston-Salem area.  The current park houses 55 different companies and employs 925 personnel.

Outside of PTRP, Winston-Salem State University, Wake Forest University, and Forsyth Technical Community College all have various programs focused on Life Sciences.  The most nationally recognized of these programs is probably the Regenerative Medicine studies done at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.  While it may sound like something out of a science fiction movie, the team at the institute, led by renowned Director Anthony Atala, M.D. was the “first in the world to successfully transplant a laboratory-grown organ into humans.” This accomplishment, in itself, is remarkable and could pave the way for saving countless lives through organ transplants.  A number of other state-of-the-art programs have been completed or are underway for the institute.  Advanced medical programs like this, and the personnel that accompany them, helped Winston-Salem make the list as a “Top 7 Most Intelligent City.”

Nearby, Winston-Salem State University features a dedicated Department of Life Science.  Currently, about 230 students are navigating their way through the advanced curriculum, working in partnership with PTRP.  The department offers students three different Bachelor of Science major choices in Biology, Biotechnology, and Molecular Biology.  Although this is a fairly young program, with the first graduating class having emerged in 2002, the graduates have already accomplished tremendous things .  Forsyth Technical Community College’s program in Biotechnology is the largest in the state of its kind.  It has graduated 108 students since the program’s initial graduating class in 2004 and is getting more extensive by the year.  Eventually, they are looking to move their program within PTRP to further, by proximity, the already exceptional nature of the program.

The Life Sciences industry in Winston-Salem is quickly building the momentum it needs to impact the everyday lives of the citizens of Winston-Salem.  The $87 million Wexford-RJR-Wake Forest Health Sciences deal has already started bringing in construction and support-related jobs.  We hope that, through these local examples and background information, you have a better appreciation for how Life Sciences plays a key role in the dynamic economic development of Winston-Salem.  In addition to the potential to save and improve innumerable lives around the world, the field of Life Sciences is helping structure Winston-Salem as a hub for high-paying jobs and attracting the infrastructure and capital to allow the city to grow with it.

Photos courtesy of: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

At the heart of Winston-Salem’s push into this fascinating and burgeoning field is the Piedmont Triad Research Park (PTRP), featuring studies in the areas of Regenerative Medicine, Biomedical Engineering, Nanotechnology, and many more.  While the park contributes heavily to the broader scientific community, they also have a “track record of turning scientific hypothesis into commercially marketable concepts”, thus putting money back into our community.  The master plan for the PTRP includes developing over 200 acres and creating more than 27,000 jobs in the east Winston-Salem area.  The current park houses 55 different companies and employs 925 personnel.

Outside of PTRP, Winston-Salem State University, Wake Forest University, and Forsyth Technical Community College all have various programs focused on Life Sciences.  The most nationally recognized of these programs is probably the Regenerative Medicine studies done at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine.  While it may sound like something out of a science fiction movie, the team at the institute, led by renowned Director Anthony Atala, M.D. was the “first in the world to successfully transplant a laboratory-grown organ into humans.” This accomplishment, in itself, is remarkable and could pave the way for saving countless lives through organ transplants.  A number of other state-of-the-art programs have been completed or are underway for the institute.  Advanced medical programs like this, and the personnel that accompany them, helped Winston-Salem make the list as a “Top 7 Most Intelligent City.”

Nearby, Winston-Salem State University features a dedicated Department of Life Science.  Currently, about 230 students are navigating their way through the advanced curriculum, working in partnership with PTRP.  The department offers students three different Bachelor of Science major choices in Biology, Biotechnology, and Molecular Biology.  Although this is a fairly young program, with the first graduating class having emerged in 2002, the graduates have already accomplished tremendous things .  Forsyth Technical Community College’s program in Biotechnology is the largest in the state of its kind.  It has graduated 108 students since the program’s initial graduating class in 2004 and is getting more extensive by the year.  Eventually, they are looking to move their program within PTRP to further, by proximity, the already exceptional nature of the program.

The Life Sciences industry in Winston-Salem is quickly building the momentum it needs to impact the everyday lives of the citizens of Winston-Salem.  The $87 million Wexford-RJR-Wake Forest Health Sciences deal has already started bringing in construction and support-related jobs.  We hope that, through these local examples and background information, you have a better appreciation for how Life Sciences plays a key role in the dynamic economic development of Winston-Salem.  In addition to the potential to save and improve innumerable lives around the world, the field of Life Sciences is helping structure Winston-Salem as a hub for high-paying jobs and attracting the infrastructure and capital to allow the city to grow with it.

Photos courtesy of: Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center