Winston-Salem makes another Top 10

Winston-Salem makes another Top 10

Why this list just might matter more than most

Southern Business & Development magazine  has recently named Winston-Salem, NC one of the Top Ten Incredibly Pro-Business Communities — Large and Small — Without a Beach. ( article).

While our community is no stranger to making “10 Best” lists, this particular one may have even more substance to it than you might think.

One reason why this recognition is interesting relates to who nominates communities for consideration and who W-S had to beat in order to make the list.

Who nominates cities for SB&D? Site consultants and business leaders — the very people who make the key decisions in business expansion and relocation. And several of these economic development professionals pointed to Winston-Salem as their pick. In addition, think about the competition here. We’re talking about a region that could arguably be considered, in relative terms, the hottest in the U.S. To make the top ten in this region  should be considered quite a feat.

Another reason for paying closer attention to this list is “why.” Why did W-S make  this list? Winston-Salem makes this short list of pro-business communities for the same reason it wins the attention of so many companies looking to expand or relocate — collaboration. Many other factors are important, but you can argue that most of them are “cost-of-entry”, that is, they get you in the discussion.

However, the difference maker seems to be, over and over again, the way community and business leaders, educational institutions, city and county government organizations all work together.

And, apparently, the right people (and businesses) are noticing.

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 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?


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.