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.

FedEx Hub May Spur Growth

FedEx Hub May Spur Growth

Source: Winston-Salem Journal
By: Fran Daniel

News that the FedEx Ground sorting hub in Kernersville will be fully operational on Sunday has local officials abuzz with expectations of more development to follow.

“FedEx Ground is building on our strengths in a community that’s known for its logistics,” said Dawn Morgan, mayor of the town of Kernersville.

The sorting hub is a major facility for the southeastern operations of FedEx Ground, a small-package ground carrier and an operating company of FedEx Corp. Material-handling equipment in the building will initially be able to sort 15,000 packages an hour. That number will rise to 45,000 packages an hour when it is operating at full capacity.

“That is just a magnet for other industry in the Triad because other companies may choose to locate near them to take advantage of the express shipping services,” Morgan said.

FedEx Ground broke ground on the $100 million project in November 2008. The 400,000-square-foot hub sits on 125 acres in the Triad Business Park at Old Greensboro Road and West Market Street in Guilford County, within the Kernersville town limits. Kernersville annexed the park in 2008.

Gayle Anderson, president and chief executive of the Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce, said the opening of the hub is important for the entire Triad.

“It’s really important as we position, not just Winston-Salem, but the whole Triad region as a logistics center or a logistics hub,” she said. “Having that substantial of a presence with FedEx just adds to our credibility.”

Bob Leak, the president of Winston-Salem Business Inc., said the region is a great place for companies with logistic and distribution needs, as FedEx Corp. has two major operations in the region. In addition, to the new sorting hub, the company has a $300 million cargo hub at Piedmont Triad International Airport.

“Logistics and distribution is one of the top clusters that our area is focused on as far as recruiting companies,” Leak said.

The FedEx Ground sorting hub will have 750 employees, contractors and office staff, who have already been hired.

“A lot of those people, I’m sure, will be Forsyth County residents,” Leak said.

That should help the local economy, he said, as these employees will probably shop, dine and spend money in the county.

Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said city officials are delighted to have additional jobs in the community.

“We certainly hope that FedEx Ground is successful in their location there and looking forward to helping to finalize some of the transportation issues they need to deal with there,” Joines said.

The 750 people who will work at the hub is more than the 500 initially projected by FedEx Ground.

“They’re exceeding the employment figures that were originally cited to elected officials back in 2008,” said Jeff Hatling, community development director for Kernersville.

Kernersville has been working with developers for more than 10 years to create the Triad Business Park and other nearby business parks, he said.

Triad Business Park is managed and being developed by Samet Corp. of Greensboro and is owned by TDO Land Holding LLC. FedEx Ground owns its 125 acres within the park.

Hatling is encouraged that FedEx Ground’s new sorting hub is opening as the country is recovering from a recession.

“We just feel it’s a positive indication of future growth in those other parks we’ve worked with developers on,” Hatling said.

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.