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?


Hanesbrands to reopen distribution center with 60 jobs

Published: March 08, 2011

Increasing consumer demand for Hanesbrands Inc.’s apparel has led the company to reopen a Winston-Salem distribution center for at least three years.

The distribution center is in West Point Business Park near Stratford Road. The center was closed last summer because of reduced product volume. About 240 employees were affected by the shutdown.

However, an 11 percent increase in sales in 2010 has led to a need for more inventory space, spokesman Matt Hall said Tuesday. The company also has a major distribution center at 521 Northridge Park Drive in Rural Hall.

"We will have approximately 60 total employees at the facility – half permanent employees who will move from the Almondridge center in Rural Hall and half temporary employees," Hall said.

The company expects to hire the temporary employees through employment agencies, Hall said. He did not say whether previous Hanesbrands employees at the center will receive consideration in the hiring process.

Hall said the company will begin shipping men’s underwear and fleece products out of the center in early May. It began moving inventory into the center last week.

Michael Lord, an associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at Wake Forest University, said it makes logistical sense to handle a temporary distribution expansion close to its headquarters.

"The closer distribution is to home, often the easier and more flexible it is to control," Lord said. "This is especially true for sudden or unexpected bumps in sales or other quick changes in operations.

"There are people with relevant experience nearby that may be interested and able to do the work, even if it might be only temporary."

The reopening of the center represents a rare local work-force and production expansion since Hanesbrands spun out of Sara Lee Corp. with great fanfare as the city’s third Fortune 500 company in September 2006.

At that time, Hanesbrands had 4,900 employees in Forsyth – nearly 10 percent of its overall work force – and 8,600 in the state.

It now has 2,515 employees in Forsyth County and 3,785 in North Carolina.

(336) 727-7376


Blue Cross Blue Shield to invest $16 million in Piedmont Triad Research Park

By Richard Craver
Published: February 21, 2011

Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C. said today it will make a $16 million investment in one of the largest, if not the largest, economic-development projects in downtown history.

The investment, made over three years, will be spent on Building 91, a former manufacturing facility near the corner of Fifth Street and Patterson Avenue that was donated to Piedmont Triad Research Park by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

The building has been renamed Wake Forest BioTech Place. It will offer 242,000 square feet of space for laboratories, offices and other uses, primarily for operations that Wake Forest University Health Sciences is transferring from its Hawthorne campus.

The Blue Cross investment will come through the N.C. Mill Rehabilitation Tax Credits program. It is the insurer’s first major investment involving the program, spokeswoman Stephanie Skordas said. She said that the investment could vary depending on the cost of bringing the building back into use.

It’s a cash investment only. Skordas said that Blue Cross has no plans to move operations into the building. It has more than 600 employees in a customer-service and claims-administration operation at Madison Park in northwest Winston-Salem.

Last June, park officials reached an agreement with Wexford Science and Technology LLC of Baltimore on an $87 million project for the North District – the biggest announcement regarding the park since plans for it surfaced in 1994.

Renovations have been taking place for months in the building units. The project is scheduled for completion by the end of the year.

Officials at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, which is landlocked on its main campus, have longed for years for expansion space for its research departments.

About 350 employees will work there – a 38 percent increase in the park’s work force, to 1,275. Wake Forest Baptist plans to occupy 85 percent of the space.

“Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina has a 77-year tradition of investing in the health of North Carolinians,” Brad Wilson, the insurer’s president and chief executive, said in a statement.

“We are pleased to continue that tradition with this investment, which creates new medical research labs from historic tobacco warehouses. You could say we’re preserving the past while creating a new future for this part of the Triad.”

Doug Edgeton, the president of the park, said that the tax credit “is a very effective tool for sustainable redevelopment and provides tremendous benefits to the local economy.”

“This investment by Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C. will enable us to preserve a former manufacturing area in the heart of downtown Winston Salem,” Edgeton said.


Announced: $16 million Investment in Piedmont Triad Research Park

The Winston-Salem Journal reports that Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C. is making a $16-million investment in Wake Forest BioTech Place, a former manufacturing facility near the corner of Fifth Street and Patterson Avenue in downtown Winston-Salem.  For the full article from the Winston-Salem Journal click here:

Gov. Perdue Vetoes Senate Bill 13

Gov. Bev Perdue today vetoed Senate Bill 13, her first veto of the legislative session and only the second of her administration. The bill, widely criticized as harmful to the state’s efforts to attract businesses and grow jobs, was vetoed this afternoon at the Capitol.

Here’s Gov. Perdue’s statement:

“This bill started out as a way to help North Carolina secure $400 million in additional savings from state government agencies during this difficult budget time,” said Gov. Perdue. “I suggested that bill to the General Assembly and was ready to sign that legislation. But the bill in its current form forces a one-time cash-grab from funds that are intended to create jobs and spur economic development. That’s not the right move for North Carolina, where jobs simply must be our No. 1 priority.”