Winston Starts is a key element of the $10 million revitalization of the downtown GMAC Insurance building at 500 W. Fifth St.

A veteran Winston-Salem corporate executive, Steve Lineberger, has been hired as president of Winston Starts, a nonprofit group that aims to accelerate the growth of start-up businesses.

The group, which debuted in April, also named John Whitaker, founder and former chief executive of Inmar Inc., as its lead fundraiser.

Winston Starts is a key element of the $10 million revitalization of the downtown GMAC Insurance building, which would dedicate 90,000 square feet of office space to Flow Automotive Cos., which will have a workforce of about 140 there.

Simultaneously, there will be a $48 million mixed-use project at the site by Grubb Properties of Charlotte featuring 240 apartments and retail space.

Winston Starts plans to begin accepting applications in July and be operational in September. It will take one 17,500-square-foot floor in the 18-story building with plans to expand to a second floor. The plan is to offer start-ups free office space.

Don Flow, the local businessman who came up with Winston Starts, said the agency will support “companies at any stage, from ideation to market readiness ... on a timetable that fits their business model and markets.”

Lineberger comes to Winston Starts with management experience at Sara Lee Corp., including chief executive of Sara Lee Casualwear, and at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. as president for U.S. franchise operations and senior vice president of corporate strategic planning.

More recently, Lineberger served as chief executive of start-up SneeZ LLC. and as chief operating officer of Advanced Battery Technologies Inc.

Flow said Lineberger will be in charge of developing the entry and admission standards for applicants, as well as assembling the resources to support the companies and collaborating with local stakeholders. Lineberger also will “personally coach and advise admitted companies toward successful outcomes,” Flow said.

“Steve is a proven leader with disciplined business thinking and a deep commitment to our community,” Flow said.

“He is motivated by a desire to make Winston-Salem an entrepreneurial hub.”

Lineberger said having additional space dedicated to start-up companies “puts in place another very important piece of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in our community.”

“Venture Café recently had a wonderful launch event, and many other entrepreneurial efforts are already underway, such as Creative Startup Accelerator and Flywheel’s New Ventures Accelerator.”

Flow said Whitaker was chosen as lead fundraiser in part because “John’s story is the epitome of what we hope the accelerator enables for other entrepreneurs for the future.”

“He founded and grew a major company and has personally encouraged and mentored numerous young entrepreneurs. His involvement will bring a wide-ranging network of relationships and very thoughtful counsel.”

Flow said that “strongest consideration will be given to companies or (proposals) with scalable technologies, sizable market potential, passionate and coachable leadership and competitive differentiation.”

In March, the Winston-Salem City Council approved an incentive deal worth up to $1.65 million over 10 years to move the Grubb part of the project forward.

Grubb plans to tear down the six-story building beside the taller GMAC tower. It will build apartments on that part of the property and nearby parking lot.

Having originally committed to reserving 30 percent of the apartments for so-called workforce housing, Grubb refined its proposal in March to call for 5 percent of the apartments to have rents affordable to people making up to 90 percent of area median income, and 25 percent of the apartments to have rents affordable by people making up to 110 percent of the median.

City officials say the median usually hovers around $40,500.

An affordable rent for someone making 90 percent of that amount would be about $910 per month.

Under the deal approved, incentive payments won’t start until five years after the Grubb project is finished.

Grubb, which developed the Link Apartments Brookstown complex near BB&T Ballpark, will carry the Link name to the new apartment complex.

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