Local businessman Don Flow called for making Winston-Salem a “city of open opportunity” to go along with the city’s official Arts and Innovation appellation, during Thursday’s fall meeting of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership.

Flow is the driving force behind the transformation of 500 West Fifth (the old Integon building) into a site that houses startup businesses and other entrepreneurial concerns, but he said Thursday that his venture is only a part of what the city needs to be doing.

Picking up on Wednesday’s announcement of a major free-college venture for low-income high school graduates, Flow said the city needs to advance to where 80% of children are reading at grade level, and where 65 percent of high school graduates go on to get at least a two-year associate degree.

Flow cited statistics showing only 50% of third-grade children reading on grade level in the county, .

“For us to become the city we want to be, we have to attack inter-generational poverty in this city,” Flow said. “We have to embrace education as the path out of poverty.”

On Wednesday, Flow, who is chairman of the Winston-Salem Alliance, was among speakers in the announcement of the free college plan, which is being paid for from a $870,000 grant from BB&T Corp. By combining the money with federal grants and scholarships, officials hope to be able to provide training at Forsyth Technical Community College to some 2,550 high school graduates who might otherwise not be able to afford to go.

Giving an update on 500 West Fifth, Flow said that by the time the building is filled with various businesses and business-support enterprises, there will be 850 people working in the building.

Tenants of the building include the Wake Forest Center for Private Business, Winston Starts and Flywheel, companies that support startup businesses, Teall Capital, an investment company, and about 150 Flow Companies employees on the 14th through 18th floors.

Flow said he would be announcing more tenants soon for other parts of the building.

Those attending the fall meeting also got an update on plans to build a new Forsyth County Courthouse.

Plans haven’t been finalized, but architects Tom Calloway, John Drinkard and Doug Kleppin described a building that would be in two connected towers with a sunlit corridor between them giving views to the east and west.

The new courthouse will sit on a site on Chestnut Street beside the Forsyth County Government Center and near the jail, which will be connected to the courthouse with an underground tunnel, allowing prisoners to be taken directly to the courthouse. Currently, they are transported by van.

Calloway and Drinkard are with CJMW Architecture based here in Winston-Salem, while Kleppin is with CBRE Heery, a national company.

Also during the fall meeting, the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership awarded the 2019 Glenda Keels Legacy Award to Vanessa Banner, a former city administrative assistant who, before she retired last summer, was dubbed “queen of the event permits” because she was the person that anyone who had to see to get a permit for blocking off downtown streets for events.

“She was one of the most thorough and patient people I have ever worked with,” Mary Charlotte Hinkle said in making the award. Hinkle is director of marketing and special projects for the downtown organization.

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wyoung@wsjournal.com

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