We hope the New York Times will remember that Winston-Salem don’t need it around anyhow.
That’s the attitude many had, and understandably so, after Times reporter Eduardo Porter wrote a bruising article with the headline “Why Midsize Cities Struggle to Catch Up to Superstar Cities” that put our hometown in a less-than-glowing light earlier this month. The story, which featured Winston-Salem prominently, wasn’t entirely negative, but it left many local business and government leaders, as well as other residents, feeling as if we hadn’t received enough credit for our many successes.
The fact is that local leaders are well aware of the issues raised by the story and have taken tangible steps to address them.
As the Times article does point out, the city has added 45,000 jobs since the lowest point of the 2008 recession, and it has a strong housing market.
Also, as the Journal reported last week, the 500 W. 5th tower downtown, the former GMAC Insurance building that is home to Winston Starts, a business incubator, recently acquired rental commitments from Flywheel, a co-networking space provider, and Teall Capital Partners. After an investment of over $6 million, the building stands ready to generate millions more in commerce over its lifetime.
Other investments in downtown renovation have led to new businesses like the high-end Hotel Indigo and Kimpton Cardinal. Along with the planned Kaleideum science museum project, they will serve as anchors to lure even more commerce.
Most significantly, the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter has been a huge success, housing businesses like Sunrise Technologies, Inc., Wexford Science & Technology and Front Street Capital. There’s still room for more, such as Link Apartments Innovation Quarter, a $68 million residential, retail and parking complex currently being developed.
And hometown brands, like Krankies Coffee and Camino Bakery, continue to thrive and grow.
“The economy is clearly moving in the right direction with the creation of 5,300 net new jobs last year, and the jobs were spread throughout most of the job sectors,” Mayor Allen Joines told the Journal in an interview last month. “We need to continue to support new companies relocating, but also provide strong support for business expansion, such as what happened with National General Insurance, The Clearing House, Cook Medical and others.”
As for other growth challenges, Joines, in cooperation with former city council member and current N.C. Rep. Derwin L. Montgomery, has formed The Partnership for Prosperity, a nonprofit initiative that is working to overcome barriers in health care, housing, public education, jobs and transportation. Church and charity organizations like PCCI, a community development effort by The Shalom Project, are developing affordable housing. BB&T (or whatever its name is this week) and Wells Fargo & Co. are also contributing to affordable housing solutions. The next phase of 500 W. 5th tower will include affordable housing units.
The emphasis of Porter’s article was on economics, but for many locals, other factors are equally important. There’s the sense of place provided by our history and traditions. There’s the fact that this is a darned good place to raise a family. There’s the low crime rate. There are the accessible opportunities for artists to find venues, audiences and inspiration. We don’t necessarily want to catch up to larger cities in those regards.
Sometimes it’s good to see ourselves through someone else’s lens. The insight could provide the impetus needed for the next big push.
There’s still more to be done, but there are plenty of residents with the will to get it done. We feel it’s not an exaggeration to say that innovation is at work here. The most important thing is to see our Winston-Salem in a clear light — to see its challenges, successes and failures — and use that light to move us forward into a future that is beneficial for all of our residents.