Hudson balances business sense with environmental advocacy

by Keith Barber

Among environmental advocates, there is a belief that what’s best for the environment is also good for the economy. Wesley Hudson, a Democratic candidate to represent Winston-Salem’s South Ward, firmly believes in striking a balance between economic development and protecting the city’s natural resources. Hudson said what sets him apart from his opponent, Democratic incumbent Molly Leight, is his understanding of the business end of the environmental equation. “I have a great deal more business experience than she does,” Hudson said. “I’ve made my living my whole life running businesses; that’s what I do.” In fact, Hudson owns three businesses: a construction company, a landscaping company and a real estate management company. The purpose of environmentalism is to improve quality of life, which means increased economic activity, Hudson said. “The more we can consolidate business, the more green space we can maintain,” Hudson said. “The tighter, the more compact a business community remains, the less driving you have to do.” Hudson said his belief in centralizing commercial activity is one of the main reasons he supported the construction of the downtown ballpark. But his support for the city council began to wane as the deal with Winston-Salem Dash owner Billy Prim began to unravel and stadium construction ground to a halt last year. The new baseball stadium is the single issue that inspired Hudson to seek elected office, he said. He cited the latest agreement negotiated by the city to lend Prim an additional $15.7 million to complete construction as proof positive that new leadership is needed on city council. “They had levying power that I don’t think they used,” Hudson said. “The fact the original decision was changed within a month shows that there wasn’t enough forethought.” After two public hearings on the issue in June, the city made several amendments to the original agreement with Prim, including taking title to the stadium immediately rather than at the end of Prim’s 25-year lease. However, Bank of America holds the first lienholder position on the stadium should Prim default on his loan due to its $15 million investment. The city of Winston-Salem has the second lienholder position. Hudson said the ballpark is a great asset to downtown but the way the deal was structured highlights a lack of planning, preparation and diligence on the city council’s behalf. “I don’t think the current council realizes their responsibility for the city’s business future,” Hudson said. “They know it’s important, but I don’t think they know what to do about it.” Concerns about Dell’s future in Winston-Salem also underscore how economic incentives can backfire if a business deal doesn’t contain built-in safeguards, Hudson said. “The long-term planning wasn’t there,” he said. “There were no contingency plans. In business, you don’t do anything without contingency plans. You don’t invest in a business without saying, ‘What happens five years down the road?’” Hudson lauded the city for its development of the Downtown Research Park. Hudson said if the city plans to become a biotech center, it should corner the market on every aspect of the industry and train area workers for high-tech jobs. If elected,Hudson would advocate programs that would help the city’s unemployedworkers to gain the hightech skills to work in the biotech field. Employmentfor all working-age residents of Winston-Salem is the first plank inHudson’s campaign platform. “I describe myself as a Roosevelt liberalDemocrat,” Hudson said. “First and foremost, every person has to have ajob. That should be the number one goal of government: to create a jobfor every citizen, and the best way to do that is education.”