by Daniel Schere

Forsyth Tech expands business services at WFIQ | @Daniel_Schere

Another piece of the pie is being added to the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter in its mission to encourage the growth of business to Winston-Salem.

Forsyth Tech is expanding its small business, corporate training and biotechnology programs to downtown Winston- Salem’s Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

College and business leaders gathered in the 525@Vine building Oct. 8 for the official dedication of a 24,000-square foot section of the building that will house the college’s small business center, training center for RJ Reynolds, BB&T Biotechnology program and Wells Fargo Nanotechnology program.

The facility features a number of conference rooms equipped with large screens for presentations and speakerphones.

“People can come and connect on their laptops and have a small meeting,” project manager Dianne Mounce said.

The space also includes a large lecture classroom that can hold seminars or be divided into two classrooms. There are two computer labs and a break area for business clients to mingle.

College President Dr. Gary Green said they began the process of trying to build a downtown facility in 2005 with their Momentum Capital Campaign.

“Over a period of five years, we were involved in fundraising in our community and got tremendous support from our business community in Winston-Salem as well as from individual donors in the community to support us being here,” he said.

Green called the Innovation Quarter “The most exciting economic development initiative in Winston-Salem,” and said he hopes the environment encourages young people to become involved in business and industry.

“When you’re down here, you’re constantly in partnership and relationship with other companies that are growing and developing and having a lot of energy,” he said As he addressed those in attendance, Green noted the space’s origin as Building 97 of the RJ Reynolds tobacco campus and said he thinks using it to train the next generation of workers honors its legacy.

“This is where we look at our businesses in the community “” at our industries in our community “” as our clients,” he said.

As the newest tenant in 525@Vine, Forsyth Tech joins Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, the YMCA and Flywheel. Flywheel opened June 30 as a co-working space for young professionals and Forsyth Tech leaders said they plan to partner with them at some point in the near future.

The college’s Dean of Business and Industry Services, Jennifer Coulombe, said a number of large employers will be partnering with institutions such as Herbalife and Caterpillar that have expanded or moved to the Triad.

“More than anything, it brands us as the arm of the college that serves business and industry,” she said. “A lot of folks are familiar with Forsyth Tech in terms of the curriculum side or the two year degree or the transfer programs, but this really helps to give us the identity as the arm that serves business.”

Coulombe said she hopes the program will be able to display services they can provide to potential companies that are considering moving here.

“The community college in any community, but specifically in Forsyth and Stokes counties, is really an integral part of recruitment and retention in a business strategy, so we do plan to continue to be a major player in the economic development arena,” she said.

The facility also features a small business resource center that allows businesspeople and other members of the public to come in and look up how to start a small business. Small business center director Allan Younger said Forsyth Tech is one of 58 community colleges in North Carolina that offer such services.

“All of this is available to the public, whether you think one day I want to start a business or I had a business for 10 years,” he said. “They can register with us. They can attend whatever seminar at no cost to them. As we transition from an economy based more on tobacco and textiles to one that’s based more on knowledge, it makes sense for us to be here.”

Younger said they provide five educational seminars each week on topics like professionalism in business. Attendees are typically a mix of business people, clients and others who are interested in starting a business. And visitors can also take advantage of counseling services and materials offered in the small business resource center.

Also in attendance were a few graduates of Forsyth Tech’s biotechnology program, including Tom Eaton who now works in regenerative medicine. He said he is very excited about the opportunities the new facilities offer.

“For me, it was just getting current with the way labs operate today,” he said. “Because I hadn’t been in a lab for a number of years before I went to Forsyth Tech.” !