Winston-Salem council okays incentives for local company Inmar

by Jordan Green

Members of Winston-Salem Council unanimously approved an “aggressive” incentives package for a local company, while lamenting a skills gap preventing many unemployed residents from taking advantage of the new jobs.

The council approved incentives for Inmar, which handles supply chain and pharmaceutical transaction services, totaling $1.8 million. The incentives would offset the cost of expansion for the company, which, in turn, has committed to hiring 212 new workers at average salaries of $72,783. After subtracting the incentive payments, new property-and-sales-tax revenues resulting from the expansion are expected to total $2.3 million over a 10-year period.

As with Dell, if Inmar failed to meet performance goals, the agreement stipulates that the city would be able to claw back the incentives money over a 10-year period.

“It is an aggressive package, but it also has some fairly aggressive performance standards,” said Northwest Ward Councilwoman Wanda Merschel, who chairs the council’s finance committee.

North Ward Councilwoman Denise D. Adams said the city should consider establishing a “continuous improvement team” to address a skills gap that forces high-tech companies such as Inmar to recruit employees from outside of Winston-Salem for high-paying jobs. Several other members echoed her concerns.

“What we’re beginning to hear,” Adams said, “is that we don’t have a trained and ready-to-work workforce. That’s a problem, people…. Yes, we have skyrocketed these hightechnology, innovative jobs. But we don’t have a ready-to-go workforce. I’ve heard this from Caterpillar as well, that I don’t know if we’ve really educated the citizens as we should have, as a team as to what the expectations are for the caliber of the workforce that Inmar needs as well as other companies that we are attracting.”

Mayor Allen Joines said Inmar epitomizes the kind of knowledge-based company that will help the city compete in the global economy.

“The metrics says, ‘Yes, do it,’” the mayor said. “It’s exactly the type of knowledge-based company that we must have in Winston-Salem if we’re going to continue to grow and prosper. What’s the best thing about this is that Inmar is challenging this community to go to an even higher level past the knowledge-based economy. Successful cities of the future, in my opinion, are going to be those that embrace a culture of innovation, that can rapidly make the decisions to meet the ever-changing needs of these companies.”

Inmar launched an internship program last summer that draws from the city’s universities, including Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State. CEO David Mounts said the company took 20 interns and offered half of them jobs. The company is currently trying to fill several technology positions.

“The technological jobs require mathematical and scientific backgrounds,” Mounts said after the vote. “These are the hardest to fill. We have a terrific customer-service department. We have no problem filling these positions.”

In other action, council unanimously approved changes to the city’s ordinances on sidewalk cafés and noise. The changes were approved without comment as part of the consent agenda. The council’s public safety and general government committees unanimously approved the changes the previous week, and city staff had held several public input meetings to gather feedback from downtown residents, along with owners, managers and employees in the restaurant and bar industries.

The changes extend the hours in which restaurants and bars may operate sidewalk cafés from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday, and from 11 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and state holidays. To address concerns by downtown residents, the revised ordinance also prohibits restaurants and bars from dumping recycling outside from midnight to 6 a.m.