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by Jordan Green

The Winston-Salem Chamber and about a dozen partner agencies rolled out the WinstonWorks partnership last week. The initiative is an effort to bring together job seekers, employers and vocational training programs. The newly launched WinstonWorks website (www.winstonworks.org) includes links to job listings, links to job training programs and links to resources for entrepreneurs who want to start new businesses.

Brooks Jones of the Winston-Salem Chamber described the website as the front end of the initiative.

“There’s going to be a lot more resources and events,” she said. “There are some discussions about training sessions for folks to help them make a career switch. And there will be some entrepreneurship programs later in the year.

“There are jobs that are available, but there is some disconnect between the skill sets of the labor market and the jobs that are available,” said Althea Hairston of the Northwest Piedmont Workforce Development Board, one of the partners. “I believe through this partnership and working with employers there’s going to be a better connection in sharing information that we can make through our community colleges that are connecting those job seekers with the necessary skills that they need so that they will be competitive and meet the needs of our employers.”

Other members of the partnership include Forsyth Tech, Goodwill Industries of Northwest NC and the community organizing group CHANGE.

With 9.8 percent unemployment, Winston-Salem compares favorably to the combined Greensboro-High Point unemployment rate of 11.3 percent, according to the latest figures available from the NC Employment Security Commission.

“We’re going to chip away at it by adding jobs,” Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines said. “Yesterday, I was at announcement of a new company that created, I think, seven jobs. That’s not a lot, but when you think about it in the aggregate, you add all those up with all those employers and that’s how we’re going to come out of this.”

The statewide unemployment rate falls at 10.8 percent, which is a percentage point higher than the rate for the nation, but as Forsyth County Commissioner Debra Conrad noted, some economists estimate that the real number is 17 percent, counting people who have given up on finding work.

Joines issued a challenge to employers on behalf of the new partnership.

“I’m calling on our employers here in Forsyth County to add just one job next year,” he said. “Think about the impact that would have on us as a community. If employers need help, any member of this team is available to you to sit down with you and work through it.”

State unemployment picture remains bleak

The statewide unemployment rate dropped by a mere 0.1 percent from October to 10.8 percent in November, according to the latest figures released by the NC Employment Security Commission. Since February, the state’s unemployment level has plateau-ed at just under 11 percent with little change. National unemployment, meanwhile, has trended upwards, with the two rates gradually narrowing.

“There is a tremendous amount of idle labor in North Carolina right now,” said analyst John Quinterno of South by North Strategies in a formal statement. “Little demand for that labor appears to exist, which means that North Carolina’s job market is apt to bounce along at recessionary levels well into the foreseeable future.”

Hip-hop radio personality says, ‘Tuk-It’

Among the enterprising Triad denizens on the march of entrepreneurship is Adrianne, better known to listeners of Greensboro’s hip-hop station, 102 Jamz, as Delyte. Because of the “crazies out there,” Adrianne said she prefers that her last name not be published.

The 35-year-old Adrianne has a patent pending for an invention she calls Tuk-Its. The product is a lightweight device that latches onto hanger loops on strapless dresses.

Adrianne came up with the idea about two years ago.

“I was sitting around one night getting ready to go out with my friend,” she recalled. “I was struggling with it. I was thinking someone should come up with something to hold [the hanger loops down]. Then I thought, that should be me.”

Adrianne launched her website (www.tuckits.com) in October, but has yet to embark on a full marketing campaign. In addition to the website, her product is available at Jewel’s Day Spa in Greensboro. So far, sales haven’t cracked $100, Adrianne said. Most of her customers are friends. She has yet to make a sale from the website and is working out some kinks. Social networking is more challenging than she anticipated.

“With the response that I’m getting so far, I am sure this is the world’s next Snuggie,” she said. “From Christmas through the next prom and bridal season I think will tell the tale.”

Growing market for green

Partners Michelle Kennedy and Trish Sutter opened Four Branches Green Building Center next door to the Music Loft on South Chapman Street in Greensboro earlier this month. Kennedy says theirs is the first its kind in the Triad and the fourth in the state, with other green building stores operating in Asheville, Durham and Wilmington.

Kennedy said she and Sutter real ized the market demand for such a business when they renovated their own house.

“My house was built in 1925,” she said. “It was important to us that we renovate it in a way that was environmentally sustainable. There wasn’t one place in Greensboro we could go for that product. I think there are a fair number of people in the Triad that are interested in sustainability.

Among the materials Four Branches stocks is recycled denim insulation, salvaged hardwood flooring, recycled granite tiles and re-covered furniture. To that list Kennedy also listed sustainable flooring, countertops and wall coverings, along with “ a pretty wide line of water efficiency products.”

Kennedy and Sutter also perform energy efficiency audits and provide weatherizing services to clients.

NewBridge builds residential mortgage business

Greensboro-based NewBridge Bank announced on Monday that it has entered into an agreement to acquire the business operations of Bradford Mortgage Co., a subsidiary of Winston-Salem-based ACM Financial Trust. Bradford Mortgage employs about 30 people, mostly employed in North Carolina. The press release announcing the acquisition stated that all employees were expected to be retained by NewBridge Bank, including the mortgage division’s management team.

NewBridge Bank CEO Pressley A. Ridgill said he expects the acquisition to more than triple the size of the bank’s residential mortgage business.

New business openings Letia’s Bridal, owned by retailers Jeff and Letia Bates, will hold its grand opening at Oak Hollow Mall in High Point on Christmas Eve. Downtown Greensboro Inc. reports that Massage Philosophy opened earlier month at 301 S. Elm St. in Greensboro.

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