Winston-Salem mayor discusses the state of the city on ‘Triad Today’
This past weekend, Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines appeared on Triad Today to share his thoughts on a wide range of topics affecting the city that he has presided over since 2001. We began by talking about job growth.
JL: What’s the current state of the city’s economy?
AJ: Well, Jim, last year we created more jobs in our community than we have in decades. We’ve got a goal of creating 5,400 net new jobs per year for five years in a row, and if we do that, we’ll be one of the top 50 metro areas in the country. Last year we created 5,300 new jobs, so we’re feeling good about that. Also, unemployment is low, and we’re making progress in our entrepreneurial development programs, so I feel like we’re moving in the right direction.
JL: Let’s talk about Renfro, a sock manufacturing company with headquarters in Mt. Airy. Both the city and Forsyth County have offered Renfro hundreds of thousands of dollars in incentives to relocate over 200 jobs to Winston-Salem, but, to be clear, you didn’t recruit them.
AJ: That’s a good point, Jim. We don’t fish in other people’s pond around us here. But they indicated to me that they needed to move. They said where they are now, they can’t attract the talent they need for a growing corporate headquarters, and they were going to move to one place or another. So I said, “We’d love to have you in Winston-Salem.”
JL: So, are they coming to Winston-Salem?
AJ: They haven’t made a final decision, but I think it will come fairly quickly, and I’m feeling very positive about it.
JL: Bring us up to speed on what’s going on with the Whitaker Park site.
AJ: As you know, R.J. Reynolds donated 1.7 million square feet of space to a nonprofit we created. We’re making great progress there. For example, we were able to keep Cook Medical here in the community, and they’re going to invest about $55 million, and probably grow their workforce from 650 to 1,000 jobs. We also just announced that Chris Harrison, a developer from Baltimore, is going to do about an $80 million project, with residential, hotel and retail going in there.
JL: It was on this program last year that you announced a new program to reduce poverty in the city. How’s that going?
AJ: We’ve seen poverty rates come down from 26% to 21%, and I won’t take credit for that because we’ve only been in business for about a year, but we’re moving in the right direction. And, we’ve got a lot of other really neat programs that we’re going to make some major announcements about in the next two to three weeks, one which will help with young people graduating from high school, and being able to go to college, hopefully for free.
JL: Your friend, Mayor Nancy Vaughan, is having a problem with gun violence in Greensboro, so now, her city council is allocating a half-million dollars to an anti-violence program. In the wake of similar violence in Winston-Salem, is that something you’re looking into, or have you done so already?
AJ: We’re looking at a number of things. We’ve got a task force that we’re operating within the police department, and we just received a large federal grant for something called a “shot locator,” in which we’ll be locating monitors all around various parts of the community, so that if a shot is fired, it triangulates where it was, and we can get immediate response to it. There are also some other things we’re looking at in terms of social programs, as well.
JL: It sounds like Winston-Salem is doing pretty well, so what challenges still lay ahead?
AJ: As always, you can’t ever let up. We need to keep pushing hard because the worst thing you can do is to sit on your laurels.
Jim Longworth is the host of Triad Today, airing on Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. on ABC45 (cable channel 7) and Sundays at 11 a.m. on WMYV (cable channel 15).