#Dadbod

Suddenly me and my ilk – middle aged guys with semi-maintained middle aged bodies – are trendy, at least according to this item from The Atlantic:

Is “dadbod” a hashtag joke or a social-sexual movement? A bit of both, probably. A month ago at The Odyssey, Clemson sophomore Mackenzie Pearson explained that this “new trend” had “fraternity boys everywhere” rejoicing. “In case you haven’t noticed lately, girls are all about that dad bod,” she wrote. “The dad bod is a nice balance between a beer gut and working out. The dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.’” In the time since, #dadbod has gone viral on social media, to the cheers of Jason Segel lookalikes everywhere.

It ain’t much, but I’ll take it. #Dadbod owners of the world unite and rejoice!

If You’re a Poor Kid in Forsyth County Then You’re Screwed

According to a recently released report Forsyth County, NC is the second worst county in the United States when it comes to income mobility for poor children. From the report in the New York Times:

Forsyth County is extremely bad for income mobility for children in poor families. It is among the worst counties in the U.S.

Location matters – enormously. If you’re poor and live in the Winston-Salem area, it’s better to be in Davie County than in Yadkin County or Forsyth County. Not only that, the younger you are when you move to Davie, the better you will do on average.

Every year a poor child spends in Davie County adds about $40 to his or her annual household income at age 26, compared with a childhood spent in the average American county. Over the course of a full childhood, which is up to age 20 for the purposes of this analysis, the difference adds up to about $800, or 3 percent, more in average income as a young adult…

It’s  among the worst counties in the U.S. in helping poor children up the income ladder. It ranks 2nd out of 2,478 counties, better than almost no county in the nation.

Take a look at this graphic and you can see that there’s a huge disparity between the prospects for poor kids and rich kids in the county:

Source NYtimes.com

Source NYtimes.com

Forsyth’s neighbor to the east, Guilford County, isn’t much better off:

It’s among the worst counties in the U.S. in helping poor children up the income ladder. It ranks 37th out of 2,478 counties, better than only about 1 percent of counties.

While it would be easy to say, “This should be a wake up call to the leaders of our community” I think that would be a cop out. This is the kind of thing that should concern us all because what do we think will eventually happen if we continue to allow a huge segment of our community to live in circumstances in which they perceive little chance of improving their lot in life? What do we think these young people will do when they lose hope?

So yeah, our elected leaders should view this as an early warning that they need to address these underlying causes of this disparity in opportunity, but this is bigger than them. All of us need to get engaged, through our schools, churches, civic groups, businesses and neighborhoods, in order to begin to make any progress in improving the prospects for our kids’ futures. The underlying issues are systemic – broken family structures, poor educational attainment, too many low wage jobs, etc. – and only a concerted effort by the entire community will be able to address them. If we don’t we will have much larger problems on our hands in years to come.

Winston-Salem and Forsyth County have made a great deal of progress in addressing the major economic challenges that were wrought by the declines of the local manufacturing industries, highlighted by the resurgence of downtown Winston-Salem, but now we need to make sure that the tide rises for everyone, not just those lucky enough to be born into well off families.

Questions from Every Q&A You’ve Ever Suffered Through

Like many of you I’ve had to sit through an astounding number of presentations followed by Q&a sessions. That’s why I find this list of the questions asked at every Q&A ever to be so funny, and kind of depressing. Here’s a nice selection you should all recognize:

1. “I’d like you to know that I’m particularly smart. Here are some subjects I consider myself to be very smart about. There is no question.”

2. “Can you explain why I didn’t understand this presentation?”

10. “I used to like your work, but I don’t now. Have you considered doing the things I like again?”

14. “Someone else already asked my question. Make them give it back.”

18. “I drifted in and out during the middle of whatever it was you were talking about. Could you please revisit that entire topic? I will not be more specific, thank you for your time.”

Jobs and Money

Why are jobs important? Well, beyond the obvious there’s the added benefit that it helps keep people out of trouble. From the May, 2015 issue of Rotarian Magazine:

Summer jobs can help prevent violence among disadvantaged students, according to a large-scale trial out of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Chicago Crime Lab. The study involved 1,634 teenagers from 13 high-crime schools in Chicago, and a local program that places youth in part-time paid summer jobs and pairs them with mentors. The job-assignment intervention reduced violence by 43 percent over 16 months, with nearly four fewer violent-crime arrests per 100 students compared with the control group.

From the same issue of the magazine comes this little tidbit of info:

One percent of the global population owns nearly half the world’s wealth, according to a new report from Oxfam, and that share is expected to exceed 50 percent within two years. The richest 20 percent of the population owns most of the other half of the world’s resources, and the remaining 80 percent of people share just 5.5 percent. The combined wealth of the 80 richest individuals in the world has doubled since 2009, and surpasses the combined wealth of the 3.5 billion people in the bottom half.

From Tobacco to Tech

The New York Times covers the revitalization of Winston-Salem’s downtown over the past 15-20 years, with a particular focus on the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter that started in 1986 when RJ Reynolds moved operations out of downtown, and then really picked up steam 5-10 years:

Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, rising on a 145-acre parcel on the developing east side of this midsize Carolina city, is a partnership between the city and state, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Wake Forest University and Wexford Science and Technology, the Baltimore-based primary developer. The development, initially named the Piedmont Triad Research Park, was once the site of a cigarette manufacturing plant owned by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco.

The irony of the Innovation Quarter’s focus on data analysis, biotech health research and medical education is not lost on the project’s developers. Neither is the design emphasis on light and air.

Skylights and spacious interior atriums open the dark, early 20th-century, multistory concrete factory buildings. The $517.5 million development also features new construction to house state-of-the art biomedical laboratories and classrooms. In all, the Innovation Quarter encompasses 2.5 million square feet of office, laboratory, classroom and residential space in 16 buildings surrounding an urban square.

But as those of us who live here know, the Innovation Quarter is just the largest piece of what has been an ongoing rebuilding puzzle for the Camel City:

From 1875, when Richard Joshua Reynolds founded the company that bore his name, through most of the 20th century, Winston-Salem moved with the rhythm of the tobacco harvest and the shifting domestic market for cigarette sales. During World War II, 15,000 people worked in the buildings the company owned on the city’s east side.

What remains of that economy and culture are sturdy structures being converted to new uses. The R.J. Reynolds Art Deco 21-story headquarters, designed by William F. Lamb and opened in 1929, is said to have been a model for the Empire State Building, completed in 1931. Later this year, at a cost of $60 million, the first seven floors of the Reynolds Building will open as a 211-room Kimpton Hotel. The other floors will have 150 residences.

The hotel development, said Mayor Allen Joines, was influenced by the Wake Forest project, two blocks away. The city, he said, is intent on forming medicine, information management and biotechnology into a new brand for Winston-Salem. “Since 2000, we’ve had $1.2 billion in real estate investment in our downtown,” Mayor Joines said. “The Innovation Quarter has been a big part of why that’s happened.” (Emphasis mine)

It’s nice to see that the remarkable transformation of Winston-Salem is getting noticed in other parts of the country, and it really has been something to behold. The combination of public-private initiatives, the transition from an “old” economy to a “new” economy, and the evolution of a sleepy (really dead) downtown social scene to one that is brimming with great restaurants, theaters, art institutions, etc. is something that could and probably will be studied by cities that find themselves in similar situations to Winston-Salem’s a generation ago.

Sure we still have a long way to go. We still suffer from underemployment in this area, high rates of food insecurity in homes and other major socio-economic challenges that need to be addressed, but we’re definitely in much better shape than we were when I moved here with my family ten years ago. If you aren’t from around here then I recommend you come check it out.

WalletHub Gives Triad Cities High Marks for Starting New Businesses

WalletHub.com ranked the 150 largest cities in the US (measured by population) to start businesses and the Triad’s cities fared pretty well:
#9 Greensboro
#19 Winston-Salem

Here’s the rest of NC’s cities:
#27 Fayetteville
#62 Charlotte
#90 Durham
#106 Raleigh

It’s nice to see that our area is being recognized for its relatively low costs, strong infrastructure and livability.

Here’s a link to the full results and methodology they used for the rankings.