Tag Archives: piedmont triad


Until 11 years ago I’d lived my entire adult life in Northern Virginia and had spent my time commuting to work in some of the worst traffic the United States has to offer. When we moved to the Winston-Salem area it felt like I’d gone to traffic heaven because rush hour literally didn’t exist. We kind of have a “rush quarter hour” but even that doesn’t feature the gridlock you find in most metro areas. Still, it’s all relative and I would regularly hear locals complain about the busy highways and I’d just shake my head and mutter to myself, “You have no idea how good you have it.”

That’s why I felt vindicated by this article relaying the news that our area has the second-best traffic experience (behind only Phoenix) according to data from Google’s WAZE traffic app. Here’s an excerpt:

You’re not just getting there, Friend. You are having a world-class automotive experience — at least according to a newly released study that suggests Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point offer some of the best driving scenarios on the planet.

The metropolitan area finished second, just behind Phoenix, Ariz., in overall driving satisfaction in the study by analysts for Google’s WAZE travel app who compared driving experiences in 32 nations and 167 of the globe’s most mobile communities…

The Triad finished first among the various metros for minimal traffic delays.

Motorists in the region average less than a half hour on the road in a commute that averages about 26 miles, the WAZE study found. A pittance compared to some places in the United States where commuters average more than an hour each way,

Interesting that it ends up my commute is almost exactly the average.

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.

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.

We Are Sooooo Uber Worthy

Last week I was in Denver on business and needed to get a ride to the convention center from an area that didn’t have a cab within miles. One of the people I was with arranged a ride with Uber after I revealed that I didn’t have the app on my phone because we didn’t have the service where I lived (Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina). For the first time in a long while I felt like a backwoods Luddite.

Guess what? Uber’s coming to the Triad starting today:

The California-based company is expanding to Greensboro, Winston-Sale, Durham, Chapel Hill, Fayetteville and Wilmington, according to the newspaper. The company connects riders and drivers and has mostly been available in larger cities. It is already in use in Charlotte and Raleigh.

The mobile app is linked to a credit card and replaces hailing a cab or arranging for a car service. Customers download the app and the nearest available driver picks them up. A base fee of $2.43 is charged, and the customer is charged $1.46 per mile and 30 cents per minute. Uber gets a 20 percent cut and the driver keeps the remainder.

Local Mommy Blog Bites the Dust

The Triad Smarty Pants blog is going dark.  The announcement today:

Hi Smarties,

I'm sad to say that today is our official last post in the Triad. We've really enjoyed delivering all the Smarty Scoop for you for two years and appreciate the support each and every one of you has given us every single day! However, due to some recent changes in the direction of our brand and business, we deemed it necessary to discontinue the TSP site for now. 

We wish you the best of luck with your journey through this crazy little thing called mommyhood and stay Smarty!

Come visit us in Charlotte any time - www.charlottesmartypants.com!

Jen Plym
Chief Founding Mommy

I wasn't exactly an avid follower since I'm neither a mom or particularly smart, but I kept an eye on the blog because I'm interested to see how "new media" fares locally.  For that reason I'm sorry to see them throw in the towel in the Triad, but hopefully they'll thrive in Charlotte.

Clapper’s New Position

I found it fascinating that Rob Clapper, who recently left his position as president of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce for what he termed a great career opportunity, is landing at the Prince William Chamber of Commerce in Northern Virginia. It's fascinating to me because Prince William County is where I lived for close to 10 years before moving to the Piedmont Triad, and Clapper's move reinforces for me just how much has changed in Northern Virginia in the last 15 years.

Until very recently Prince William was a sleepy bedroom community for Washington, DC and the various chambers in the county reflected that stature. If you'd have told me in 1996 that someone was leaving the role of president of the chamber of one of the biggest cities in North Carolina to take over a chamber in Prince William, and that he'd see it as a step up on the career curve, I'd have asked you what you or he was smoking. 

Fifteen years later the population in Prince William has exploded and lots of companies have chosen to plant roots there; just from 2000-2009 the population and number of non-farm jobs each grew by about 35%. Add to that the merger of the smaller chambers to create one large chamber and you have a pretty attractive job for someone in Clapper's position. 

Of course one of the main reasons my wife and I moved our family out of Prince William County was that the growth was just too much for us. The growth was happening so quickly, and with such poor planning, that day-to-day life was becoming unbearable.  Because the road infrastructure didn't keep up with the residential and commercial development the traffic came to be a defining factor in how we lived, and according to my in-laws things have only gotten worse.  

So my congratulations to Mr. Clapper on the new gig, but also my best wishes in adjusting to the ever growing beast that is the DC metroplex.  As for the Greensboro gig, well I'd say to any candidate considering the position it's a pretty sweet opportunity.  The Piedmont Triad's a great place to live and I think there's a lot of opportunity to do great things here as we move beyond the recent economic apocalypse.

BTW, I received an email sent today to all Greensboro Chamber members letting us know that a search committee has been formed, and telling us that if we know anyone interested in the job to have them contact Ingrid Hopper at ihopper@greensboro.org. So there you go.

Congrats to a/perture

Looks like Lawren and crew over at a/perture are making a nice splash in the Triad.  They won "Runner Up" in the "Best Blog" and "Best Facebooker" categories in Yes! Weekly's Best of 2010 survey.  Oh, and probably a little more important to them, they were "Noteworthy" in the "Best Cinema" category.

I'm still trying to get down there for beer and a movie.  Maybe next week I'll finally get the chance.

Things Are Getting Better, but…

The Dixon Hughes Triad Business Index for March, 2010 shows that the local economy is improving, but it's not by much and we've got a heckuva long way to go before we can say things are good.  It will be interesting to see what happens in real estate when the stimulus plan expires at the end of this week, but when you read this from the report you wonder how much worse it can get (knock on wood):

At the end of the 1st quarter of 2010, the inventory of homes on the market was 9,098, or 6.3 times the number of homes sold in the 1st quarter.  At the current sales pace, it will take 18.9 months to exhaust the existing inventory.  The number of existing homes offered for sale was up 16.5% from what it was at the end of the 4th quarter, and it was 9.5% higher than at the end of the 1st quarter one year ago. 

The price of the average home sold in the 1st quarter was down 2.8% from the previous quarter.  The average quality-adjusted price of an existing home in the Triad was $158,718.  The average this quarter was down 1.7% from the average recorded in the 1st quarter of last year.  By comparison, over the past year, consumer prices nationally have risen 2.2%.

Trust and Judgment

Today offered another one of those lessons you learn early but need to be reminded of often: leaping to conclusions usually lands you in the wrong place.  I was at lunch and the person I was sitting next to, someone whom I trust, started talking about the ongoing situation here in the Piedmont Triad between Waffle House Inc. and its (now former) local franchisee.  Long story short the local franchisee got out of the business and in the process some employees were issued paychecks that bounced.  Fingers were pointed, but early on the local franchisee looked like the bad guy.

Now it's important to provide some context here.  People in the Triad who pay attention to these kinds of things are likely predisposed to believing the worst in any story about employees being given rubber checks, because another local company recently went out of business, and in the process the owner really did screw his employees out of pay and health benefits. 

At lunch I was hearing from a trusted source that the Waffle House franchisee was one of the most honorable and ethical business people she had ever met.  Knowing what I know about the source, and knowing the number of people she knows in the business community, my angle on the story instantly shifted 180 degrees. After reading the initial coverage of the story I'd just assumed that the franchisee had gotten in too deep and had done what lots of companies do in that situation: tried to hold on and pray for a miracle while telling the employees nothing of the problems and then eventually bouncing paychecks. I also assumed that stories of delinquent payroll taxes would soon follow. A one minute conversation at lunch changed my assumptions, and I began to think that there's probably a whole lot more to the story and I probably needed to reserve judgment until the situation was fully aired.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't think the media did any faulty reporting.  The stories I read simply stated the facts: employees' paychecks bounced, the state's labor department was investigating and if they found any wrongdoing they were going to go after the franchisee for the employees' pay.  I did the rest of the work myself, leaping to conclusions and letting my own biases take me to an early, and potentially faulty, conclusion.  Luckily I was saved from myself today.

After lunch I got back to my desk and found this story waiting in my alert box. It seems that my source at lunch was right and it's the folks at Waffle House Inc. who haven't been behaving too well in this case, at least to this point.  And that's where I need to remember another lesson: there's usually more to a story than meets the eye, and it will probably be a while before we have the full story here.  Stay tuned.