Tag Archives: winston-salem

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.

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.

Apartments a Big Part of Winston-Salem’s Downtown Revitalization

I wrote the following for the blog at the day job and am re-posting it here because I thought it would be of interest to some people from my neck of the woods:

At its annual meeting on February 24 the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership outlined how Winston-Salem’s downtown has been revitalized over the last 15+ years:

The nonprofit group listed 88 downtown investment projects since 2000 that have either been completed, are under way or for which a firm commitment has been made.

The combined capital investment value is $1.23 billion, topped by the $106 million spent on Wake Forest BioTech Place and the $100 million commitment by Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center toward a major medical education facility. Both buildings are in Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.

The investment is divided into eight categories: health and technology (eight projects, total $445.4 million); infrastructure (10 projects, total $188.4 million); institutional and public development (15 projects, total $181.6 million); residential (15 projects, total $140 million); multiple use (eight projects, total $95.1 million); office (five projects, total $88.4 million); arts and entertainment (five projects, total $50.3 million); and commercial (22 projects, total $42.2 million).

The Nissen Building, a PTAA member, was the largest residential project at $32 million, although far from the only project downtown – Winston Factory Lofts, Plant 64, Hilltop House, The Gallery Lofts, and Link Apartments Brookstown to name just a few. The transformation of the former Reynolds HQ building into a Kimpton Hotel and apartments has recently captured the city’s imagination as well as the soon-to-open Mast General Store project that will add another marquee destination for the downtown. In other words the revitalization shows no signs of slowing down.

Meanwhile over in Greensboro the entity charged with leading its downtown revitalization, Downtown Greensboro Inc, is going through a transitional phase and is looking for a new leader. That’s important because there are several projects in the works that will alter downtown Greensboro significantly over the next few years and it’s essential that there be someone at the wheel who can bring together the various constituencies – city government, elected leaders, industry, educational institutions, etc. – and provide a strategic direction for downtown redevelopment. If Greensboro can manage to bring some strategic direction to the downtown then we’re sure to see even more apartments developed in the downtown area in addition to those like Greenway at Fisher Park, CityView and the Southeastern Building.

As for High Point, well they have a new mayor, lots of new city council members and a new city manager and one of their primary tasks is figuring out how, and where, to revitalize their city. With the furniture market they do have a unique challenge so it will be interesting to see how things evolve there.

These are indeed interesting and (finally) dynamic times in the Piedmont Triad.

Mary’s Gourmet Diner Gets the Daily Show Treatment and It Goes Well

For those of you who don’t live in the Winston-Salem area you probably haven’t had the pleasure of eating at Mary’s Gourmet Diner, but you might have heard about the social media kerfluffle that broke out a couple of months ago when someone posted the discount they got for praying, aka showing gratitude. Some people jumped on the story and started screaming discrimination, but once the local press started digging into it what was revealed is that Mary’s had a long-standing policy of letting their servers give on the spot discounts for acts of kindness, “moments of Zen”, etc.

From a business standpoint it was probably a bit risky as a policy because it did open the doors for misunderstandings and perceived bias, but on the other hand it was a positive way for the proprietor, Mary Haglund, to empower her employees to acknowledge positive patrons. (How’s that for a little bit of alliteration?) Anyway, the story got the Daily Show’s attention and it was nice to see they exposed the “perpetual panties in a twist” nature of the shouters.

Video is below, and here’s a link in case it doesn’t load here for some reason. If you aren’t from Winston-Salem and end up visiting our fair city then by all means visit Mary’s – great food and atmosphere.

Now That’s an Order Confirmation

I just ordered an energy drink for my wife that will be delivered to our home with a personalized message. Big deal right? What made it cool was the order confirmation served up by the folks at Drink the Sunshine after I finished paying which you can see below. Very creative, but that shouldn’t be surprising considering the folks behind the product.

Sunshine_OrderConfirmation

 

FYI, I’m both “The Ball and Chain” and the “doofus husband.”

Dealing With Surprising Social Media Fame

Update 8/2/14 – NPR has a story about this and in it mention that they are checking with the Justice Department to see if the restaurant’s policy is a violation of the prohibition against public businesses like restaurant’s discrimating based on religion. It would seem not since the discount is supposedly at the discretion of each server, but then again stuff like this is often not obvious or all that logical. I wouldn’t blame the restaurant for discontinuing the policy just to play it safe.

Mary’s Gourmet Diner on Trade Street in Winston-Salem just found out what it’s like to have something go viral. From a story on HLNTV:

The tab belonged to Jordan Smith, who had traveled to Winston-Salem for a business trip and stopped for breakfast at Mary’s with two colleagues Wednesday morning.

She tells HLN the group “prayed over our meal and the waitress came over at the end of the meal and said, ‘Just so you know, we gave you a 15% discount for praying,’ which I’d never seen before.”

Impressed, Smith shared a photo of the receipt on her Facebook page. A mutual friend then posted the pic on the page of Orlando Christian radio station Z88.3 and it’s taken off from there, being shared more than 1,700 times as of Thursday afternoon.

Well, apparently things heated up on Facebook thanks to all the attention, causing Mary to post the following on her business’ Facebook page:

MarysFB

Here’s the text in case that’s hard to read:

There’s a lot of craziness going on in regard to the 15% discount. I will not respond to all the posts. I will say that it is not a “policy”, it’s a gift we give at random to customers who take a moment before their meal. This could be prayer or just a moment to breathe & push the busyness of the world away. Who you talk to or meditate on etc. is your business. I have lived in a 3rd world country, there are people starving. We live in a country with an abundance of beautiful food. I NEVER take that for granted. It warms my heart to see people with an attitude of gratitude. Prayer, meditation or just breathing while being grateful opens the heart chakra. It’s good for everyone!!!! Thanks to my local community for your support…you know who I am. As for all the people posting negative comments about me & my restaurant who have never met me or been to the restaurant, thanks for sharing, it’s your right to speak out, just as it is mine. Peace, love & happy eating!!!!

It’s a sign of our times that doing almost anything positive can be turned into a negative. Sheesh.

We were talking about this at work and we all had the same thought before Mary posted on Facebook: if we know they’re giving 15% off just for praying we’d bow our heads in a heartbeat. Of course that kind of defeats the purpose, but I wonder how many people around Winston were thinking the same thing?

Back and Better Than Ever

Lucy’s been writing the last couple of years, just not on her (in?)famous blog, Life in Forsyth. Now she’s back and better than ever:

You see a boy riding a bicycle.

I see four years of finding parking at CompRehab. I see a special chair in the lunchroom because he collapsed on little, round stools. I see a child laying on his belly over a giant ball and being gently rolled to learn balance. I see therapeutic pencil grips and modified desks. I see the little room where casts were made of his feet. I see IEPs and testing modifications. I see stair exercises with someone behind him for safety. I see adaptive technology.

I see strength and ferocity and determination.

I see a boy at long last riding a bicycle.

Hopefully she’ll forgive me for sharing an entire post.