The WS Chamber of Commerce Technology and Innovation Series event at the Milton Rhodes Center featured a panel of three speakers. Doug Edgeton, President of the Piedmont Triad Research Park, Carol Strohecker, Director of the Center for Design Innovation and Jason Thiel President of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership all spoke about new and interesting initiatives happening in that part of Winston-Salem that used to be a ghost town…downtown. Gone are the days where you’d leave your downtown office and have to drive to meet friends for a drink or leave town to attend a forum or event surrounded by creative and technologically savvy leaders in their industry. Drinks, networking, technology and innovation are happening in downtown Winston-Salem.
Attendees of this series learned about the size and diversity of Piedmont Triad Research Park. Not only does the park have over 54 companies, employing almost 1000 people; these same individuals hail from 5 continents and 25 countries. The Research Park is expanding its footprint downtown beginning with a project to cleanup and restore the historic Bailey Point power plant for office or other multipurpose use. There are plans in the works to create a 24 mile walking/biking/skateboarding trail that will connect downtown to Salem Creek. And there are plans for a $105 million building restoration project. Building 91 and 92, former Reynolds American manufacturing buildings in the park, will be restored to eventually include an atrium, open staircases and house 400-500 workers.
Carol Strohecker shared the concept behind the start of the Center for Design Innovation” (CDI) which resulted from an economic development study (Angelou study) which recommended that Winston-Salem respond to the declining manufacturing industry trends by focusing on the creative industry and specifically design. CDI’s focus goes one step further by focusing on digital technology specifically motion capture and rapid prototyping. She also talked about tieing creativity and design to science and technology by thinking of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) versus STEM. CDI also has grand plans to build in the Research Park and their building will be LEED certified, might include solar panels and other environmentally friendly features that could results in energy savings of 30%.
Jason Thiel wrapped up the discussion by showing the audience the current downtown “map” and plans for the future. He indicated that the growth in downtown residents has increased and now averages about 57 new units occupied per year (rent or sold). Jason also remarked about the plethora of downtown eating establishments and commented wryly that if a restaurant is not successful, it’s no longer downtown’s fault”.
The session concluded with audience Q&A. From the size of the audience and the nature of the questions, interest in learning more about technology, downtown development and innovation continues to be strong. Visit this blog to keep updated on events in our community and learn more about technology initiatives.