Local business leaders gathered in Winston-Salem to discuss the economic state of the region Thursday night.

North Carolina was already among the country’s fastest growing states even before new facilities by Toyota and other manufacturers were announced.

Ted Abernathy is managing partner at Economic Leadership LLC, a development and strategic planning consultancy. 

He says the region is primed for continued growth. And to fill jobs, we’ll have to rely on the area’s manufacturing heritage to prepare the next generation for work that is cleaner and more technical than what was found in our previous factories.

“It also starts with having parents understand what the opportunities for their children are," he says. "You need to talk to their teachers, you need to talk to their grandparents. We need to make people understand what the world of work really looks like today because it’s not the same as it used to be.”

Much of the new growth is expected to be in a corridor southeast of Greensboro. But Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines says he doesn’t expect the city to be left out.

“What we’re told is that the suppliers for Toyota, Boom (Boom Supersonic) and others don’t want to be right next to the plant because they’ll be fishing that same pond to get workers," he says. "So they say their sweet spot is within 30 miles, no more than 60. So Winston-Salem falls in a really sweet spot there for suppliers.”

Joines says city leaders have been talking about worker shortages since 2018, and he says it will be a challenge to find workers to fill the jobs that are coming.

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