Whitaker Park Revenues May Fund Economic Development

Whitaker Park Revenues May Fund Economic Development

7:33pm Feb 12, 2015
Bob Leak, president of Winston-Salem Business Inc., stands near the Whitaker Park site. On Jan. 7, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco said that it would donate nearly 1.8 million square feet and 120 acres of its Whitaker Park campus in Winston-Salem for economic development.
Julie Knight/The Triad Business Journal

Economic development officials in Winston-Salem hope that a former Reynolds manufacturing site will bring more jobs to the area.

Last month, Reynolds donated Whitaker Park to a new non-profit called Whitaker Park Development Authority (WPDA, Inc.), which is comprised of several business groups and Wake Forest University. The goal is that it will be able to attract companies and create thousands of jobs.

Mark Sutter with Triad Business Journal has been following the story and says it’s not a project that will happen overnight.

“That’s the tough part. There are not enough companies looking to relocate, certainly not take space this size, so this is a long-term play,” says Sutter.  “But you can also look and have some optimism in seeing some of the other things that have taken some time and built up momentum and one of those is another former R.J. Reynolds property, Innovation Quarter.”

WPDA Inc. plans to set aside a portion of net income derived from the Whitaker Park properties to go into a fund that could be used for economic development throughout Forsyth County, says Bob Leak, president of Winston-Salem Business Inc.

“We would like to have a foundation or fund that, over time, becomes a nest egg of development dollars,” says Leak, who leads Forsyth’s private recruitment entity and is also a member of the WPDA.

“It would be available to help fund economic development initiatives and even provide some money for incentives. We don’t have a foundation in Forsyth County that can do a lot of direct investment in economic development projects.”

According to Sutter, the first transfer of buildings will happen within the next 18-24 months. Whitaker Park Development Authority will be evaluating the property in the meantime. It’s also in the process of requesting money from the city and county to make infrastructure improvements.

The Business Report on 88.5 WFDD is a partnership with the Triad Business Journal. You'll find Mark Sutter's story and more breaking business news at Triad.Bizjournals.com.

Justin Catanoso is director of the Journalism program at Wake Forest University and a regular contributor to 88.5 WFDD.

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