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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Mayor Joines stepping down at Winston-Salem Alliance

Two Winston-Salem economic development groups are combining, ending an unusual arrangement in which Allen Joines has led a key community organization while also serving as mayor since 2001.

The Winston-Salem Alliance, which Joines has led since its formation that same year, is joining with Greater Winston-Salem Inc. The move streamlines economic and workforce efforts in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, Joines said in an interview.

Many mayors work part-time jobs in addition to their public service. But Joines’ work as a key economic development executive for a nonprofit is a rarity among bigger-city mayors. He worked for the city in economic development before becoming mayor and the Alliance’s leader.

In a release, he noted that the Alliance has “worked tirelessly to energize the economy and create upward mobility for our citizens.”

The alliance board, which includes key civic leaders such as Wake Forest University President Susan Wente and auto dealer Don Flow, have approved the merger with Greater Winston-Salem. That group was formed through the 2019 merger of the city’s chamber and Winston Salem Business, which had been the county’s main economic development group.

Winston-Salem’s business community has gone through a major transformation during Joines’ tenure as mayor. He is running for re-election for a seventh four-year term. After winning the primary with 73% of the vote, the Democratic politician has no opposition on the general election ballot.

For decades, Winston-Salem’s business community was dominated by large employers Wachovia Bank and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, with the city ranking among North Carolina’s strongest corporate centers. But the bank’s sale to Charlotte-based First Union in the early 2000s and the tobacco industry’s demise cost the city many high-paying corporate jobs, while growth stagnated compared to faster-growing Raleigh and Charlotte.

Over the past two decades, however, the city has diversified with an emphasis on healthcare and entrepreneurship. Novant Health and Wake Forest Baptist Health have expanded significantly, though the latter enterprise is now part of Charlotte-based Advocate Health.

The Alliance encouraged the city’s diversification efforts through private sector initiatives and collaborating with government projects, including redevelopments of the Innovation Corridor and Whitaker Park projects. The group’s efforts have also included a $45 million Millennium Fund to invest in targeted projects and assisting the creation of entrepreneurial programs such as Winston Starts, the Flywheel business incubator and three venture capital funds.

Those efforts have helped Winston-Salem rank among the best entrepreneurial cities of its size in the U.S., according to various surveys, Joines says. There were 75 business startups last year, exceeding officials’ goal of 50, he adds.

“It’s much healthier to have 75 startups, with perhaps 30 of them growing into multimillion businesses” than a single large employer adding jobs, he says.

The Alliance also helped assemble the land for Winston-Salem’s downtown baseball stadium by negotiating for 64 different land parcels. It also helped collect land for an industrial park that now has Dell, Caterpillar and Herbalife as major industries.

For his efforts, Joines received compensation of about $240,000 in 2022, according to the Alliance’s most recent public tax filing. He was one of two staff members, the filing said.

“The missions of both of our organizations align closely, and I believe this combination can magnify that impact going forward,” Greater Winston-Salem CEO Mark Owens said in a release.

David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg
David Mildenberg is editor of Business North Carolina. Reach him at dmildenberg@businessnc.com.

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