“If someone says Winston-Salem is falling behind, the numbers just don’t support that. We are still going very strong”
“20 years ago, we laughed and said you could shoot a cannon down 4th street after 5 and not hit anybody…Today that’s not true.”
-Allen Joines, March 30, 2022
Wednesday, Mayor and Winston-Salem Alliance President Allen Joines gave his annual address after failing to do so in 2020 and 2021. Joines has been giving a yearly address since at least 2013. These addresses present cherry-picked positive data points from various publications and analytic groups.
Previously, the address that the City is now calling the “Mayor’s State of the City” address was referred to as “the State of the Community” and it was presented by the Winston-Salem Alliance. It was the last public acknowledgment that Mayor Allen Joines works for the city’s wealthiest individuals and institutions. In 2019, the last year that public records are available, the Winston-Salem Alliance compensated Allen Joines to the tune of $222,000. Joines doesn’t take a salary from the City of Winston-Salem.
The State of the Community address in recent years was presented at the Hanesbrands Theatre before a large crowd. Various business and civic leaders joined Joines in previous years. This year’s short and stripped-down address was given to a small handpicked audience at City Hall. No visuals were presented despite the Mayor citing data from various sources throughout his speech.
“We have a goal of being the best place in the state, if not the Southeast, to start and grow a business.” -Allen Joines
Absent from this year’s address were any references to Joines’ ambitious goal for Winston-Salem to become a top 50 metropolitan area in the country by 2020 (in 2015 the city ranked #145). Instead of mentioning the top 50 metro goal’s failure to materialize, Joines’ new focus is making Winston-Salem the “best place in the state, if not the Southeast, to start and grow a business.”
Though there are some noteworthy downtown developments underway and some good news on the job front, it’s clear that Joines’ formula of developing downtown and recruiting new businesses to the area won’t return Winston to the glory days of decades past. For most workers, today’s Innovation Quarter jobs are a poor substitute for the jobs Wachovia, Reynolds, and Hanes provided years ago. Winston-Salem is “a farm team of Charlotte, Raleigh, and Atlanta” and that is unlikely to change anytime soon. It’s time to admit reality.
Someone needs to tell the Mayor that the average person in Winston-Salem does not want Winston-Salem to become a Charlotte, Raleigh, or Atlanta. Those cities are too congested and too expensive. It’s time that the City of Winston-Salem focused on being the best mid-sized city that it can be. That means building affordable housing, improving education, promoting equity, and addressing segregation in our community divided by Jim Crow in concrete.