Good news for Winston-Salem on the tech-job front, but it’s important to remember that technology has become so pervasive that the line between “tech jobs” and just plain jobs is a blurry one.
Look at GSO’s massive AmEx data center – financial services is an information industry – or consider what it takes to design and build a HondaJet. Or check out Google’s acquisition of Nest, another sure sign that the Internet of Things is transforming traditional businesses into technology companies.
So, sure, it would be great if the software industry added a slew of programmers and engineers to the local workforce, but at this point “technology jobs” is a category that transcends traditional tech firms. Even smaller companies, traditionally viewed as somewhat tech-averse, are increasingly capable in that realm – and I wonder if that’s an area we should be emphasizing more in terms of economic development.
A lot of the focus of our econ dev efforts – at least the public and media focus – seems to be on landing a huge project that will jumpstart the local economy. Which is great, if you can pull it off. But whales are not so common, and I’m not clear on what we’re doing in parallel to those efforts to help our smaller, homegrown businesses grow and to encourage others to move here.
Maybe GSO should be trying to nurture something like Germany’s Mittelstand – the vast network of smaller firms that are a major part that country’s economic success. The success of those companies, though, depends on factors like access to technology and a well-educated, skilled workforce. Those things don’t happen by accident, and I don’t know that Guilford County is concentrating its very real resources on such goals.
I’d be happy to learn that my questions (including yesterday’s queries about data centers and overall strategy) have easy answers. But I have the same lack of clarity as Hoggard, who asks, “What is our economic development master plan, and where can it be viewed?”