WINSTON-During the past year, Angelou Economics has spent an extensive amount of time in Forsyth and seven other Northwest N.C. counties, talking with community leaders, business owners and residents.

The Austin, TX-based firm recently unveiled its final list recommendations based on those discussions for growing the economy in the region. Most of the report focuses on Forsyth County…the region’s economic and population hub with Winston-Salem and its downtown Piedmont Triad Research Park.

The 10-acre PTRP, which is governed by a group called the Idealliance, currently includes four multi-story buildings, more than 20 tenants, approximately 600 employees and a total payroll approaching $25 million. Companies like Targacept, ALR Technologies and Kucera Pharmaceuticals call the park home.

Local organizers are pursuing a 180-acre expansion of PTRP that will add significant resources to North Carolina’s biotechnology industry and include a new research campus for the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. The N.C. Biotechnology Center opened its first satellite office there a year ago.

As PTRP reaches maturity over the next 10 to 15 years, leaders say it could mean more than 10,000 new jobs, around $5 million in annual property tax revenues, and over $2.5 billion in total economic impact for the entire region.

“This park will undoubtedly have one of the biggest impacts in the region, not only in terms of wealth generation, but also job creation,” stated the Angelou report, which is available at NorthwestNC.com. “As startups grow in size within the park, these businesses will seek space within Forsyth County and throughout the region for expansion.”

The most immediate need for the PTRP, the report goes on to say, is to develop affordable lab space to grow new bio-medical companies. It suggests a 45,000 square foot office/lab building ranging in price from $10 million to $16 million.

Other recommended projects for PTRP include computer-animation, digital-arts and entertainment-design programs run by the N.C. School of the Arts in Winston-Salem; a $150,000 feasibility study; an expansion by Forsyth Tech of its biotech-training program at a cost of up to $5 million; and the development of a youth research and technology center costing an estimated $1 million.

Besides Forsyth County, the seven other counties in the Northwest N.C. region studied by Angelou Economics are Alleghany, Ashe, Davie, Forsyth, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry and Yadkin counties.

In these counties, the focus was on initiatives involving work-force development, local business parks, education and infrastructure needs. The top recommendation for Yadkin County, for example, was funding water and sewer improvements in the highway corridors.

In addition to the eight counties, the Angelou report also targets eight industry clusters: biotechnology, design, food processing, hospitality and tourism, logistics and distribution, customized materials production, value-added services and viticulture.

“Northwest North Carolina has long been a center for productivity and growth,” said Angelou. “Now the region faces a significant economic challenge, one which will require a coordinated effort and strong leadership.”

The rest of the Triad

Although Guilford County was not one of the eight counties included in Angelou Economics’ study of the Northwest N.C. region (it was determined by congressional district boundaries), the firm said Greensboro and High Point, which along with Winston-Salem make up the Triad, were essential to its progress.

“Regional economic development activities in Northwest N.C. must also include Guilford County,” the Angelou report stated. “Because of their proximity–, smart economic development decisions and successful investment within Northwest N.C. will also impact Greensboro and High Point.”

It said employers locating in the region will consider the workforce skills, infrastructure, and quality of life amenities available in Greensboro and High Point when making their site selection decisions.

And when marketing nationally and internationally, Angelou said it will be important for both Guilford County and Northwest N.C. to include information about each other and sell the entire region rather than a single county or site.

Babcock Competition: The elevator ride of lifetime

Two minutes. That’s how long MBA students from some of the nation’s top universities will have to try to convince venture capitalists to invest in their business plans during the 5th Annual Babcock Elevator Competition.

More than 30 teams with unique business plans will compete for the winning pitch during elevator rides with venture capitalists this Saturday from 8 AM to12 noon at the Wachovia Center in downtown Winston-Salem. The Angell Center for Entrepreneurship at Wake Forest’s Babcock Graduate School of Management stages the event.

During two elevator rides, the teams pitch their business ideas to venture capitalists. If chosen, the teams will get 20 minutes in the boardroom with the undivided attention of potential investors. Venture capitalists from three firms representing more than $500 million in early stage venture capital money will serve as judges.

Six teams are selected to advance to the second round where they present their business plans before the panel of venture capitalists. Winners are granted the opportunity to enter discussions with one or more venture capital firms, with the possibility of getting their business plan funded.

Several previous competitors in the Babcock Elevator Competition…the first of its kind in the country…have made progress in building their businesses. 2002 winner Altadonics, formerly D-Tec-Dent, is strategically implementing its business plan and gaining investor interest and financial backing. Another finalist, SightSpeed (previously QVIX Technologies) has closed its first round of professional venture capital investment. The company, which creates real-time desktop videoconferencing software, also has established a growing user base.

Area schools with teams entered in this year’s competition include Georgia Tech, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of South Carolina, and Wake Forest. MBA schools may enter up to three teams each, and each team must have a completed business plan.

Eno River Capital and Wachovia are among the sponsors for the competition, which is organized by MBA students at the Babcock School. Other event sponsors include Brunswick, the venture capital firms CapitalSouth Partners and the Wakefield Group, Idealliance, Kilpatrick Stockton law firm, Krispy Kreme, and the N.C. Small Business Technology Development Center.

“This is the opportunity of a lifetime for entrepreneurial MBA students with the right business plan,” said Stan Mandel, executive professor of entrepreneurship at the Babcock School and director of the Angell Center. “This competition simulates reality. With the goal of getting more ‘face time,’ students must make pithy, effective pitches to influential investors. In addition to making an outstanding formal presentation…as brilliant as it is concise…the students need an exceptional entrepreneurial team with a compelling plan.”

Northwest N.C.: www.northwestnc.com

Babcock School of Management: www.mba.wfu.edu