This story was written for WRAL TechWire Innovator partner the Wake Forest Business Industry Partnership.

Just miles north of downtown Raleigh, the picturesque Town of Wake Forest is a bustling community filled with charm and character.

It’s also home to a world-class applied wireless research and testing facility — the Wireless Research Center.

It’s easy to write off smaller municipalities as places for mom-and-pop shops only, or to think that cities like New York and San Francisco are predominantly where technological innovation is happening. Wake Forest proves both assumptions wrong.

“The Town of Wake Forest is a vibrant part of the technology-rich Triangle region and the Wireless Research Center is playing a leading role in this renaissance,” said Jason Cannon, president of the Wake Forest Business & Industry Partnership, the town’s non-profit economic development entity. “The WRC is creating a critical mass of technology companies and partnerships in Wake Forest, attracting attention across the nation and around the world.”

The WRC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit world-class testing and research facility that provides services for engineering, antenna testing and commercialization. It strives to be a place that “serves large and small corporations as well as partners with universities and governments locally and globally, to address broad market and technology needs.”

As a strategic economic development tool for the town, it’s helped launch more than 20 new local businesses and further facilitated the launch of more than 80 more across the region through its partnership with RIoT.

RIoT is a community of technologists, business leaders, policy makers and entrepreneurs who all have a vested interest in the Internet of Things industry.

“If you’re an inventor or a startup company with an idea that has any kind of wireless component, between the Wireless Center and its RIoT initiative, we’ve created this ecosystem to help you get to market as fast as possible, as accurate as possible, without any hiccups,” said Gerry Hayes, founder and CEO of the WRC. “It’s a very collaborative, communal experience.”

The WRC facility and its certified test lab offer engineering and business services that support the commercialization of wireless products from initial concept through high-volume production. It also has a commercialization center that provides offices on a month-to-month basis for startup companies who want to operate within the WRC’s campus.

Companies have access to the WRC’s equipment, engineering and strategic business services. Additionally, the WRC hosts an antenna test chamber that is so unique there are only four others like it in the world.

“It was one of three in the world when it was built,” Hayes said. “We knew that it would put us on the telecommunications map, and it was definitely one that many of the engineering firms in the area could use if they had access to it.”

With internationally recognized partners including AT&T and Verizon, the WRC is transcending just a “telecommunications map” and is helping Wake Forest stand out on a global tech atlas.

Hayes noted the importance of the Town of Wake Forest for believing in the WRC vision and helping launch it as a shared resource for companies to thrive. As a resident who has lived in Wake Forest since 1994, Hayes said that the passion and collaboration with the town was unparalleled and demonstrated its commitment to boost economic development in Wake Forest through investments in technology.

“I think it might be hard to do that in a larger city,” Hayes admitted.

That town support, in combination with the discovery and work that occurs at the WRC, is a catalyst for innovation in today’s technology-driven economy. With clients in multiple verticals across the world and its varied global client base, WRC partners and startups improve the lives of people in North Carolina and beyond.

Hayes described the WRC as a “gap bridger that fills in the necessary technology pieces” and a place where ideas can come to life.

“The number of technology companies and supporting small businesses in Wake Forest has grown by more than 300 percent in the past 15 years, and we’ve only just begun to realize long-term investment and partnership with the WRC,” Hayes said.

Both the Town of Wake Forest and the WRC want businesses to maximize their abilities and strengthen the foundation of their companies. He also stressed that while “research” is part of the WRC name, it’s more of a development center.

“We’re closer to commercialization than we are to fundamental research,” he explained. “We will actually bridge that gap of what companies need to have done, and what is viable to go into a product. We’re very hands-on and very product-centric here; we’re making an impact in multiple verticals.”

Overall, the WRC and the Town of Wake Forest’s continued support and championing of this facility is evidence of the mighty things that can be done with the right tools, the right people and the right resources.

This story was written for WRAL TechWire Innovator partner the Wake Forest Business Industry Partnership.