This story was written for our sponsor, the Wake Forest Business & Industry Partnership.

The Triangle is globally recognized as a hub for intellectuals and innovators, thanks in large part to the presence of esteemed universities and the Research Triangle Park. However, smaller Triangle communities like Wake Forest are becoming invaluable assets to the future of the region’s success.

In its new animated community profile showcasing the unique, business-savvy demographics of the town, the Wake Forest Business & Industry Partnership tells the story of the people shaping the future of business and local culture.

The Town of Wake Forest, a vital part of the Research Triangle, has one of the most educated populations in the region — more than 54 percent of its residents have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Its above-average workforce demographics create tremendous opportunity for launching businesses and entrepreneurial growth, revealing the power of human capital in what has been referred to as a “pre-K to PhD society.”

“Wake Forest’s citizens are extremely well-poised to make businesses here thrive. Our schools are some of the best in the Wake County Public School system and the power of academia is embedded in this community through our legacy as the original home of Wake Forest University,” said Jason Cannon, president of the WFBIP. “With the presence of Southeastern Seminary, apart from Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, Wake Forest is the only town in the Triangle where an education from pre-K to PhD can be obtained.”

Additionally, data shows the town’s long-standing upward growth trajectory.

Since 2000, the population has increased by 232 percent, making it the 10th fastest growing city of North Carolina’s 550 municipalities. The societal boom in Wake Forest includes people looking for a place to raise their families, but has also proven to include individuals focused on business and entrepreneurship.

“Data over the years consistently demonstrates that people want to be here to live, raise families and conduct business,” said Jennifer Gaston, senior project manager for the WFBIP. Gaston has been doing economic development work for more than a decade and said it’s gratifying to see others recognizing Wake Forest’s allure. “We’re no longer a suburban bedroom community. Wake Forest is many times over proving itself to be a primary place to start and grow a business.”

Companies like Superior Tooling, Revibe Technologies and Power Secure all got their start in Wake Forest and have continued to grow.

Wake Forest a prime spot for homegrown business, entrepreneurial success

Statistical data reveals 16.6 percent of the Wake Forest population works in professional, scientific or management positions. With a median age of 35, the average resident is far enough along in their career to have experience, but is also young enough to be eager to advance and innovate. Gaston emphasized that markers like these and others create an ecosystem that’s primed to fuel business opportunity.

“Expansion of the professional, scientific and management job market is indicative of a growing class of tech jobs being found in Wake Forest, while an uptick in the percentage of arts- and entertainment-based jobs (8.9 percent in 2018 to 9.2 percent in 2019) displays the rich quality of life found in the community,” a WFBIP growth analysis stated. “A one-year rise of 22,000 in the local labor force, mixed with increased local educational attainment is providing a significant abundance of well-trained employees for growing companies. Each of these statistics are creating a better ecosystem for businesses in Wake Forest that is further strengthened by the demographic changes of the larger Research Triangle region.”

Fifteen months ago, Doug Biette accepted a position as the director of manufacturing at Ultra Electronics – Ocean Systems, a defense technology company headquartered in Wake Forest. UE-OS is but one of several companies in town that benefits from the community’s significant and uniquely skilled talent pool.

“UE-OS has a large contract with the U.S. Navy to provide them with Next Generation Surface Search Radar. My job has been to establish the manufacturing capability; to manufacture and deliver these radars to the government. We are in the early, low-volume production phase right now and standing up with a complete manufacturing capability for very sensitive, very expensive, very high-precision electronics,” he said.

Biette said he leverages both the professional and personal draw of Wake Forest to entice potential out-of-towners to make the move.

“It was a pretty rare opportunity to basically build a manufacturing capability from scratch. It was a pretty unique challenge. I’ve done it in the past, really enjoyed doing it, and wanted to try to do it again, leveraging everything I’ve learned in the past as well as apply it to this new business area,” Biette said. “We plan to move to Wake Forest soon; we love the vibe here.”

“What draws people here and what the town pushes is work-life balance,” he continued. “You’ve got the greenways and the small town feel — that’s pretty big. We use this in recruiting when people are not from this area and we’re trying to bring them here.”

UE-OS is currently collaborating with another Wake Forest institution, the Wireless Research Center, on technology and equipment sharing strategies.

The Wireless Research Center is an independent, private nonprofit research center dedicated to applied research and engineering and has helped launch more than 80 startups. Not only is the WRC a regional resource, but it is also a global asset at-large as it “helps clients from around the world develop products and services that advance wireless technology innovation.”

The presence of companies like UE-OS and resources like the WRC, along with professional intersections between entities, demonstrate the existence of a strong business community and the benefit of an empowered workforce in Wake Forest.

“We have access to RTP, but we also have our own resources like the Wireless Research Center. We’re able to leverage the resources of the region but also provide unique opportunities for businesses right here in Wake Forest. We have so many companies here and many people think they have to go to other neighboring cities for tech jobs — but they’re right here in their backyard,” Gaston said. “And, as we all know, Wake Forest is just a charming town. To top it all off we have a great quality of life too.”

This story was written for our sponsor, the Wake Forest Business & Industry Partnership.