Success of public-private partnership in Wake Forest’s strategic development by Jason Cannon & Gerard Hayes
arlier this year, the state of North Carolina
job opportunities. Part of the strategic vision behind
and communities across the nation were
this emphasis operates by providing a layer of
abuzz at the possibility of recruiting
strategically focused programming that brings
Amazon and Apple to build new headquarters in their
together entrepreneurs with communities of mentors
neck of the woods. This revolutionary moment in the
who have networks with regional, national, and global
history of economic development highlighted the
business partners and investors as a catalyst for
potency of public-private partnerships for strategic
development across the nation.
Development of this innovation infrastructure includes
The Town of Wake Forest has long understood one of
two major projects for the Town and private partners.
the strongest tools for steady and sustainable
These include the development of a new downtown
development are these “P3s” (public-private
business incubator led by a private coworking ﬁrm in
partnerships) driven by knowledge, technology,
collaboration with the WRC, and a new mixed-use
entrepreneurship and innovation.
nearly 200-acre technology park where people will live,
With progressive foresight into these strategic growth opportunities, the Town of Wake Forest provided initial funding to help launch the Wireless Research Center in
work and play in a “walkable” community with hightech oﬃce spaces, cultural amenities and a variety of retail, dining and living options.
2010 as a private, independent nonproﬁt organization
The vision includes a variety of strategic components
dedicated to innovation and collaboration as a shared
found in Wake Forest that will be leveraged to help
resource. This whole endeavor garnered public
grow businesses ranging from the communications
resources, including two grants from the N.C. Golden
engineering, testing and development found at the
Leaf Foundation of approximately $1.5 million.
WRC, to lawyers who help form businesses and ﬁle
Now independently functioning and committed to jumpstarting the growth of other entrepreneurs, the WRC specializes in communications engineering, and hosts world-class wireless testing equipment and a
patents, and marketers with experience in web design, writing and photography – all in a welcoming community environment that nurtures creativity, innovation and collaboration.
commercialization center with shared business
The strategic vision, a sort of vision 2.0, extends the
incubator oﬃce space.
Town’s original partnership with the WRC from 2010 to
In partnership with the Wireless Research Center, both in regard to shared vision and resource development, the Town’s economic development initiatives are now
build a collaborative ecosystem that will emphasize mentorship and the sharing of expertise and resources.
focused on providing innovation infrastructure to help
The Wireless Research Center was initially founded in
accelerate development of entrepreneurs and other
Wake Forest because of the appealing quality of life in
the town and region at a time when the Research Triangle Park was experiencing an exodus of communications companies. The Town’s openness for
Then and now, the Town of Wake Forest is a growing, vibrant community to live, work and raise a family that’s conveniently situated in the booming Research Triangle
partnerships with the private sector for technology-led economic development was the genesis of the WRC.
Park region known globally as a technology hub. The shared vision of the Town and the WRC for the future of Wake Forest was a milestone in a strategic design that is continuing to birth more opportunities that are enhancing our community.
Creating a collaborative environment through publicprivate partnerships and providing a supportive infrastructure is how the Town serves its role to help companies create jobs. The WRC is focused on wireless communication technology. This next phase for the public private partnership with the Town will broaden its reach to many other types of companies. The town is bringing together private stakeholders, business partners and a collaborative culture in a community of professionals with expertise and experience to advance innovation. A synergistic ecosystem of resources and support will foster innovation that creates companies and job growth, and an even better town to call home. Just a few years after the launch of the WRC, the N.C. Regional Internet of Things (RIoT) was created as a WRC economic development initiative to establish
Looking at the recent history of Wake Forest and toward the future, we’re encouraged the population of Wake Forest has more than tripled since 2000, and that the booming growth is continuing to create an environment that attracts not just new residents, but new and innovative businesses as well. Solo entrepreneurs often gather at coﬀee shops to work collaboratively. Some have migrated to co-working spaces, such as Hatch and Wake Forest Coworking in downtown Wake Forest, which are an essential part of the mix in the innovation infrastructure that is nurturing knowledge, technology and entrepreneurship. The renaissance in the heart of Wake Forest reﬂects the dynamic boom occurring in the community as well. Downtown Wake Forest is currently being revitalized
partnerships and collaboration for the Internet of Things – the wireless interconnection of everyday devices. Thinking progressively, the WRC recognized that signiﬁcant advances in technological innovation is rooted in connecting equipment, supplies, products and
with a variety of living options. Private developers are actively engaging in new, mixed-use projects featuring retail businesses and apartments, citing the town’s vibrant growth and charm as a catalyst for innovation. Downtown beautiﬁcation projects are seeing millions of
infrastructure to a centralized system, and that these innovations will transform business and industry around the globe.
dollars poured into the future vibrancy and walkability of the town center. And the Town is working with more private partners to build a ﬁber-optic network that will expand access to digital services for businesses and homes.
The WRC initiative, RIoT, has now grown to include more than 7,000 members and 80 company sponsors throughout the nation. As a result of the WRC’s unique business model, companies of all sizes have access to the WRC’s equipment, engineering and strategic business services that, through 2018, have helped 21 start-up companies
These projects characterize components of strategic, future-focused growth that we ﬁnd tremendously exciting for business, families, entrepreneurs, and all who live, work and play in the Town of Wake Forest.
in Wake Forest and 60 companies at the WRC’s RIoT locations in Raleigh. Due to the signiﬁcant growth and demand of this unique space, earlier this year, the WRC commercialization center was expanded from 8,000 square feet to 12,000 square feet.