On building an inclusive economy…
Community members expressed frustration with the barriers to fully participate in the Forsyth County economy, both socially and financially. Residents described the existence of traditional power structures making decisions without full community input or transparency; many reported that there continues to be a handful of white, older, powerful men making decisions that impact the broader community. Social and business networks are viewed as a vital aspect of economic opportunity, and currently not everyone feels that they can access these networks.
People we spoke to throughout the community shared numerous personal barriers to economic advancement. They struggle finding reliable transportation options to get to their jobs. Many individuals experiencing poverty also endure more acute psychological and mental health needs that remain unmet. Caring for families presents additional complications for those trying to excel in the workforce. Low-wage jobs fail to provide incomes that sufficiently cover the costs of raising and caring for family members. Particularly on the issue of children, parents and caregivers express frustration in how expensive childcare is, while many of those same individuals work in childcare settings that pay well below a living wage; the economic model of childcare is not sustainable.
Residents described the existence of traditional power structures making decisions without full community input or transparency.
Individuals reported that good job opportunities are difficult to find and obtain. While job training programs exist in Forsyth County, many residents, particularly those with the greatest need, are unaware of their existence and how to access them. Individuals working within the nonprofit sector indicated that the community has sufficient programs to assist individuals, but there is an awareness challenge. Additionally, the emergence of new organizations add to the challenge of effectively getting the word out about existing resources.
Even with education and job training, appropriate job placement presents a challenge. While many employers described difficulty in finding employees with the necessary qualifications and/or experience for open positions, there remains a significant number of individuals without jobs that pay a living wage; this misalignment between workers and employers impacts the broader economy. Despite local economic growth, qualified and educated workers often lack incentives to stay in the area to continue contributing to Forsyth County’s economy. Many young people reported that they sense a lack of good job opportunities and are, or will be, looking to other cities for work.
Entrepreneurship is experiencing a rebirth in Forsyth County and many different programs were highlighted in our conversations. However, there are also concerns that the plethora of entrepreneurship opportunities are not well-coordinated nor inclusive. Other individuals also cited a lack of local capital for a variety of different projects and entrepreneurial efforts.
We also heard from community members that there is a lack of safe and affordable housing. Individuals living in subsidized housing indicated that their housing options often did not meet acceptable safety standards. Additionally, more affordable units are needed throughout the community, with easy access to transportation and commercial corridors.
Many shared that feelings of hopelessness are common among Forsyth County residents who are struggling financially. Many face an inability to fully participate in the economy and also experience a lack of self-esteem and optimistic spirit to propel them forward.