WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- More than 33,000 new jobs and $2 billion of revenue for the state; that's what experts are saying could be created if the state found money to fund I-74, or the eastern portion of the Winston-Salem Northern Beltway.
A new study was conducted by three experts to try to determine the economic impact that I-74 could have on our area. This was done in an effort to put pressure on state officials to fund the project, which city officials say has been 27 years in the making.
"This has been a long, winding and very frustrating road," said Gayle Anderson, president and CEO of the Winston-Salem Chamber.
The experts are all associated with Winston-Salem State University. Dr. Zagros Madjd-Sadjadi is the former chief economist for the city and county of San Francisco. He is currently a professor of economics at the university. Dr. Craig Richardson is a former consultant with The World Bank and is also a professor of economics at the university, as well as the coordinator of their MBA program. Lastly, Dr. Joel Kincaid is the associate professor of economics at Winston-Salem State and the chair of the university's Economics Department.
They say the I-74 would create a route through our state, which would link us to South Carolina and run all the way to Michigan.
"When you're dealing with an interstate, the benefit is to the whole state. And back to the other states as well; it's that connection," said Dr. Madjd-Sadjadi.
He says I-74 could provide a way for businesses to take in and ship out goods at a lower cost.
The experts used two methods to arrive at their numbers, one being IMPLAN, which they say is what the NCDOT uses to do their economic impact analysis. They also studied the impacts that similar interstates have had in other states. They believe the growth the interstate would create would net the state government $129 million a year.
"The total amount of taxes to all levels of government would exceed the annual state general fund allocation to both Winston Salem State University and UNC Greensboro," said Dr. Madjd-Sadjadi.
They say the interstate would attract more companies and in turn, more jobs; 33,600 permanent jobs to be exact. The trickle-down effect would help individuals as well.
"$810 a year in higher income for each resident" is the increase in salary Dr. Madjd-Sadjadi says individuals would see. He attributed this to lower costs to businesses, which would result in higher salaries for workers. He also says there would be more opportunities for citizens to obtain higher paying jobs.
"All of these things indicate that this is something that's going to benefit all of us. And that's why all of us should be behind this project," said Dr. Madjd-Sadjadi.
The experts say even though the interstate would run through the state, Forsyth County and Guilford County would see the highest amounts of added jobs. They say 12,500 permanent jobs could be created in Guilford County. They estimate Forsyth County would see an increase of 8,800 permanent jobs. Davidson, Randolph, Robeson, Scotland, Stokes and Surry counties would all be expected to see at least 1,000 more permanent jobs. They say Montgomery County would have 850 permanent jobs created, whereas Davie and Yadkin counties would see about 250 more jobs.
Winston-Salem Chamber officials say the cost of the project has doubled in the past ten years.
Winston-Salem officials have sent a letter, including those numbers, to NCDOT Secretary Tony Tata. They plan to meet with Gov. McCrory to discuss the study next week.