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How Tech Helped Winston-Salem Quit Tobacco

On October 20, Winston-Salem was featured in a reported series from Politico Magazine, featuring innovative ideas — and how they spread — from cities across the United States at a time of unprecedented urban reinvention.

This North Carolina city was once a major producer of cigarettes in the country. Now it’s manufacturing human organs. Inside a suite of laboratories nestled amid what was once the world’s largest tobacco manufacturing complex, a team of researchers is growing human bladders, tracheas and muscles using the patients’ own cells. In another laboratory, workers are producing human ears and tissue with a 3D printer.

How did a complacent manufacturing city reincarnate itself as a creative economy powerhouse? Because a group of civic-minded power brokers rallied around their city’s few remaining assets, partnered with scientists and punk rockers, and doggedly built the foundations of a new economy, brick by brick, from the carcass of the old.

“It wasn’t one person or thing that made it all happen, it was everyone from the grassroots to the corporate leaders coming together,” says Jeffery L. Smith, a litigation paralegal who has run the influential community news site Smitty’s Notes since 1997. “We realized it would take all of us to get this hog out of the ditch.”

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