Growing a Family Business and Spurring Community Development

Founded in 1957 and headquartered in downtown Winston-Salem, Flow Automotive remains a family-owned company. Current CEO Don Flow has helped expand the company from one to 39 dealerships across nine cities.

“We’ve centralized processes to make it easier to operate dealerships,” said Don Flow. “With the consolidation coming to our industry, our goal is to significantly grow in the next 10 years.” Flow is also a pivotal player in development projects happening across Forsyth County.

When Don Flow had the opportunity to centralize Flow Automotive’s operations by relocating business services to a downtown Winston-Salem office tower, he dared to envision something much more significant than a corporate relocation investment project. Flow Automotive only needed part of the space in the 18-story former GMAC building. When he began to collaborate with the community about what to do with the remaining space, innovative ideas took flight.

500 West Fifth is now home to dozens of companies, educational institutions, and three major entrepreneurship programs, helping elevate Winston-Salem’s reputation as a hotbed for startups. Winston Starts gives new entrepreneurs a longer runway for success, providing office space, mentors, and programming aiding a company in their growth phase. Flywheel and the Center for Creative Economy are accelerator programs, with entrepreneurs often taking advantage of two or more of the community’s entrepreneurship resources as they scale.

“Everyone is open to new voices and new ideas here,” said Flow. “Let’s see what we can do next.”

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