1. Recycled textiles

In case you haven’t heard, Greensboro in particular is really, really proud of its textile heritage. And as high-end apartments take shape in abandoned mills for the exposed-brick lust crowd, many large industrial spaces remain unused. The Triad also sucks at recycling in general. So what if we could raise up a competitor in the recycled material-based fabric industry, currently populated by companies like Thread, which makes its product from soda bottles? A ethically-run, fair-wages factory could be backed and supplied by diverted city recycling funding, Greensboro Fashion Week and support from textile giant VF who care about their city.

  1. Insect protein

The South is humid, lush and therefore buggy, so we’ve got the raw material right here. As a human race, we will run out of meat to eat sooner than we’ve planned, the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations warns, so we’ve got the market opportunity. Not to mention so many Triad residents struggle with food hardship. Enter entomophagy, or, eating insects. Whether it catches on now as a trend or later as a necessity, it’d be in the Triad’s best interest to dedicate a field research lab and an accompanying chic, adventurous restaurant (probably in downtown Winston-Salem) to the science and art of consuming bugs. Perhaps a cricket-flour-based protein bar company like Exo could even establish a satellite presence here.

  1. Hydroponic produce

Here’s another idea to file under Triad hunger: growing fresh produce in vast quantities using hydroponic technology. This centuries-old method of harvesting plants in water, not earth, can take place indoors (such as a 70,000-square foot abandoned steel factory in New Jersey, and in old bomb shelters in London) under high-intensity lamps, 365 days a year. How about we move some mobile hydroponic gardening units into those humongous furniture showrooms in High Point between Furniture Markets that would be fun and simple to break down and then reassemble? With university partnerships, a crack team of some of the brightest science and engineering students from NC A&T University and others could turn the initiative into a legendary senior project and a fine solution for our lack of accessible, fresh produce.

  1. Marijuana

I’m not going to officially weigh in on some ultimate pro or con argument for the medical or recreational usage of cannabis, nor do I think it’ll be legalized here in the next five years, but taking a peek at Colorado’s recent explosion — making $996 million in 2015 according to the Denver Post — makes ganja a desirable job-creating commodity. Why not here? Think of the millions of taxes the state would make off the sales, and the smugness of becoming the East Coast mecca for all things weed, specializing in boutique edibles (two words: kush puppies) and curated tourism experiences a la the craft beer craze. Everybody wins! Maybe grow the first batch of plants next to the spinach in our hydroponic gardens to start?