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The Triad’s three largest chambers of commerce said yesterday that they expect to fall short of an ambitious economic goal.

The Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point chambers had pledged to improve the Triad’s growth rankings published periodically by the Milken Institute, a highly regarded research group based in California.

In 2003, the research group ranked the region only 165th among the 200 best-performing cities, primarily because of major manufacturing job losses. At the time, the local chambers said that it would get the Triad into the top 50 by 2010 by cooperating more on economic-development projects and improving local work-force skills.

But the institute’s rankings for 2007, released last week, show that the chambers have made limited progress since 2003. The report focuses on nine categories that evaluate job, wage and salary growth over one- and five-year periods.

The Winston-Salem metropolitan statistical area slipped from 117th in 2005 to 128th in 2007. The region consists of Davie, Forsyth, Stokes and Yadkin counties.

By comparison, the Greensboro-High Point MSA improved from 172nd in 2005 to 136th in 2007. The MSA consists of Guilford, Randolph and Rockingham counties. When the 2003 report was released, the Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point metro areas were combined for federal data purposes.

“The splitting of the Triad made this report less valid since we believe it takes the entire Triad to move the needle forward economically,” said Tom Dayvault, the president of the High Point chamber.

Chamber officials said that the goal remains achievable. But it requires continued regional cooperation on long-term projects, such as the Piedmont Triad Research Park in downtown Winston-Salem, and HondaJet and the FedEx Corp. hub at Piedmont Triad International Airport.

“We’re gaining jobs overall, but there’s no question we won’t make that goal even if we have significant job increases over the next three years,” said Gayle Anderson, the president and chief executive of the Winston-Salem chamber. “We had hoped at that time that we were over the hump of large job losses, but that hasn’t proven to be the case, as recent job losses indicate.”

The bright spot for Winston-Salem was a No. 4 ranking for job growth in high-tech jobs from 2005 to 2006, mostly related to Dell Inc. adding about 750 jobs at its assembly plant in Forsyth County. The area improved in five of the nine categories from the 2005 report.

However, Winston-Salem ranked 191st in gross domestic product for its high-tech sector, 165th for wage and salary growth from 2004 to 2005, and 155th for wage and salary growth from 2000 to 2005.

“It is a region that remains very much in transition from manufacturing to the service sector,” said Perry Wong, a senior managing economist with the institute. “Progress is being made, but not fast enough to have a major effect on this year’s ranking.”

Angelos Angelou, the founder of AngelouEconomics, said that it is hard for metro areas to raise their rankings significantly in national economic reports because a move up typically requires a drop off by other regions. Angelou’s consulting group did a high-profile study of the local economy in 2003 that emphasized industry sectors such as biotechnology, design, food processing, hospitality and tourism, logistics and distribution, customized materials production, value-added services and viticulture.

“The region is attracting companies that pay the kind of salaries most communities want,” Angelou said. “But its growth may not be taking place as quickly as communities ranked ahead of them.”

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