Thursday, February 20, 2014

The BUTT stops here?

One afternoon a couple of weeks ago I decided to walk to the local branch of the library. My route took me past a building that houses federal employees. I was infuriated to see dozens and dozens of cigarette butts littering not only the area around a side door, but the sidewalk and street beside the building. "Really?", I thought. "If you're not going to screen, pre-hiring, for non-smokers then put a bucket of sand or something outside for them to dispose of their butts!" I still think I'll put a nasty-gram on their door suggesting they do something to stop trashing my neighborhood, because make no mistake about, cigarette butts ARE trash. They are very slow to decompose and so lie there until they are swept into storm drains, possibly to end up in a creek nearby.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have the dubious and unhealthy distinction of being a smoker. But I find it reprehensible how many people just fling cigarette butts out the car window or drop them when they're walking down the street. And don't get me started on the people who see a red light as an opportunity to dump their ashtrays into the street! When my ashtray is full I dump it into a bag and put it in the trash. When I'm smoking outside somewhere that doesn't have a disposal bin I put the cigarette out and put the butt in my pocket or in a tissue in my bag or find a trash can nearby. I don't just throw it down on the street or in the grass.

I read recently that urban birds put cigarette butts in their nests because they have figured out (?) that doing so keeps parasites out of the nests. Well, great, that takes care of maybe one out of every million butts that hit the ground. I wonder if the people who drop butts anywhere would or do throw their candy wrappers, cups or soda cans, fast food wrappers, etc. out the window or wherever they finish with them. I hope not, though a drive around our area will prove that some do exactly that.

Roanoke County started their "The World is Not your Ashtray" program in January of this year.  Roanoke City, just this week, began its own "anti-butt" campaign.  I enthusiastically applaud both and wish them all the luck in the world in changing the thoughtless behavior that created this problem. But I'm willing to bet that a fair number of the offenders see nothing wrong with their actions and may even laugh at or resent being told differently. Unless we deputize a thousand folks to hand out citations to observed offenders how much is signage really going to do? 

Here's a thought.  Maybe instead of putting a nasty-gram on the door of the building in my neighborhood, the next time I see someone smoking outside their door I just calmly, in a friendly way, suggest they get something in which to dispose of cigarette butts or sweep them up periodically. Maybe next time you're walking or riding with someone who litters, you ask them to please not do that anymore.  I think we have a better chance for changing the behavior "one on one" than "them versus us". It's worth a shot anyway.

I'm sure the birds will adjust.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Digital Madness

Digital Madness!!!

My neighbor called me the other night to ask if I could come over and replace the cartridge in her printer.  "Sure," I easy was this going to be? Famous last words.  Well, not exactly "last" words, there were many more that followed, few of them suitable for printing in a professional blog. 

The cartridge had a sticker on top showing you how to insert it.  It also had, as it's number one instruction, something about moving or removing a "green tab".  We both looked at the cartridge as intensely as we might an unearthed treasure and neither of us saw anything green anywhere on it. 

Oh well, I figured, let's just slide the new cartridge into the slot the old one came out of and we're good to go.  Wrong.  No matter how I put that cartridge into that slot it wouldn't seat and inform the printer that it was there. I read the instructions that came with the cartridge...nothing.  I made sure the cartridge was the right one for her printer. It was. Turn the printer off and back on...nope! Grrrr!

It was at this point I told my neighbor my personal doomsday theory:

Computers, especially the ones in our homes, are the brainchild of some evil empire who is currently biding its time...waiting patiently for us all to go stark raving mad....unable to communicate with the outside world.  When they land on our shores and demand our submission we will fall on our faces before them and say, "Thank God! Which one of you knows how to get rid of the blue screen of death?"

OK, maybe it's not that bad but it is frustrating.  Program updates, patches, new versions of everything, is maddening!  

Think you've got issues with your home computer?  In the February FRONT we talk to data professionals about cybersecurity and get tips on how we can protect ourselves. Check out that story and all the great content. Sign up for our early release eblast at 

It'll give you something to do while we are waiting for the invasion of those who sent Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to prepare the situation!

Cathy Cooper
Valley Business FRONT

Thursday, January 23, 2014

B r r r r r....Think you're cold?

Photo:  The Weather Channel

Baby, it's cold out there! 

As I dashed to my car this morning...a 30 foot walk I couldn't complete fast enough not to just hate life...I thought about all the people who have a lot farther to walk or have no choice but to be out in this inhospitable weather. Let's take a minute to think about these:

Mail Carriers - They park the little truck, then walk several blocks delivering our very important sale flyers and charity solicitations. Then it's back in the truck for a block or two and repeat the process. Say what you will about the Postal Service, these folks deserve some respect.

Sanitation workers - How would you like riding on the back of a moving vehicle when the wind chill, standing still, is in the negative numbers?  They don't make much for the job they do, but our streets and our yards would be a mess if they didn't do it.

People with dogs - I know, they are kind of responsible for their own misery, but dog people can't imagine life without that pet.  If you're lucky enough to have a fenced back yard to turn your best buddy loose in, good for you...and good luck next spring when you decide to go out in the yard the first time! But a lot of dog owners live in apartments or condos and have no choice but to follow their dogs around until...the spirit moves them, if you will. Some of them may be re-thinking this whole "dog owner" thing, but precious few of them would give it up.

School bus drivers and crossing guards - Think your car takes a long time to warm up?  Try waiting for a huge, poorly insulated, metal box to warm up. Then, every half mile or less, you get to fling the doors open to all that cold air.  Not fun, I'm guessing. And the crossing guards, out there in that little wooden box (if they're lucky) waiting to make sure our children aren't mowed down by cold, grumpy drivers.  These two groups are seriously underappreciated!

Construction and utility workers - Building a house you just can't wait to get into? Well, thank the folks who work when it's freezing.  Better yet, remember that if they don't work they probably don't get paid!  So, if your project is a little behind, try remembering what you were doing when it was 15 degrees outside.

Homeless people and animals - There are shelters for homeless people, but not enough to house all of them. Some of them are afraid of shelters for reasons those of us with homes probably wouldn't understand.  My heart breaks for the dogs and cats who do not have a person who loves them. Where do you get a drink of water when everything is frozen?  How do you stay warm without shelter? What if you haven't eaten and are too weak to go foraging? Look around your neighborhood and show some love to those animals other people forgot.

These are just a few examples of those who have to brave the extreme cold. There are plenty of others....send us your "frozen heroes". I'll post them here.

Cathy Cooper
Valley Business FRONT


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

From Fat to Fit...What Works

Our January cover story, Fit for Business, takes a look at some of the many kinds of fitness centers and exercise programs available to those who are interested in getting in shape, or changing their shape.
Photo:  Mike Wilson

A large component of the fitness business is weight loss.  Doctors and weight loss gurus have been telling us for years that exercise or diet alone won't give us the same results as exercise and diet. But is that really the bottom line? Statistically, most people who lose a significant amount of weight will gain it all or most of it back. Sometimes, even more weight is gained than was lost in the diet phase.  Why is that?

Quite simply, dieting is about losing weight, not changing the way we live. Unless there is a long-term commitment and the determination to make changes to our everyday lives, we are setting ourselves up for failure and disappointment.

In an October, 2013 blog for People magazine, renowned fitness and nutrition expert Harley Pasternak, takes on weight loss television shows, saying, " my opinion these shows are doing more to hurt our understanding of healthy living than they are to help it."

Boot camps, retreats, 24/7 monitoring and live-in personal trainers do result in dramatic weight loss, but how many of us can arrange or even afford that? Ordinary people trying to lose weight are usually on their own or maybe have a friend or two making the journey with them.  It's hard to lose weight (I'm not talking to those who just need to get rid of that five pounds you gained over the holidays!) and even harder to keep it off forever.

Programs like Weight Watchers work to educate people about food and making the best choices for long-term weight management.  There are other programs, each with its own approach to weight loss.  Many of them require you to eat only foods they sell. And all of them cost something, a joining fee, meeting charges, consultation fees, food costs.  It can be expensive.

WebMD might have the best free advice out there:
  • Set a realistic goal
  • Log your foods...all of them
  • Log your activity
  • Monitor your nutrients (fats, sodium, sugar, etc.)
  • Track your progress

Going it on your own is harder than having to turn up weekly and be accountable for your progress, or lack of progress, but if you're disciplined and determined it is possible to successfully lose and keep off weight on your own.

How about you?  What have you tried that worked...or failed?  Let us know!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Valley Business FRONT is excited about our new collaboration with WSLS, the local NBC affiliate.  We are taking stories from the pages of the FRONT, adding dimension and personality. In Behind the Business Scene, Katie Love, WSLS features reporter, visits the businesses featured in our stories and talks to the business owners.  

Joe's Trees - Photo by Mike Wilson

For the first story Katie visited Joe's Trees, a business we featured in our August cover story about agritourism.  Check out the broadcast piece here: Joe's Trees 

Treat time at City Dogs - Photo by Jeanne Chitty

Katie's next story was straight from our September issue... Downtown Roanoke doggie day care.  We covered City Dogs, a downtown business with a growing enrollment of urban canines.  Check out Katie's report here:  City Dogs

If you missed the August story, which profiled several great agritourism sites in our area, or the September story about City Dogs, or any of our terrific issues, just go to Click on "issues" to read all the stories in all the issues!

There are more features to keep up with the FRONT and WSLS! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What's not open during the shutdown

It might surprise you to know that the "partial shutdown" impacts our area in more ways than you think.  If you have the perception that furloughed employees all work in Washington, DC, nothing could be farther from the truth.  Only about 20% of federal government employees work in the nation's capital.  Most are spread out throughout the country and many of them are right here in southwestern Virginia.

Many people in our area are going without pay.  At sites operated by private companies, like The Peaks of Otter lodge and restaurant, employees have been furloughed and reservations for rooms and dining cancelled. The same goes for the concessionaires at Mabry's Mill.  The Blue Ridge Music Center is closed and performances and special events cancelled.

Though the Blue Ridge Parkway is open, the attractions, campgrounds, and even picnic sites are closed.  The impact on the local economy will take a long time to be determined, and if the shutdown goes on for long, it will take a long time to recover from the loss of revenue.

Here's a list of where you needn't bother visiting until this impasse is resolved:

Blacksburg Shooting Range
Blue Ridge Music Center
Boley Camping Field
Photo from The Peaks of Otter Lodge website
Booker T. Washington National Monument            
Caldwell Camping Fields
Cascades Day Use Area
Craig Creek Recreation Area
Dragon's Tooth
Fenwick Mines Day Use Area
Flat Top Trailhead
Glen Alton Day Use Area
Interior Whistle Stop Picnic Area
Mabry's Mill
Pandapas Pond Day Use Area
Peaks of Otter Lodge and Restaurant
Potts Shooting Range
Roaring Run Day Use Area
Steel Bridge Campground
Pines Campground
Walnut Flats Campground
White Cedar Horse Camp
White Rocks Campground
Wolf Creek Day Use Area

Want to contact your US Senator or Representative?  You'll have to write them. Until the shutdown is over, their Washington offices are closed.  Here's how:

9th Congressional District
Congressman Bob Goodlatte
Washington,DC Office
2309 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC  20515
(202) 225-5431

6th Congressional District
Congressman Morgan Griffith
Washington, DC Office
1108 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-3861

5th Congressional District
Congressman Robert Hurt
Washington, DC Office
125 Cannon
Washington, DC  20515
(202) 225-4711


Senator Tim Kaine
388 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510
(202) 224-4024

Senator Mark Warner
475 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC  20510

FRONT favorites

Volume V of the Valley Business Front is complete (October 2012-September 2013).

You can vote for your favorite cover or your top choice contributor, or both.

You can pick up to three for each category.  Email your picks to 

Results will be published in our FRONTlist in the November issue.

View the covers and the contributors list below or see it in our on-line edition or in the printed October issue of the FRONT.

Click on image to enlarge

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Assisting Senior Drivers...


...what you need to know and how to have "the talk".

Statistics show that most drivers will outlive their ability to drive by about 7 to 10 years. How do you know when it's time to talk to a senior driver about giving up the keys?  Your decision should not be based on any one warning sign but a pattern of warning signs or the degree of danger any warning sign poses to the driver and others.
Signs that it may be time to take the keys:
  • waning confidence or unease with driving
  • signaling incorrectly or not at all
  • confusing the gas and brake pedals
  • having near misses
  • hitting curbs
  • missing stop signs or lights
  • not noticing important activity on the side of the road
  • driving in the wrong lane
  • getting lost in familiar places
  • dents and scratches on the car
More information and warning signs can be found at the Virginia Highway Safety Office, a division of the DMV at 

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute is currently engaged in several projects dealing with senior driving and training.  For more information about these studies and other projects VTTI has on the board, go to
When you know it's time to discuss giving up driving what do you say?  It's hard to tell someone they have to stop doing something that's so important to their self-image.  The American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) has an online seminar to guide you through the process from understanding what driving means to seniors, to observing warning signs, and "the talk".Go to 
If you are a senior who is concerned about your ability to drive safely, AARP also offers an on-line refresher course in driving skills or helps you find a live course in your area. There's one being held on Brambleton Ave.(Roanoke) in September and October. There is also a quiz to help you determine how safe a driver you are.  Click here to be taken directly to the AARP website.

Roanoke County Property Rights Resolution

Guest Interview with Ed Elswick 

Is it necessary to introduce a resolution in Roanoke County that effectively restates rights already codified in the state constitution, state code, and county code and ordinances? 

That's a matter of opinion.  To read what some informed local folks think, go to
Point Counterpoint where The Roanoke Times featured the issue on Sunday, August 25; rebuttals were printed on Sunday, September 1.

One of the projects used to illustrate the need for such a resolution is the Keagy Village project.  To learn why, go to

The resolution introduced by Ed Elswick is being revised following board discussions about the issue.  As soon as the revisions are complete we will post the resolution, in its entirety, on this page.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

MORE: Antiques and Flea Markets

Photo:  Tom Field
Our August story "Caught in the collecting web", featured Charlotte's Web, one of the many venues for antique and collectibles shoppers. 
(540) 375-7229

Locations to indulge your passion for antiquing or treasure hunting abound in our area.  Some other local shops are:

Roanoke Antique Mall  (540) 344-0264
Antiques on Main (Christiansburg)  (540) 381-0539
Antiques by the Market (Salem)  (540) 387-0040
Memories Past and Present (Radford) (540) 639-4709

For information about the dozens of other shops, visit:

This company produces shopping maps for different areas of Virginia as well as other states.  If you're planning a trip that includes antique shopping, you'll find one of their maps helpful.


Photo:  Mike Wilson
Our August story on agritourism featured four farm operations in the Roanoke and New River Valleys, but there are many locations to visit in the area and throughout the Commonwealth.

For more information on the featured operations:

Joe's Trees:

Johnson's Orchards:

Thistle Cove Farm:

Blue Ridge Vineyards:

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website lists dozens of farms, wineries, micro-breweries and festivals.  Check them out at:

Photo:  vdacs website
August is craft beer month in Virginia!  Find a great local brewer and celebrate!

MORE...Doing good, locally



Photo:  stock image

Did the FRONT article on charitable funding inspire you to become more involved in philanthropy in the Roanoke Valley?  Here are some guidelines from the Foundation for Roanoke Valley to help you get started:
  • Establishing an endowment fund requires a minimum of $10 thousand.
  • Scholarship and Grantee Endowment funds require a $25 thousand minimum.
  • You and like-minded friends or family may pool your resources to reach the minimum fund requirement.
  • There are no set-up fees but the Foundation does assess a modest annual charge to administer a fund and support its work in the community.

Getting Started:

  1. First, determine your charitable purpose or intent.
  2. Select the type of charitable fund that best supports your purpose.  Foundation staff can outline your options and discuss the advantages of each.
  3. Select a name for you fund. (your name, that of a family member, the name of a favorite cause, or a name that allows you to remain anonymous)
  4. Depending on the type of fund you establish, you may designate current fund advisors such as yourself and spouse and successor advisors such as your children.  This and other information noted above will be included in the fund agreement prepared by Foundation staff.
  5. Sign the simple fund agreement.
  6. Make an establishing gift.
  7. Receive a tax deduction (to the maximum extent allowed by law) at the time the fund is established and when additional contributions are made to the fund.
For more information or to contribute to existing funds, go to:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Virginia Tech President Steger Resigns

Charles Steger
Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger has announced his intention to step down as university president. The university's board of visitors will assemble a search committee immediately.
Steger will remain as president until the search concludes and his replacement begins work.
“When one is totally absorbed in doing what one loves, 14 years pass in a nanosecond," said Steger. “These years have been the highlight of my career in higher education, and it has been my privilege to serve as president during a period in which we have strengthened our academic programs and expanded our research and outreach programs.
“As a three-time graduate of this institution, Virginia Tech has afforded me the tools for leadership and personal fulfillment. I have been doubly blessed because I then had the opportunity to spend virtually my entire career in the service of this great university,” said Steger.
“We sadly accept President Steger’s desire to step down as president,” said Mike Quillen, rector of the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors. “He has had a long and successful tenure but we understand his desire to ratchet back the extraordinary commitment of a major university president. Charles has truly been outstanding, visionary, and productive. I believe when history looks back upon his tenure as president, he will be ranked among the best of Virginia Tech’s strong leaders. He has advanced Virginia Tech’s position and our ability to serve the commonwealth on many levels.”
Steger has spent virtually his entire career at Virginia Tech leading it from one superlative to another. Since becoming president in 2000, the university has increased it research portfolio by more than 300 percent, grown enrollment from 27,869 to 31,087, increased graduate enrollment increased by 12 percent, raised more than $1 billion in private funding, added more than 2.5 million square feet of buildings, formed a school of biomedical engineering, created a school of medicine, and joined the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Early in his tenure, Steger charted a course to bolster the research enterprise and compete among the nation’s elite universities. He oversaw creation of broad-based research institutes capable of garnering large-scale, multi-disciplinary sponsored research grants. He made significant investments in selected life science programs. University sponsored research moved from $192 million in 2000 to more than $450 million today.
Over the course of his presidency, Virginia Tech has increasingly become a first-choice school in the mid-Atlantic region for highly achieving students. The average grade point average of incoming freshmen moved from 3.54 to 3.92 (on a 4.0 scale) and SAT average changed from 1173 to 1212 during his time at the helm.
He adopted a business model that invested in seven large centralized research institutes: Virginia Tech Transportation Institute; Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Sciences; Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute; Virginia Bioinformatics Institute; Fralin Life Sciences Institute; Institute for Society, Culture and Environment; and the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology. The institute format allowed Virginia Tech to compete for and win large-scale multidisciplinary contracts.
Steger partnered with Carilion Clinic to create the innovative Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute  forming the fifth medical school in Virginia. The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute has quickly garnered world-wide attention for unique new approaches to neuroscience.
A hallmark of his administration was the realization of a 50-year dream for Hokie fans – entry into the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2004. Football won four conference titles in the first eight years of play.
Steger championed the arts investing in liberal arts and arts programming. He was the driving force behind the new Center for the Arts scheduled to open this fall.
Along with two other Virginia university presidents, he helped write legislation giving greater operating autonomy to senior state universities.
Steger had a knack for fundraising. In 2011, the school completed a seven-year campaign raising more than $1.1 billion. Earlier in 1998, under his leadership as vice president for development and university relations, he led a fund raising effort garnering $337 million.
Virginia Tech made history in 2003 when it built the “terascale” supercomputer, System X. Using off-the-shelf Apple computers, System X was at the time the fastest university computer in the world and third fastest of any computer – business, government, or academic.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lorton Retires from Carilion; Halliwill New CFO

Don Lorton
After more than four decades of service to Carilion Clinic and Virginia health care, Donald E. Lorton  is retiring.  After three years with Pulaski Community Hospital, Lorton began his career with Carilion in 1972 when he became the Assistant Controller. He has served as Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer since 1986. In 1993 he was named Executive Vice President.

After accepting Lorton’s retirement, the Carilion Clinic Board of Directors appointed Donald B. Halliwill as Chief Financial Officer. A southwest Virginia native, Halliwill has a 20-year history in health care, serving in many capacities since joining Carilion in 1997, including Director of Finance for the New River Valley Region, Chief Executive Officer for Carilion New River Valley Medical Center and Chief Financial Officer for the organization’s hospital division.

Lorton’s leadership maintained the organization’s strong and stable financial position through the years, despite severe economic downturns and a rapidly evolving health care environment.  In addition, he was instrumental in the development of Carilion’s physician group, information technology infrastructure and athletic clubs. In recent years, he led Carilion’s development of an Accountable Care Organization (ACO) with Aetna.

 “Don’s role in maintaining the financial health of our organization cannot be overstated,” said Carilion Clinic President and CEO Nancy Howell Agee. “His stewardship over Carilion’s resources allowed us to make life-changing investments in southwest Virginia’s health care and the results will be felt for many years to come.  Moreover, his vision and strategic thinking along with his deep concern for the health of our region sets him apart.  We will miss his steady guidance.”

“Don Lorton has proven himself over and over again to be a man for all seasons,” said Laurens Sartoris, President of the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association. “Not only has he always demonstrated the best characteristics of a top flight financial manager, but it’s always been combined with common sense, a vision of the future, broad-based strategic thinking and lots of quiet wit and charm. It’s been a true pleasure to know and work with Don.”

“I have been blessed to work with and for many outstanding people throughout my career,” Lorton said.  “With their trust and support there has been a long list of opportunities afforded me.  It is rewarding to think that I may have contributed to Carilion’s success and the betterment of healthcare across Virginia.  Carilion is well positioned for healthcare reform and executing on its mission of improving the health of the communities it serves.  My wife Wanda and I, along with our children and grandchildren will be relying on that commitment.”


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dual Winners in VTK Tech Transfer Challenge

NanoSpin's team won for a cooling system.
The VT KnowledgeWorks Fifth Annual Entrepreneurship Challenge’s Tech Transfer Challenge had two winners this year: Keraesthetics and NanoSpin.  The winning teams will receive $100,000 worth of mentorship and business support services over a two-year period, including assistance in developing the overall business strategy as well as the presentations and plan documents needed for investor discussions and product launch.  
Maria Rahmany of Karaesthetics
Mark Van Dyke and Maria Rahmany of Keraesthetics, develop soft tissue bulking products using keratin   The company’s lead product, KeraFil, can be used for facial aesthetic applications such as facial line and wrinkle reduction, as well as a therapeutic treatment for vocal cord restoration and tissue reconstruction.
NanoSpin is a cooling system for computers and electronic devices that uses a liquid dispersion of magnetic nanoparticles to dissipate waste heat. NanoSpin team members include Suvojit Ghosh, Ravi Kappiyoor, Souvik Pal, Chris Prohoda, Mehran Tehrani, and Ishwar K. Puri.
The Tech Transfer Challenge provides an opportunity for Virginia Tech faculty, staff, students and/or alumni proposing to establish a new venture in Blacksburg, a chance to accelerate their innovative technology transfer from the university to the private sector. Other teams that competed in the Tech Transfer Challenge were Laser Light Energy Applications in Wood Products Production, NanoMed, LLC, and VT Transportation Technologies.
Stephen Epstein, PureAir
The winning concept in the Student Business Concept Competition was PureAir: Emergency Asthma and COPD Inhalers.  Stephen Epstein won $10,000 in scholarships plus summer workspace at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center. PureAir is designing the world’s smallest profile emergency inhaler, which can work within minutes and can be a lifesaving device to the over 28 million Americans with asthma. Campus Tech, the Card Isle, Combined Sand Metal Printing, NanoSpin, and ViGLi also competed for the grand prize.
The winning student team will also advance to the VT KnowledgeWorks Global Student Business Concept Challenge and compete for the $25,000 grand prize on August 22, 2013, at the Hotel Roanoke in Roanoke, Virginia. 

The Global Student Challenge is part of the VT KnowledgeWorks Global Partnership Week, which offers university students, faculty, and business professionals from all over the world a chance to collaborate, form partnerships and build their global networks.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Advance Auto Shuffles, Eliminates Executive Chairs

Advance CEO Darren Jackson
Roanoke-based Advance Auto Parts, an automotive aftermarket retailer of parts, batteries, accessories, and maintenance items, has announced several organizational changes.

George Sherman will become president, leading Advance Commercial Sales, Field Operations, Store Operations Support, Merchandising, Marketing, Supply Chain and Ecommerce Teams.

Sherman served as Senior VVP, Best Buy Services, which included leading the Geek Squad.  He will report to CEO Darren Jackson and will be stationed in Roanoke.

Charles Tyson, who currently serves as senior VP Merchandising and Marketing, has been promoted to Executive Vice President, Merchandising, Marketing and Supply Chain. Jim Durkin, who serves as President, Autopart International (AI), will assume the new role of senior VP Commercial Business. Mr. Durkin will be responsible for the Company’s Commercial Sales Team, Commercial Marketing and AI.  

Tammy Finley, who most recently served as vice president, Employment Counsel and Government Affairs, has been promoted to the role of Senior Vice President, Human Resources. 

“I am thrilled to welcome George to the Advance Team and I am excited about the promotions of Charles, Jim and Tammy.  Advance’s future success lies in our ability to empower and enable our team to drive outcomes and grow sales,” says Jackson. “In order to allow our leaders to better inspire their teams, serve their customers and grow our business, we needed to simplify our business alignment and clarify roles so we can work together to build on our capabilities, accelerate our Commercial growth and improve our profitability.”
Jackson will continue to operate as the company’s chief executive officer and will focus on strategic and leadership development.  Additionally, the role of chief operating officer, which is held by Kevin Freeland, has been eliminated.  The role of Senior Vice President, Commercial Sales and Marketing, which is currently held by Donna Broome, has also been eliminated.  M


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Interactive Achievement Gets Cash Infusion

Interactive Achievement in downtown Roanoke.
Interactive Achievement, creator of standards-based instructional improvement software, today announced a $3.5 million growth equity investment for a minority stake in the company. The infusion of cash will help Interactive Achievement continue to meet the growing needs of its clients and to expand its product offerings. 

“This investment will allow us to continue to help educators make a difference in the lives of children all over the country,” said Jonathan Hagmaier, founder and CEO.  “It reinforces to me that we are on the right path as a company; we have a bright future ahead of us.”

To assist in its mission of creating leading education products to better personalize a student’s education through the  use of data, Interactive Achievement will add offerings related to technology enhanced assessment items, curriculum and instruction management, resource management, and data analysis to its award-winning software platform.

Founded in 2006, Interactive Achievement currently employs 45 staff, mostly in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region.  The company is a leader in personalized education and its software products assist educators with making data-driven decisions to support student achievement in all academic areas. 

The new funds will be used to expand the company’s business in Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Indiana where its current clients are located and to extend its reach nationally.  With this investment will come a significant increase in new jobs within the next 18 months.  Most positions will be based in the Roanoke-Blacksburg region.  Interactive Achievement will be hiring for the following positions: software developers, sales associates, project managers, customer support personnel, content specialists, and managers.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ground Broken for West End Center Project

Freedom First Credit Union (FFCU), along with the City of Roanoke and the West End Center for Youth, held a groundbreaking ceremony today to celebrate the beginning of construction for the West End revitalization project. Plans for the site include an urban mix of commercial and meeting space, a community pavilion with a full-service production kitchen, and gardens to encourage and promote healthy financial and physical lifestyles.

The project will be anchored by a full-service Freedom First branch scheduled to open in early 2014, which will serve the West End, Hurt Park, and Mountain View neighborhoods, as well as commuters to downtown Roanoke.

“This important project will enable Freedom First to reach into the community with the financial education and specialized products we’ve developed to serve people of modest means,” says Credit Union President/CEO Paul Phillips. “Establishing a Community Development Financial Institution in the West End area of Roanoke gives people who are currently unbanked and under-banked a real opportunity to move toward long-term financial self-sufficiency.”

The West End project aligns with Freedom First’s unique mission and structure, which focuses on affordable housing, transportation, and financial education in addition to a broad range of traditional financial services. The credit union is working closely with nonprofit agencies, local government, and other businesses on this and other projects that serve community and economic development goals.

“We are excited to partner with Freedom First in this venture that will greatly expand the opportunities available to the families we serve,” says Joy Parrish, Executive Director of the West End Center, which owns the property and will oversee its community activities.

The planned production kitchen and gardens will enable the West End Center to bring fresh food and nutrition education to the neighborhood, and the community meeting space will accommodate educational initiatives. "The West End is a neighborhood that is on the rise,” says Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill. “With existing assets like the West End Center, interesting housing stock, and proximity to downtown, the West End is poised to be an even better place to live and work. It is our hope that Freedom First's investment in the neighborhood, and services that will be offered to residents and businesses, will be a catalyst to more rapid improvements."

Monday, March 18, 2013

Startup Business Workshop in Roanoke March 29

The Business Lounge in downtown Roanoke, in conjunction with VT KnowledgeWorks of Blacksburg, is sponsoring a Startup Readiness Workshop on Friday, March 29, 2013 at the Lounge. The full-day workshop helps prospective entrepreneurs test the strategic essence of their business concept, tighten up on managerial focus, and review the overall business start-up process.

The price is $49 for one person, $89 for two from the same company. Register online at

What you’ll learn…
The Four Fundamental Factors that govern startup success
The Strategic Essence of every successful business
Five Powerful Habits used by good managers
The power of full Commitment
 How the Money really moves around
Accounting…  De-Mystified

Friday, March 15, 2013

Red Sun Farms Bringing Jobs to Pulaski

The subsidiary of a Mexican agricultural leader will create 205 new jobs and invest a total of $30 million to establish its first U.S. high-technology greenhouse production operation in Pulaski County, the first tenant of the New River Valley Commerce Park.

Red Sun Farms, a producer of high-quality hydroponic, organic vegetables, will erect climate-controlled greenhouses on 45 acres of land to grow greenhouse-grown vegetables, creating the new jobs within five years, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell announced at a news conference at New River Community College.

“This game-changing project has been in the works for a long time, and it is gratifying to see it come to fruition today. Red Sun Farms uses extremely high-tech equipment to provide a continuous supply of the best organic greenhouse-produced vegetables, and after much research determined that Pulaski County is the ideal spot for its first U.S. production center,” the governor said. “Virginia offers optimal climatic conditions for greenhouse operations, a central location providing convenient access to East Coast markets, and a top-notch workforce ready for this new opportunity. As the first tenant of the New River Valley Commerce Park, Red Sun Farms’ significant investment and creation of new jobs is a tremendous win for the Commonwealth and Pulaski County, and represents strategic growth for the New River Valley region.”

Virginia successfully competed against Tennessee for the project.

“We welcome Red Sun Farms’ first U.S. greenhouse tomato production operation to Pulaski County and the Commonwealth of Virginia,” said Jim Cheng, Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade. “The company will not only provide new jobs to the community, it will help diversify the local economy and add value to Virginia-grown products. I am confident Red Sun Farms will find success in the Commonwealth and continue as a leader in the greenhouse vegetable industry of North America.”

Headquartered in Michoacán, Mexico, Red Sun Farms was founded in 2001 as part of a family owned agro-industrial group, AgrĂ­cola El Rosal S.A. de C.V., a company dedicated to production of vegetables under greenhouse hydroponic systems using high technology. Red Sun Farms is a key component of the agriculture division, and is an integral part of the group’s business growth and development throughout North America.

The Red Sun brand is owned and marketed by JemD Farms, the only Mexican- and Canadian-owned greenhouse company in North America. Its sister brand, Golden Sun, produces tomatoes in Canada. Currently, JemD Farms owns and operates 150 acres of high-tech greenhouses in Canada and 250 acres in Mexico, making this expansion a true North American operation.
Among its high-tech features: computer-monitored humidity, oxygen and carbon dioxide monitors. 

“We are excited to soon begin construction on our new greenhouse facility in Dublin,” said Carlos Visconti, chief operating officer of JemD Farms. “Being able to provide quality, safe and now locally grown greenhouse produce to our retail partners and consumers is a great accomplishment for our team.  We would especially like to thank Governor McDonnell and his agencies and departments, Pulaski County, the New River Valley Economic Development Alliance and many others who worked tirelessly to make this project a reality.” 

“This announcement establishes a unique, high-tech industry in Pulaski County that supplements our existing agricultural businesses,” said Joe Sheffey, chairman of the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors. “Furthermore, it is the first in what we plan to be several other industries to locate in our regional Commerce Park. We see Red Sun Farms as yet another step in our efforts to diversify our local economy.”

The New River Valley Commerce Park is a 1,000-acre, publicly owned industrial site located next to New River Valley Airport and Foreign Trade Zone #238, just 3 miles from Interstate 81.