Monday, June 29, 2009

Tech-Carilion: 'Creating New Approaches to Medical Research'

Maria Hirsch, is intubating the human patient simulator in the Carilion Clinic Center for Experiential Learning (above). Shashank Priya and Sonya L. Ranson received a grant to advance their work on human-like physical appearance and response in patient simulator mannequins. This is an example of Priya's work (right).

Special to the FRONT

Tom Campbell, assistant director for research and operations for the research institute announced that teams of Virginia Tech and Carilion researchers submitted 22 proposals for consideration. "The partnership is clearly creating new approaches to medical research," Campbell says. "Building on the momentum from the first round of funded seed projects, this second round will further the strong collaboration between Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic to set the stage for VTC."

"These most recent seed grant awards represent the growing opportunities in research and education that exist between Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic," says Dr. Daniel Harrington, vice president for academic affairs for Carilion Clinic and associate dean for clinic and regional integration for the school of medicine.

Building a realistic patient simulator are Shashank Priya (materials science and engineering; mechanical engineering) and Sonya L. Ranson (VTC school of medicine; Center for Experiential Learnin). They received a grant for "Prototyping a Human-like Patient."

"The program is part of a larger VTC project to develop a full-scale patient simulation facility and humanoid hospital, a training facility for healthcare providers using human patient simulators," says Ranson. The facility has three human patient simulators and various part-task trainers that allow students to practice basic clinical skills. The full-body mannequins are run from an associated control room.

A second grant that supports technology development also addresses controlling disease. David Popham, professor of biological sciences; Dr. Charles Schleupner, professor of internal medicine and director of the Carilion Clinic infectious disease fellowship program; and Stephen Melville, biological sciences associate professor, received funding to develop "Improved Decontamination of Clostridium difficile spores."

C. difficile can cause disease when antibiotics kill other bacteria of the gut that keep C. difficile in check. Spores produced by C. difficile tolerate extreme conditions that most bacteria cannot tolerate. The research will determine optimum conditions for stimulating spore germination, which renders the bacteria sensitive to many antimicrobial treatments.

The reviewers praised the projects' "good translational potential."

They were also hopeful of the translational potential of the project, "Falling Risks in the Elderly: A Functional Cerebral Systems Approach to Vestibular Function." The neuroscience research, which addresses how the body receives and processes information in order to maintain equilibrium or balance, is being conducted by David W. Harrison, (psychology); Dr. David B. Trinkle, assistant dean for medical education and Joseph E. Carmona, a doctoral student in psychology at Tech.

Harrison is a licensed clinical neuropsychologist and Trinkle is training director of the geriatric psychiatry fellowship program at the Carilion-University of Virginia Roanoke Valley Program and medical director of the Carilion Center for Healthy Aging.

Three of the selected projects specifically address infectious disease: The first is: "Novel Identification and Characterization of the Quasi-species Variation during H1N1 'Swine Flu' Evolution in Humans," by Chris, associate professor of virology with the College of Veterinary Medicine's Center for Molecular Medicine and Infectious Diseases; Kevin Myles, assistant professor of entomology at Virginia Tech and member of the Vector-borne Disease Research Group; and VTC associate professors of internal medicine Dr. Stephanie Nagy-Agren, chief of the infectious disease section of the VA Medical Center in Salem; and Dr. Jean A. Smith, Carilion Clinic infectious disease section.

The second infectious disease research project is: "Use of Antisense Therapeutics to Kill Intracellular Bacterial Pathogens," by Stephen M. Boyle and Nammalwar Sriranganathan, professors of microbiology in the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech; and Dr. Tom Kerkering, professor of medicine with VTC, and section chief of infectious disease and medical director of infection control with Carilion Clinic.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Agnew Seed Gets New Life As Walkabout Tomorrow

Walkabout Outfitters is nearly ready to reopen in the old Agnew Seed store^

Kirk and Tina Miller today (Who's working here?)^

Auctioneer Ken Farmer with Kirk and Tina Miller just after the sale in March^


Tina and Kirk Miller, owners of Walkabout Outfitters on Roanoke City Market, are spending today moving their store into the former Agnew Seed a few doors down. The new store opens tomorrow. The difference for the Millers is that they are now owners instead of rentors, having purchased Agnew in March.

Agnew had been the sole occupant of the building for nearly 100 years, but a death in the family led to its sale and the Millers, who own three other stores--two in Lexington and a kitchen shop a couple of doors away on City Market--bought it at auction.

Kirk Miller says the most significant obstacle in the renovation process was the unanticipated levels of dust, generated by a seed store. "We're going from agricultural to retail clothing," he says, "and the one thing we can't tolerate in clothes is dust." The renovations in the store have primarily amounted to removing, rather than adding. The banks of shelving along both walls are gone and everything has been painted and refinished, including a lovely hammered tin ceiling.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Spectrum's Work on State & City Cited

State & City Building cited^

The Virginia Sustainable Building Network (VSBN) has awarded Spectrum Design its 2009 Green Innovation Award for Best Multi-Family Residential Facility for the State & City Building in downtown Roanoke.

The award was presented at the 14th Annual Meeting of VSBN on June 25 in Charlottesville.

“This is a terrific honor from our peers with the Virginia Sustainable Building Network,” says John Garland, PE, LEED AP, President and Principal at Spectrum Design which oversaw the LEED-certification and historic preservation process. “Identifying creative new ways to incorporate green design and technologies into our building projects has long been a passion for Spectrum Design. The State & City Building is a shining example of environmental stewardship and we continue to be proud and humbled by the role we played in its restoration.”

In December 2007 the State & City Building became the first building in the Roanoke and New River Valleys to receive the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification, the second building in Virginia to combine LEED-certification and historic preservation, and the first building in the nation to combine historic preservation and LEED-certification into transforming an office building into condominiums.

Spectrum Design worked with construction firm Breakell, Inc. and the building’s owner, Rob Glenn, to achieve the certification. Mark Garland, LEED AP, served as the LEED coordinator for the project.

French Students Earn VTKnowledgeworks Week of Study

Jim Flowers with French Economic Minister, Christine Lagarde^

VT KnowledgeWorks’ Director, Jim Flowers, shared the stage in Paris with French Minister for the Economy, Industry, and Employment Christine Lagarde in mid-June, as they honored the winning student team at the Annual Entrepreneurial Project Challenge at TELECOM Sud-Paris.

As part of their award, the winning students were given a week in September at VT KnowledgeWorks in Blacksburg. Activities for their stay include a welcome dinner, a two-day Founders’ Readiness Retreat at Mountain Lake Resort, on-the-job shadowing of company presidents in the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, social time with Hokie Entrepreneurship Society student members, and tickets to the Virginia Tech-Marshall football game.

The French team plans to work in Blacksburg next summer as students continue to prepare their business concept for funding and launch. VT KnowledgeWorks is already the summer work-home of two other student teams from TELECOM Sud-Paris, winners of earlier contests at the French high-tech institute.

Preliminary planning is underway to expand the international reach of VT KnowledgeWorks to include other countries in Europe and beyond. A combined event, including both student teams and tech-business trade missions, is scheduled for September, 2010.

“The market for technology-based businesses is global,” says Flowers. “By encouraging person-to-person overseas relationships for our local companies and entrepreneurial students we provide them with easier access to markets beyond our shores. Of course, the reverse is true as well. The dialogues also improve understanding of American markets for our foreign visitors."

Programs for members are divided into two categories according to the evolutionary status of the member company. Pre-Launch program components are carefully constructed to help market-worthy ventures organize, formulate strategy, obtain outside investment, and launch in an efficient manner.

Enterprise class members benefit from emphasis on strategic support for ongoing growth, continuing intra-preneurship, and professional development for the corporate leader.

VT KnowledgeWorks sponsors include Attaain, Inc., BB&T, Handshake 2.0, Harris Office Furniture, Hodges, Jones & Mabry, P.C., Latimer, Mayberry & Matthews IP Law, LeClairRyan, Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) and The Becher Agency (TBA).

Pulaski Plant Losing Mack Line, May Gain With New Volvos

Volvo Trucks North America's plant in Pulaski County will have a little less work to do beginning this fall when its Mack Trucks division consolidates its manufacturing in Pennsylvania at a plant where Mack assembles construction and garbage trucks. The number of layoffs expected because of the shift is uncertain at this point, officials say, thought it could be as many7 as 200 of the plant's 1,200 workers.

Countering that bad news for the plant is a ray of light: Volvo has announced it is taking orders for a low emission truck that will be built in Pulaski with production beginning in the fall. Truck manufacturers must comply with new air pollution standards from the EPA in 2010, one of the reasons truck sales have lagged. For a period, about a year ago, sales were high as companies loaded up on trucks that were less expensive than the new, low-emission trucks are expected to be.

David Kjolhede Retiring from RVCVB

Roanoke Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau Director David Kjolhede, who has been in that position for nearly 13 years, will retire at the end of this year. His retirement date of Dec. 31 is tentative, depending on whether the position is filled.

The 60-year-old Kjolhede says the search for a replacement should begin in July and that he will remain in the Roanoke Valley. Kjolhede says his decision to leave has nothing to do with friction between the City of Roanoke's levels of funding for the organization and that he's unsure what he will do in retirement.

The Draw of Architectural Heritage at Homestead Preserve

Homestead Preserve “historic” residences range in value from $1 million to over $4 million^

Despite the slowdown in real estate sales and home construction nationwide, the mountain resort community of Hot Springs continues to draw well-to-do vacation home seekers, many of who have recently completed or are building second or third homes at the resort residential community of Homestead Preserve.

Located adjacent to the landmark resort, Homestead Preserve has earned much attention in recent years for its unusual commitment not just to environmental stewardship but to preserving the architectural legacy of the famed Springs Valley, a centuries-old healing and health escape centered on natural mineral springs.

After more than two years of intensive architectural research, the developers of Homestead Preserve, all of whom were involved in the creation of the award-winning community of Celebration, Fla., began work on a 450-home community in Bath County, designed to reflect the native historic architecture and landscaping of the surrounding mountains.

Situated on 2,300 scenic acres surrounding the villages of Hot Springs and Warm Springs, the development’s homes feature four distinct styles of historic architecture, which include Highland Classical, Highlands Farmhouse, English Romantic, and Highlands Arts and Crafts.

“I believe we have risen to the occasion of a challenging opportunity to create neighborhoods that blend seamlessly into the already existing community of Bath County,” says Homestead Preserve Co-General Manager Don Killoren. “The homes we are building today reflect the architecture that is already here and which has developed naturally over the course of the last two centuries. Not many developers take that kind of care when creating communities to blend the new right in with the old.”

To date, there are more than two dozen completed homes at Homestead Preserve, and seven more are under construction. All Homestead Preserve residences have met strict historic architecture guidelines that ensure they blend into or complement the natural landscape.

Working closely with Pittsburgh-based Urban Design Associates, Homestead Preserve has developed a Pattern Book that details the area’s rich architectural history, settlement patterns, and even native plants and trees appropriate for landscaping.

Architectural firms who contributed to the Pattern Book included Versaci Neumann + Partners, Middleburg; Robert Adam Architects, London; John Reagan Architects, Columbus, Ohio; Frazier Associates, Staunton; Jim Samsel Architects, Asheville; and Commonwealth Associates, Norfolk.

Homestead Preserve has won numerous accolades for its commitment to both historic preservation and environmental and cultural heritage stewardship.

Situated on sites ranging in size from half acre to 13 acres, Homestead Preserve “historic” residences range in value from $1 million to over $4 million. They have been constructed of natural materials including wood siding, stone, brick, timber, and stucco. All homes have been served by underground utilities to maintain the historic character of the landscape yet still feature state-of-the-art advances, including new “fiber-to-the-home” technology.

Homestead Preserve developers and Celebration Associates partners Charles Adams and Don Killoren were instrumental in the design and development of Celebration, Fla., which was hailed as the “Most Advanced Community in the Country from 1996-1998” by The Guinness Book of World Records.

For more information on Homestead Preserve sales, call 877-213-6491.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Arts Council Literary Award Winners

That's FRONT Editor Dan Smith (left inside) with wife Christina and Publisher Tom Field with his wife Emily^

Crowd chats before awards presentations^

Tom field( left) and Dan Smith with Arts Council of the Blue Ridge Director Laura Rawlings. That's their hardware they're holding^

A sizeable crowd showed up last night for the annual Perry F. Kendig Awards at the Taubman Museum of Art, sponsored by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge. Among the winners were FRONT co-founders Tom Field (publisher, in black suit) and Dan Smith (editor, in white tux coat) shown here with their wives (Dan's is Christina in blue, Tom's is Emily in black) and with Arts Council Director Laura Rawlings. The Literary Artist award was the first ever given by the Arts Council.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Blacksburg's Intrexon Gets Cash Infusion

A Blacksburg company that has announced it has found an experimental treatment for advanced metastatic melanoma, a skin cancer, has received an investment of $10 million to continue its work.

Third Security of Radford has added the funds to $56.5 million already invested in Intrexon Corp., a life sciences company focused on modular DNA control systems for biotherapeutics and other industry sectors. The new Series C-2 investment comes through New River Management V, a division of Randall Kirk’s Third Security. Gene and cell therapy are used in the new treatment.

This is the final investment for NRM-V, which is now fully committed. Third Security intends to continue its investment strategy with a new fund, New River Management VI.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Montgomery County Names Administrator

The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors has named F. Craig Meadows, 48, new County Administrator effective Aug. 1.

Meadows’ annual salary will be $140,000. He has worked this region in the past, serving as City Manager of Bedford from 1998 to 2005. Meadows was named City Manager of Monroe, N.C., in 2005, where he managed a staff of 455 employees and $135 million budget. His duties there included daily management of city operations, including police, fire, public utilities, planning, tourism, parks and recreation and economic development. He is interim Town Manager of Red Springs, N.C. after departing Monroe earlier this year.

“Craig Meadows has extensive financial experience and a record of teamwork and community involvement,” said Montgomery County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Annette Perkins. “He received excellent recommendations and has a variety of experience with daily management of local government operations and issues such as regional 911collaboration, municipal infrastructure and economic development. We felt he would fit in well with the excellent staff we have now and provide leadership.”

“I see tremendous opportunity for the county as it moves into the future with the dynamics between the county, towns and Virginia Tech,” Meadows said.

Meadows will succeed Clay Goodman, who left in March to become Roanoke County’s administrator. Assistant County Administrator L. Carol Edmonds is serving as interim administrator.

The board received more than 50 applications in its nationwide search for a new administrator.

Business, Education Team Up as GBD

Heywood Fralin helped kick off Grow By Degrees at the Taubman^

Heywood Fralin of Medical Facilities of America in Roanoke and several other prominent regional business and education leaders helped kick off Grow By Degrees this morning at the Taubman Museum of Art. GBD is a campaign initiated by the Virginia Business Higher Education Council (VBHEC) to promote economic growth through high-impact investment and innovation in Virginia’s higher education facilities.

Fralin was joined by Nancy Howell Agee, COO, Carilion Clinic; Charles Steger, president of Virginia Tech; Penny Kyle, president of Radford University; Glenn DuBois, chancellor of the Virginia Community College System.

Grow By Degrees advocates a sustained, long-term program of higher education investment and reform, embodied in state law, to ensure affordable access for Virginia students and to generate strong economic activity and growth revenues for the Commonwealth.

Prominent business leaders joined other members of the Grow By Degrees coalition to announce the statewide effort.

“It is a startling reality that 75 percent of voters we polled in Virginia say a college degree is needed to succeed in today’s economy, but only 35 percent of college-age Virginians enroll in college and only 42 percent of Virginians have college degrees,” said VBHEC Chairman Fralin. “There is a broad gap between Virginians’ expectations and reality, and to turn those numbers around we need to take action now.”

Fralin released key findings from two public opinion surveys conducted jointly in December 2008 and March 2009 by respected Republican and Democratic polling firms. The findings show broad public support for promoting economic recovery and long-term growth through targeted investments in higher education initiatives.

Grow By Degrees supports a comprehensive funding and strategic plan for higher education based on the following seven policy priorities:
  • Awarding a cumulative 70,000 additional associate, bachelor’s, and graduate degrees by 2020 Concentrating new degrees in high-income, high-demand sectors such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and other areas where there is a shortage of skilled workers
  • Creating innovative and cost-efficient new ways to access college degrees
  • Expanding job-specific training at Virginia’s broadly popular and affordable community colleges Increasing public-private collaboration on university-based research
  • Enhancing economic development and work force training in each region of the state with colleges, universities, and community colleges playing prominent roles
  • Making college more affordable for low- and middle-income students and families
The Grow By Degrees campaign is the broadest public initiative undertaken by VBHEC and is intended to promote broad-based support and dialogue concerning strategies for success in the knowledge-based economy. Members of the coalition will work with Virginia lawmakers and key decision makers to turn the seven priorities into substantive policy proposals that can help get Virginia back on the path to economic recovery and sustained growth. The organization’s Web site, provides an interactive platform for Virginia residents to participate in the dialogue and help shape the future of economic development and educational attainment in the Commonwealth.

GSA Says Poff Rehab Will Have Roanoke Workers, But No A&E Firms

Local architects and engineers have been shut out of the process of renovating Roanoke's Poff Federal Building^

A story in the June edition of Valley Business FRONT, “The misdirection of federal stimulus funds,” on the letting of design contracts for the Poff Federal Building to an out of state firm has elicited a response (through 6th District Congressman Bob Goodlatte) from Acting Regional Administrator Linda Chero of the General Services Administration.

She explains that initial contracts went to an architectural firm in Pennsylvania because of fast-track construction and that “GAS anticipates that the majority of workers will be from the Roanoke region for the bulk of the $60 million renovation.

Here is a portion of her letter to Goodlatte: “To provide needed stimulus to the nation’s economy, the Poff renovation, like all [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act] projects, is on a fast track. To ensure that this project started quickly and is completed in the time required by law, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) expedited project start-up activities by using previously awarded indefinite delivery/’indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contract for design-related services. An IDIQ contract allows an agency to acquire an indefinite quantity of services during a faxed period of time. An IDIQ contract helps streamline the contract process and speed service delivery. For this project, GSA issued a task order to TranSystems/DPK&A. Since the contract was already in place, design-related work could begin almost immediately.

“GSA will procure the construction contract, which represents the largest portion of the funding later this year and will follow Federal Acquisition Regulation to select the construction contractor. GSA anticipates that the majority of workers will be from the Roanoke region.”

Lora Katz, director of architecture at Clark Nexsen in Roanoke and an outspoken critic of the process, wrote Goodlatte: “The GSA is advertising for a construction manager to start this fall, early in the design process. This means that by the time the design documentation are completed and our region sees anything, it will be well into 2010 (when things should be much improved in the economy).

“It also means that the architecture and engineering professionals in our region will see zero from the entire American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and only the construction industries will be positively affected. From the GSA letter it also implies that this is typical for all of the work associated with the ARRA, another sad statistic.”

--Dan Smith

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Blue Ridge Beverage Celebrates 50

Blue Ridge Beverage (top) and its CEO Bob Archer celebrated 50 years today^

Blue Ridge Beverage Company Inc., a family-owned and operated beverage distributor serving a 49-county area in central and southwest Virginia, is celebrating its 50th Anniversary.

The company, headquartered in Salem, has been in existence since 1938, but it has been under the continuous leadership of the Archer family for 50 years since 1959, when it had only 10 employees and four beverage delivery routes. Since that time, Blue Ridge Beverage has expanded its territory and has facilities in Salem, Waynesboro, Lynchburg, South Boston, Mario and, Norton.

The company has 350 employees and annually distributes more than 7,300,000 cases of beer, wine and soft drinks, making it one of the largest beverage distributorships in Virginia.

“Blue Ridge Beverage looks forward to working with its many trade partners for years to come while continuing to give back to the community through ongoing work with charitable organizations throughout our service area,” says President/CEO Bob Archer. “We are thrilled to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Blue Ridge Beverage and are proud of their many accomplishments over the past 50 years."

Archer, a former Virginia Small Business Advocate of the Year (Virginia Chamber of Commerce) has been active in small business issues for many years and is active in the community.

Regine N. Archer serves board chairman; James E. Archer as executive VP and COO; and Jacqueline L. Archer as executive VP and CFO.

A Brisk Discussion of Advertising/PR

A record crowd (top photo) greeted NCTC President Mary Miller and panel members (from left) Thomas Becher, John Carlin and Ernest DelBuono^

A sterling panel of public relations/advertising professionals jumped all over some tough questions this morning in Blacksburg at the NewVa Corriror Technology Council's monthly breakfast, one that set a record for attendance.

The 119 people at the breakfast was the second attendance record in a month under the tenure of President Mary Miller of Interactive Design and Development (IDD). The organization's annual awards banquet last month had its largest turnout ever.

The panel of Thomas Becher of tba, John Carlin of Access and Ernest Del Buono of Neathawk, Dubuque & Packett, all of Roanoke and all carrying some heavyweight credentials, attacked a a couple of tough questions from Editor Dan Smith of the FRONT:

"At what point does your involvement in a story affect the credibility of the message?" And this one, "If I'm following your story idea or giving you a column, how do I convince the public that we are independent of your influence?"

DelBuono, who at this moment is representing the principal of William Fleming High School who has been accused of some unethical behavior in regards to test scores, took the initiative. He says his job is to find "the truth of the message" and to try to relay that. "I don't take a client on if he's not willing to tell the truth," he says.

DelBuono emphasizes that "I hate the word 'spin.' If we can't tell the truth, I want no part of the ... discussion."

Carlin, an award-winning television newsman in days past and a recent convert to PR, says, "If I'm representing a point of view, I've become an advocate. Folks will always take [an advocate's words] with a grain of salt" but he insists that the client's message deserves to be heard, regardless of who the spokesman is. DelBuono and Carlin agree that if the client is capable of speaking for himself, that is by far the preference, but the client often needs some intensive coaching in dealing with the press and other interested parties.

"My mode," says Becher, "is to operate behind the scenes, [preparing] the client. Everyone has a story to tell, but not all are capable of telling it well. At the end of the day [the message] has to come from the client's heart."

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Claude Moore Building Wins Major Award

Architects Jennifer Smith and Gregg Lewis at the Moore Center^

Roanoke’s Claude Moore Education Complex has been selected from 2,000 submissions as a Green Building of America Award-winning project.

The SmithLewis Architecture project will be featured in the upcoming special Real Estate & Construction Review-Northeast Green Success Stories edition. The Real Estate & Construction Review has been published by Construction Communications since 1999.

The Smith and Lewis of the Salem firm’s name are Jennifer Smith and her husband Gregg Lewis.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Branch Picks New Construction Manager

Branch & Associates Inc. in Roanoke has named Catherine Underwood vice president of construction management.

"Cathy has been an outstanding advocate for our clients and has developed a construction program that enables our company to compete with the very best in our industry," says Branch President Stephen Aud.

Underwood joined Branch & Associates in 2000 as an estimator. She rose quickly through the ranks and became project manager on a number of major projects including VT KnowledgeWorks Phases I & II at Virginia Tech and Douglas Freeman High School in Henrico County, where she served as senior project manager.

Underwood was promoted to director of construction management in 2008. She received her master's and bachelor's degrees in biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech.

Roanoke Financial Firm Gets New Identity

The Roanoke office of John Hancock Financial Network has merged with Capitol Financial Solutions, a financial services firm headquartered in Raleigh.

The firm also launched a new brand name, Valley Financial Solutions.

"This strategic partnership positions both firms to expand and grow as they help clients achieve their financial goals," says Bill Terry, president of Valley Financial Solutions. "Our mission is to assist families and businesses with the accumulation and preservation of wealth."

The following financial representatives are with Valley Financial Solutions Roanoke office: Stephen A. Stilwell; William R. Terry II; Justin J. Barham; Matthew R. Barrette; Thomas E. Davis; Rudy Najera; Hunter Hickam; and H.T. Pack.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Member One Plans Significant Expansion

Member One will remain close to downtown Roanoke^

Roanoke-based Member One Federal Credit Union facing a severe shortage of space for future growth will begin construction on a new headquarters building in Roanoke this month.

The new headquarters building will be built on land next to the existing combined Member One headquarters and downtown Roanoke branch building. When the construction is completed in summer of 2010, Member One will have a campus-like facility located on the east side of Interstate 581 in downtown Roanoke.

“We are excited and energized about this project," says Frank Carter, president and CEO. "The new headquarters building is part of our long-term growth strategy. Simply put, as we continue to grow, we are better equipped to provide our members with higher deposit rates, lower loan rates and more competitive products and services.
We reached the point where we no longer had the office space we needed to support additional products and services and the opening of new branches.”

Member One has been leasing office space for its staff in another location in Roanoke to relieve overcrowding in its current location. When construction is complete there will be two buildings at the current location almost doubling the existing space.

Members will see better traffic flow around the buildings, upgrades to the drive-thru windows, and a new drive-up ATMaway from vehicle traffic. Member One members will experience minimal interruption to services during the construction, Carter says.

The Member One branch will remain in its current location. The new building will provide additional space for support functions and a training center for employees.

Member One has selected Roanoke-based Thor Inc., General Contractors and Engineers, to serve as general contractors for the construction. Thor has agreed to use local labor and supplies whenever possible for the project. In addition, the new building will employ green building practices and sustainable design in accordance with the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) recommendations.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Design ’09: Eldon Karr Revisits Downtown Roanoke With a Brand New Plan

Eldon Karr: “This is an Eldon Karr initiative.”


Eldon Karr has fought this war before—and won—so he comes into it, not as a naïve kid, but as a seasoned 67-year-old with that naïve kid’s enthusiasm. He knows what’s possible and it excites him. He’s also seen year after year of failure in trying to replicate the success of Roanoke’s best downtown plan ever: Design ’79, the one that allowed City Market to become what it has become and the one that ultimately helped encourage people like Ed Walker to concentrate his substantial efforts in the middle of Roanoke.

Eldon’s newest franchise is something called Heart of Roanoke. It began as “Spirit of Henry Street,” but that was too limiting and suggested that one part of downtown deserved more than the whole. He quickly rethought and rewrote that. Downtown, he insists, “has been a problem for many years and you simply can’t separate it into pockets” (as the city recently did in designating several downtown “districts,” including an Arts District).

The idea here, says the architect and urban designer, is to replicate the success of the Williamson Road neighborhoods and Grandin Village. Eldon says he has time to devote right now because business is not all that hot and he’s not all that needy. He has the time, the energy, the knowledge and the organizational skills—some of them newfound, as with his high profile on Facebook—to pull it off. In a single week alone, he went from 29 members of his little cadre to 145 willing to contribute time, expertise and—maybe—money to get this thing going full bore. Norfolk Southern has bought in. Other business people are talking seriously to Eldon—a guy who looks about as much like a businessman as Willie Nelson looks like a movie star.

Architects, says Eldon, are an odd breed: “right brained and left brained at the same time. Able to engineer a structure, but as artists we’re also sensitive to the aesthetics and to the environment for the structure.”

He insists that reclaiming some authority over the direction of the city’s plan is a central goal. “Urban planning,” he says, “has been left to government officials, who hire designers, pay them and then tell the designers what they want done. I think we need to have the community tell us what needs to be done.” We may be look at a revolution here. Maybe a shooting war.

With partner Steve Gift 30 years ago, a mid-career Eldon Carr was at the center of Design ’79. He worked with Charles Moore and his Centerbrook organization (from Essex, Conn.) in putting together a coalition of design professionals from the Roanoke Valley to tackle the City Market problems. “We identified the projects, put priorities on them and involved locals in the solutions. We haven’t done that sense” to any real degree, he says. “We’ve spent well over $1 million in urban design fees [in Roanoke] and nothing significant has come of it.”

So Eldon went to Facebook to see what he could manufacture in the way of a jump start for the effort. He found high voltage. He says he’s been told by people who know that the Roanoke Valley has a Facebook presence of 92,000 souls (which is not to suggest they’re all active, just registered) and he found that enticing. “We’re still trying to figure out how to use it,” he says. “Right now, we’re looking at setting up different categories where people can help and one of the most appealing [not to mention easiest] is a simple sharing of memories of downtown. What was best about it? What would you like to see return? What have we lost?”

The naïve kid comes out with one simple statement: “I have to be apolitical.” Yeah, right, Eldon. How does one accomplish that in a city that is so intensely political, so divided by section, economy, race, education, competing neighborhood organization? Well, he mulls, maybe finding common ground would be a good thing: “We have to understand our own tribes.”

Eldon is absolutely focused on one specific point: this has nothing to do with government. “This is an Eldon Karr initiative,” he stresses. “I don’t want to be guided and directed.” He wants partners, though, and he’d like to have a little volunteer money from his volunteer army. “There are going to be some costs and I don’t want to have to bear them. If people share my perspective, we can do this together.”

The plan, he says, is “not about where the next building is going.” It is about incorporating spaces and making that space friendly to everything around it. It means getting both sides of the tracks—both literally and figuratively—in downtown Roanoke planning in the same sandbox.

You can reach Eldon at or you can look him up on Facebook, where he has posted his plan.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Premier Transfer Expands to Richmond

Premier Transfer and Storage, an agent for Mayflower Transit, has expanded statewide by acquiring Lee Moving & Storage, another Mayflower agent that has been providing moving services to Richmond for the past 40 years.

Premier has facilities in Christiansburg and Salem. The acquisition will immediately double the company's hauling capacity.

All of the company's business lines, including corporate relocation, and household and commercial moving services, will be supported by sales, customer service and operations personnel in the new market.

"We are very excited about this new acquisition and are confident in its success," says John Phillips, president of Premier Transfer and Storage. "This will lead to additional ways for us to expand our service offerings in more markets." T

he leadership team at the new location consists of John Phillips, president; Tom Graver, GM; and Joye Masten, operations manager.

Tech Carilion Med School Accredited

Drawing of the Tech Carilion School of Medicine (above) and Cynda Johnson, dean and president (right)

The Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine's program leading to the doctor of medicine (M.D.) degree has received preliminary accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME).

Preliminary accreditation means the school meets nationally accepted standards of educational quality. The school can now begin recruiting its first class of 42 aspiring physicians for the fall of 2010 (the class of 2014).

The college will be housed in a new 150,000-square-foot education and research facility under construction. Says Cynda Johnson, founding dean and president, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, "This is also a testament to the incredible amount of determination, collaboration, and creativity of the [Virginia Tech Carilion] team. I am proud of the team and thrilled to begin recruiting our first class."

The curriculum interweaves research and inter-professional disciplines throughout the four-year educational experience.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Chamber Poll: Economy Impact Not So Bad

The not-very-dramatic conclusions from the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce's 2009 Business Climate Survey of its 987 members (with a 16 percent return) was this:
  • Economic growth remains a priority for the voters.
  • The Roanoke region is not immune from an economic downturn.
Not exactly ground-breaking stuff, but a close look reveals ... well, not a lot you wouldn't expect. Here's some of the findings:
  • Economic growth, followed closely by health care costs, education, available workforce, retaining young people and taxes and fees are the issues most affecting business here.
  • Jobs "needed," in order, are: sales, management, administrative, technological, production, engineering, construction and trades, health care.
  • Training was most needed in technical areas, followed by communication skills, computer skills and work ethic.
  • Asked if they would expand in 2009, 18 percent said yes, within the region and another six percent said they'd expand outside the region. That was not dramatically different from 2008 answers.
  • Thirty-five percent (compared to 44 percent in 2008) say they will add jobs in 2009. Ninteen percent will cut jobs (9 percent in 2008).
  • Forty-two percent expect revenues to decrease in 2009, compared to 18 percent in 2008. Just 36 percent (down from 59) say they expect an increase.
  • While 74 percent expected operating expenditures to increase in 2008, that was down to 39 percent for 2009.
  • Twenty-seven percent expect an increase in profits in 2009 (compared to 44 percent) and 41 percent expect a decrease (up from 25).
  • Fifty-six percent said tyhe economic climate was either good or poor and 56 said fair.
  • All that said, just 36 percent said there has been a significant impact on them from the economic downturn.

Green Initiative for Regional Chamber

Cool Cities Chairwoman Diana Christopulos chats with Chamber's Kathy Baske-Young^

The Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce plans to become a partner with Roanoke Valley Cool Cities Coalition, launching a green initiative for its members.

“This is a voluntary program that will give interested businesses an opportunity to reduce waste and save money while being green business stewards of the region," says Chamber President Joyce Waugh. "It’s a way for even small firms that want to brand themselves as being green, to do so.”

The program will be based on a green checklist developed by Cool Cities Coalition that includes water use, waste disposal, indoor air quality pollution control and energy use.

The Chamber will help by providing information, networking, small business assistance, and advocacy for over 1,300 members, which employ over 90,000 with an estimated annual payroll of $2.7 billion. For its part, Cool Cities includes many regional leaders in energy conservation, renewable energy and green business practices. Its 165 affiliates represent over 15,000 citizens. Cool Cities Chairwoman Diana Christopulos talked of the huge environmental strides that have been made during the last year by the business community in Roanoke. Companies, she says, have come to undeerstand that "getting the waste out of the system" and a "change of behavior" have positive impacts on the bottom line.

Christopulos stressed that "we already have great success stories here in the Roanoke Valley. In fact our region is already being recognized as a statewide leader:
  • "The elected officials of (the Valley) have made unanimous commitments and significant progress in measuring and reducing their carbon footprints.
  • "Roanoke County Schools avoided almost $4.7 million in utility costs between 1998 and 2006 through conservation and efficiency. The school system's energy manager became known as the 'prince of darkness' because so much of the savings came from things like turning off the lights and computers when they weren't in use.
  • "Hollins University, Ferrum College, James Madison, Virginia Tech and Lynchburg College have made substantial public commitments to become greener and more sustainable.
  • "When the Clean and Green busienss coalition reduced its collective carbon footprint by over 13 percent in one year--a prodigeous accomplishment--the Orvis representative said, 'We weren't picking low hanging fruit off the trees; we were stumbling over it on the ground."
Cool Cities will develop program content and verify that applicants complete checklist requirements. The Chamber believes that this third party verification strengthens the integrity of the program. Says Waugh, “Our goal is to conduct a pilot program with up to 10 businesses this summer and move forward this fall with the on-going program. Businesses that meet the elements on the checklist will be recognized in a number of ways, including a listing in the Chamber’s quarterly Business Connections magazine and given a special designation. The pilot will give us a chance to work out all the details.”

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tech Board Paperless; Saves Big $$$

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors has adopted paperless meetings, while at the same time approving a university-wide climate action commitment.

Late last year, rector of the board John Lawson, directed the university to implement a paperless method of sharing information by the June 2009 meeting. "I felt like we not only needed to make a institutional statement about sustainability, we needed to take actions ourselves, as a board, to ratchet back the use of expendables for each meeting," says Lawson.

"Believe it or not, preparing all these materials was a massive undertaking," says Kim O'Rourke, secretary to the board. Preparing 35 three-ring binders for board and staff, each averages about 200 pages prepared by many different offices, and shipping to each board member cost the university about $11,800 each year.

Assembling those books also required about $4,600 in staff time. "So, conservatively, we spent about $16,400 each year preparing the all the reports, resolutions, and materials to support the board meetings,' says O'Rourke.

With an up-front expenditure of about $26,000 for laptop computers, the university expects to get a payback in less than two years and make one small step to improve our carbon footprint.

In another action—quite a bit more important, actually, for the entire school’s future--the board adopted a resolution to fully support the university's climate action commitment . It is an important step for the university to take in order to become a national leader in campus sustainability.

After a year of community input and review, Virginia Tech has now adopted a 14 point Climate Action Commitment and Sustainability Plan which calls for, among other things, to pursue LEED Silver certification or better for all new buildings and renovations, a 35 percent recycle rate by 2012, specific targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, reductions in electric usage, improvements in transportation efficiency, and many other measurable sustainability goals.