Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cobham Sensor Moving to Blacksburg

Cobham Sensor Systems plans to relocate its manufacturing, research and development operations from Roanoke to the Technology Manufacturing Building in the Blacksburg Industrial Park.

Cobham acquired M/A-COM’s defense business in 2008, including the Roanoke facility, and will lease 50,000-square-feet of office, laboratory and manufacturing space.

The move is expected to take 90 jobs to the facility with a total $7 million invested in its relocation and expansion over the coming 12 months.

“The Montgomery County Board of Supervisors is extremely pleased to see Cobham leasing space in this high-tech building,” says Board Chairwoman Annette Perkins. “This is a first-class company with global operations. It is a great example of the high paying, targeted industries the County strives to attract.”

Cobham Defense Systems is a division of the British defense contractor Cobham plc, which generates more than $2.1 billion in annual sales and employs 12,000 people worldwide. This division develops and manufactures critical technology for the aerospace and defense industries.

It is also the world leader in advanced digital military vehicle tactical communications systems, soldier situation awareness and integrated navigation management tools.

“With the leasing of this fantastic facility, Cobham is relocating its operations from the ITT Building in Roanoke,” says Greg Caires, VP of media relations. “This expansion in the Greater Roanoke and New River Valley Regions will enable Cobham to retain all of our operations in the region and allow opportunities for future growth.”

Monday, September 28, 2009

Renovation Ahead for 'Lost Engines'

Cranes prepare to move one of the Baldwin diesels recently^

The lost engines are lost no more and their future keeps growing more and more promising.

In July, 2009, the Virginia Museum of Transportation announced a partnership which it had formed to save the "Lost Engines of Roanoke." Employing the resources of all of the partners, the group announced plans to save the three steam locomotives (Norfolk & Western Class M2 Numbers 1118, 1134, and 1151 built in 1910-1911), one of two first generation diesel locomotives (Chesapeake Western #662 built by Baldwin in 1946), several tenders and a flat car.

For nearly sixty years, these one-of-a-kind examples of cherished American rail history from the first half of the twentieth century had languished in a Roanoke scrap yard.

News of the announcement was picked up by local, state, and national media, but the challenges of moving these multi-ton giants lay ahead, as well as the fate of the final Baldwin diesel locomotive #663. Through the expertise of the North Fork Corporation, all of the equipment was successfully moved out of the scrap yard to intermediate or final destinations ahead of the September 30 deadline.

(A feature story on the current successes at the Museum of Transportation is in the October issue of Valley Business FRONT, which went online yesterday. The magazine will be mailed this week.)

The last Baldwin diesel has found not only a home, thanks to the Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society, but also the promise of restoration. The Museum has donated #663-which was first donated to the Museum by Virginia Scrap Iron & Metal Co.-to the Roanoke Chapter.

In exchange, the Chapter has committed to performing a cosmetic restoration of the Museum's #662 to be returned as a new Museum exhibit within two years. Both locomotives will be restored to their striking blue and gold Chesapeake Western paint scheme. The Chesapeake Western operated in west-central Virginia and was purchased by the Norfolk & Western in 1954.

"It's a miracle," says Beverly T. Fitzpatrick, Jr., the Museum's Executive Director. "When people work together, miracles can happen. Everybody assumed that someday these locomotives would be scrapped, and together we have saved them all. Many thanks, especially, are due to Mary Ann Ward, president of the Virginia Scrap Iron & Metal Co. for donating all of these to the Virginia Museum of Transportation. It's been an honor to work with them and all of our partners on this project."

The "Lost Engines of Roanoke" and other rail stock have been at the scrap yard since the 1950s. The yard was recently sold to make way for Carilion Clinic's growing medical campus on South Jefferson Street, providing a window of opportunity to save these engines. Most of these pieces have a direct connection to Roanoke, and illustrate a story that should not be lost about the Valley's hard-working railroad employees.

Where are they now?
  • Norfolk & Western Class M2c steam locomotive # 1151 and a tender have been moved to the Virginia Museum of Transportation but are not currently on display.
  • Norfolk & Western Class M2 steam locomotive #1134 and a tender have been moved to Goshen for restoration by North Fork Corporation. Once restored, they will be moved to the Railroad Museum of Virginia in Portsmouth.
  • Norfolk & Western Class M2 steam locomotive # 1118 has been moved to the facilities of the Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. The Chapter traded its Baldwin steam locomotive #34 built in 1923 to North Fork Corporation in exchange for the #1118.
  • Chesapeake Western Baldwin diesels #662 and #663 have been moved to the facilities of the Roanoke Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society for cosmetic restoration.
  • Norfolk & Western Maintenance of Way Flat Car has been moved to Goshen for restoration by North Fork Corporation.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Publisher, Group Buy Virginia Business

Virginia Business Magazine, one of the state's older business publications and most recently a property of Media General, has been sold, according to a post on its Web site. Virginia Business is the state's only statewide business publication and is more of a traditional business magazine than our Valley Business FRONT (which tries to be both informative and interesting; VB has not mastered the latter part of that equation).

Here's what the Web report says:

"Virginia Business Magazine, published by Media General Inc., has been sold to Virginia Business Publications LLC, a Virginia-based investment company that will include Bernard A. Niemeier, the magazine’s president and publisher ... No terms were released. Virginia Business, a statewide business news monthly that covers major industries and business trends, has published for nearly 24 years."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Country Clubs' Merger Called Off

Hunting Hills Country Club^

Roanoke Country Club^

The planned merger of Roanoke Country Club and Hunting Hills Country Club in Roanoke has fallen through, according to Nikki Poole, membership chairman at RCC. Hunting Hills' membership chairman Tom van Duursen also confirmed the reconsideration.

Poole says "a number of issues could not be worked out" and the clubs decided to remain independent of each other. The clubs have faced increasing challenges in the difficult economy and felt at the time they announced their planned merger that they could both flourish as a combined unit.

Roanoke Country Club is the oldest club of its type in the region, dating to 1899 and for many years was the prestige club. RCC has 27 holes of golf, in addition to tennis, dining and swimming. Hunting Hills is often considered the most "business friendly" of the region's country clubs. Its golf course dates from 1971. The course was sold to Old Heritage Corp. in 2003 for $1.9 million, according to published reports at the time. HHCC also features tennis, swimming and dining.

The August Hunting Hills newsletter Houndogazette noted, "All this talk about possible merger has made some people nervous and created a bit of a stir." The idea was that members would use both sports facilities with dining at Hunting Hills and banquets at RCC. The clubs hoped to save $750,000 a year, van Duursen said at the time of the proposal.


Luna Gains a Reprieve

Luna Innovations Inc. seems to have a reprieve. The much-honored Roanoke technology company, which had lost a $36 million lawsuit based on misuse of protected intellectual property is on the verge of a settlement with Hansen Medical Inc., which won the suit.

The companies announced the outline for the agreement yesterday, but did not release details. Luna CEO says the agreement will help avert bankruptcy and will help make certain creditors are fully paid.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Success Story Continues at Goodwill (in a Down Economy)

Goodwill employees get the newest store ready to open^

Crowd awaits the opening of the newest store so they can go Goodwill hunting^

Roanoke City Councilwoman Gwen Mason, running for the General Assembly, says she's "buying my campaign wardrobe at Goodwill" unlike Sarah Palin^

Dignitaries cut strung-together ties in front of the new store this morning^


When CEO Bruce Phipps held open the door for the first customer at the 29th Goodwill Industries retail store in the Market Square East Shopping Center on U.S. 460 in Roanoke this morning, it was simply the fulfillment of another in a long string of ambitious goals that the economy has not thwarted.

Goodwill is one of the few retail businesses in this region--or perhaps any other region--that is thriving in this economy, perhaps even because of this economy. "Customers are being more frugal with this type of purchase so they have that money for other, more necessary purchases," he observes. A look around the six Goodwill stores in the Roanoke Valley (seven come spring with the addition of a store at Botetourt Commons in Daleville), though, tells yet another story. When school is not in session, many of the customers are young, school-age girls enthusiastically shopping with their mothers or in groups. That says "trendy" and in retail "trendy" is a magic word.

Phipps is not quite sure how to react to that observation. "Maybe," he says, "it is a reaction to all the press we've gotten." Maybe. But do 13-year-old girls pay attention to "press" or do they shop where their friends shop? Once upon a time, buying used clothing--even the upper end stuff sold by Goodwill in recent years--was verboten among the cool. It has become de rigueur.

In any case, the news is good for one of the region's largest and most successful retailers, one that recycles as much of the donated goods as it sells. Phipps stresses that only the best donated goods make the cut for re-sale. The rest is goes to missions, foreign countries or--as a last resort--is cut into cleaning rags. "It's all used," he stresses. "Every bit of it."

Goodwill has become a regional powerhouse with its 29 stores in a region that goes from Charlottesville and Harrisonburg, to the Roanoke and New River Valleys and down to Martinsville. The new stores are large, organized open and clean. The service is quite good and the clothing selection is at at least as good as that at most department stores, though this is hardly Paris runway to you.

Goodwill recently spent $7.7 million expanding and updating its corporate headquarters on Melrose Ave., where workers are trained. The company has 825 employees and the new store adds 20. There are 435 employees working solely in "donated goods," says Phipps. Revenue last year for this division was $24 million. The new store is 13,600 total square feet with 10,500 of that retail. The Daleville store, to be in Botetourt Commons by March or April, will be about the same size, says marketing manager Suni Heflin.

In addition to the stores, the training, the job counseling (18,000 people helped last year, with 565 getting jobs in competitive situations), Goodwill works at Forest Park Academy in Roanoke teaching kids how to use their money (who better?).

(This Facebook comment from Kara Dickerson Smith: "Yes, Goodwill is the newest cool place to shop ... I remember going to get intentionally crazy outfits for something theatre related in high school and not finding enough "crazy" ... we had to go to one of the other thrift stores because the stuff at Goodwill was too "nice" to do what we wanted..."

(This from Julie Snowman in Lynchburg: "I've shopped for clothes, especially jeans, at Goodwill for years - need to go again, but everytime I go the parking lot is full!"

(This from Becky Mushko of Smith Mountain Lake: "I've gotten some great stuff at Goodwill."

(Suzanne Echols Schupp of Austin, Tex.: "I love it there.")

Monday, September 21, 2009

Whitworth, Frantz Hall of Fame Inductees

Junior Achievement of Southwest Virginia has named Spencer Frantz of Graham White Manufacturing and Claudia Whitworth of the Roanoke Tribune laureates for the 19th annual Southwest Virginia Business Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was established in 1990 by the Junior Achievement of Southwest Virginia.
Selection is based on leadership in the free enterprise system and business success, as well as contributions and involvement in the community. A committee of their peers selects laureates, who must be retired or no longer in the position in which their principal business contributions were made.

This year's Laureates will be recognized on November 10 at the Business Hall of Fame dinner at Fitzpatrick Hall in the Jefferson Center. Reception begins at 6 p.m., with dinner at 6:30.

Frantz is the third of four generations to be president and now vice chair of Graham White Manufacturing. The company began in 1914 by producing a sanding device for locomotives. Since then, Graham White has developed many more vital parts and devices patented and used in all forms of transportation.

Frantz ran his own business, Tread Corp., from 1968-1987, distributing explosives and producing storage containers for the high explosives. The company led to the creation of Treadlok, which produced gun safes for the shooting sports industry.

Frantz's commitment to youth has included the chairmanship of YMCA campaign drives, leading to new facilities in Roanoke and Salem. Learning work ethic from his childhood days on the farm and orchard, his accomplishments are sure to inspire today's youth and entrepreneurs.

Whitworth is the middle child of a minister who published newspapers for African-Americans in Roanoke, Charlottesville, Lynchburg and Martinsville. Her education and teachings were influenced by her Quaker and Baha'i background, which encouraged her to include service in her daily routine.

Whitworth had determined by the time of 17 that college was not an option for her and instead she found that a "hands on" approach gave her the lessons that would help her shape her career and overcome barriers. Her first job was setting up linotype, a slow and tedious process that also required heavy lifting. She traveled often to large cities to learn about what it took to assemble a newspaper in a male-dominated production field.

Eventually, Ms. Whitworth took over the helm of the Roanoke Tribune, which outlasted several other African-American weeklies owned by her father. Despite the challenges faced by the newspaper industry, the Tribune remains a beacon in the community. Ms. Whitworth has never missed a deadline since taking over the operation.

Over the years public service has been important to Ms. Whitworth, and she has a particular concern for youth. She has established a community center on her property and she owns two other small businesses that support residents of northwest Roanoke. This year the Roanoke Tribune celebrates its 70th anniversary and a celebratory dinner was highlighted by a presentation from nationally acclaimed poet Nikki Giovanni.

The Roanoke Tribune remains as the vital community paper with the third generation, with son Stan Hale serving as editor. Whitworth was bestowed in April with the 2009 African American Trailblazer in Virginia History from the Library of Virginia System.
In 1992 Whitworth was inducted into the Virginia Women's Hall of Fame.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Ukrop's Will Close Roanoke Store

Ukrop's at Ivy Market^

On the day before Walgreens drug store finally opens at Ivy Market, Ukrop's Super Markets Inc. today announced it will close its store at 2331 Franklin Road in Roanoke Saturday, Oct. 24.

The First Market Bank branch in this store will remain open until Friday, Dec. 18, 2009.

"We are making this announcement this afternoon after talking with store leadership about this tough decision," said Ukrop's Chairman, President and CEO Bobby Ukrop. "We wish it had worked out differently. It's painful for many reasons, not the least of which is that we will no longer be able to offer employment to associates who have diligently served Ivy Market customers.

"We are grateful to the Roanoke Valley customers who have loyally supported us with their business and will do our best during the next five weeks to provide the quality fresh food and superior customer service they have come to expect from Ukrop's," added Ukrop.

Ukrop's Super Markets Inc was founded and headquartered in Richmond, and has more than 5,500 associate. It operates 27 retail food stores (26 after the Roanoke store closing), Joe's Market (a regional specialty market), a central bakery and kitchen, and a distribution center. Ukrop's is privately owned and has operated since 1937.

Carilion Closing Private Duty Service

Carilion Clinic will close its private duty services, referring patients to other existing private duty providers in the region. The decision affects all Carilion Clinic Private Duty service in Southwest Virginia.

Carilion patients will be referred to other local, independent providers for these services, including Maxim Healthcare Services and Interim Home Care. Private duty professionals provide both nursing and non-nursing care to patients when they need extra assistance, including ventilator and feeding tube maintenance, bathing and companion services.

“Twenty years ago, no one offered private duty care in this region, so we began the program to meet our patient’s needs,” says Melina Perdue, Carilion Clinic senior VP. “We now have the opportunity to work with independent providers in the region, allowing us to focus our attention on core physician, hospital and medical education services.”

The closing affects approximately 90 employees. Most, if not all, will have the opportunity to take other positions inside Carilion, or transfer with their patients to the independent providers. Employees who are not able to transfer to other Carilion positions will receive severance benefits and placement assistance.

Carilion Private Duty currently serves about 115 patients. Carilion will continue to provide service to each patient until they are successfully transferred to another provider. Maxim and Interim have indicated they have the capacity to serve all of Carilion’s existing patients, and can do at a comparable cost. Carilion Clinic Home Care and Hospice are not affected and will continue normal operations.

Tech To Examine the Mechanics of Knees

Raffaella De Vita (above) will take a look at the mechanics of knees for Tech^

A team of Virginia Tech engineering researchers has won a $300,000 National Science Foundation grant to study knee ligament sprains at the micro-mechanical level.

Principal investigator Raffaella De Vita, an assistant professor in the engineering science and mechanics department and director of the Mechanics of Soft Biological Systems Laboratory, will examine the role of the structural components of knee ligament in sprains by combining micro-mechanical models, molecular models, biological and mechanical experiments.

Previous biomechanics studies focused on quantifying the macro-mechanical properties of ligaments, such as tangent modulus, tensile strength, and ultimate strain. Yet, little is known of their response to mechanical stimuli that lead to partial and complete ligament failure.

The study is expected to clarify micro-structural changes, such as the level of collagen crosslink, associated with partial and complete tears, De Vita said. The study will focus on the most common orthopedic injuries, such as those caused by when the knee is forced beyond its normal motion range, such as in a fall, or when the knee is impacted during a vehicular accident or participation in sports such as football. These injuries can consist of a slight over-stretch, a partial tear, or a complete disruption of the ligaments.

The study will involve rat specimens of similar age and sex type, but split into two groups--one fed a diet of sweet peas and the other a lethargic diet. Diet affects the crosslinks in collagen, which is the primary makeup of ligaments, De Vita says.

Harvested ligaments will be subjected to lab stress tests and their deformation observed by using a special high-speed camera. Once completed, the research findings could lead to the creation of replacement grafts and biological scaffolds for damaged ligaments. The results also will guide the design of braces or stretching routines to help prevent damage during stressful activities that otherwise would lead to ligament sprains. Expected research benefits are not solely limited to knees.

“The research findings will contribute to understanding the failure mechanism of more complex biological soft tissues such as, for example, skin and arteries” that are comprised of collagen, said De Vita.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

NanoSonic Moving to Giles County

NanoSonic Inc., a high technology research and development company that concentrates its efforts in the field of advanced materials, is moving to EcoPark in Giles County. NanoSonic is a spin-off company of Virginia Tech's Colleges of Engineering and Science and employs 60 people.

Founded in 1998 in Blacksburg, NanoSonic emerged as the overall leader of a 13-state study about the strength of small nanotechnology businesses. NanoSonic led all nanotechnology companies in both the dollar amount of contracts received, $10,347,956, and in the total number of grants awarded to a single company, 39.

"We are extremely excited to locate in Giles County," says NanoSonic President Rick Claus, an expert in advanced materials and structures and the 2001 recipient of Virginia's Outstanding Scientist Award. "Eastern Giles County is a shortdrive from Blacksburg, and EcoPark will allow us to responsibly grow our manufacturing business with minimal impact on the environment. We rent office and research space in Blacksburg, but as we ramp up with the manufacturing of our products we needed additional space."

Giles County Board of Supervisors Chairman, Richard McCoy says, “NanoSonic is a perfect first tenant for the Wheatland EcoPark. Every community wants high tech, clean industry, and to have an announcement like this, in these economic times, is very exciting for the whole region.”
Industrial Development Authority Chairman Dr. Lee Wheeler says the EcoPark concept is one the County believes will be attractive to businesses like NanoSonic. “Our niche is to create a beautiful, low cost, easily accessible location for environmentally conscious companies to do business, and still be only minutes away from the resources available at Virginia Tech.”

The project’s architect, Michael Hedgepeth with Craddock and Cunningham in Lynchburg says the site work for the 30,000 square feet LEED-certified building is scheduled to break ground in April with completion in the summer of 2010. NanoSonic has 18 patents that encompass its processing techniques, and the basis of one of its most successful products to date, Metal Rubber. Applications for Metal Rubber are under review by a multitude of microelectronics, biomedical, aeronautical, and automotive industries.

NanoSonic received a 2006 "Nano 50" award at the NASA Tech Briefs National Nano
Engineering Conference. NASA-Tech Briefs Nano 50 awardees are considered the "best of the best" with the winners being innovative people and with designs that will move nanotechnology to key mainstream markets.

Hollins Theatre Gets a Big $$$ Boost

Photo from "Chicago" (above) and President Nancy Gray (right)^

If you thought Hollins University Theatre was among the best around before, you’ll have to do a doubletake in the near future when the physical surroundings match the productions. The university is embarking on a comprehensive renovation of its theatre with a $3 million commitment from the James S. McDonnell Family Foundation.

Hollins will receive $1 million annually from the foundation over the next three years, beginning this year. Based in Lincoln, Mass., the James S. McDonnell Family Foundation is named for the noted aviation pioneer and founder of McDonnell Aircraft Corporation, which later became McDonnell Douglas Corporation.

The organization's mission is to support scientific, educational, and charitable causes locally, nationally, and internationally. McDonnell's daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Hall McDonnell, is a member of Hollins' Class of 1962 and serves on the university's Board of Trustees. Her husband, James S. McDonnell, III, is a member of the foundation's Board of Directors.

"Renovating our theater is one of our most pressing needs," says Hollins President Nancy Gray. "This support will enable us to take the first steps to truly transform theater programming and other performing arts offerings on the Hollins campus."

During the past several years, the Hollins productions under the leadership of Associate Professor of Theatre and Department Chairman Ernest Zulia have shone as a beacon among the region's theatrical companies. Student productions have often surpassed the offerings of local and even professional theater in the region. Zulia has staged such ambitious and well-received productions as "Chicago," "Doubt," "Caroline, or Change," and "Into the Woods."

The following improvements are among those the gift will fund:
  • Replacement of existing stage rigging with a new electric rigging system above the stage for the hanging of lights, scenery, and drapery.
  • Upgrades to HVAC and electrical systems, including air conditioning for the entire building.
  • New light coves flanking the stage; blackout shades; and updated lighting.
  • New paint and carpeting for the theatre's interior.
  • A new sprinkler system and rear fire stair.
  • Increased accessibility, including the addition of an automatic door opener and making the existing lobby and Theatre Annex restrooms handicapped accessible.
  • Flood control to address periodic flooding of the Theatre Annex basement.
Hollins' 550-seat proscenium theatre was constructed in 1924 at the height of the "Little Theatre" movement, a trend toward smaller, more intimate theatre that began in response to the advent of motion pictures. (In fact, the facility is still commonly referred to by many alumnae as the "Hollins College Little Theatre.") The New York Drama League called it "the best equipped theatre south of Washington."

Today, the theatre remains an essential part of intellectual, artistic, and student life at the university. Two main stage productions, including one musical, and two studio theatre productions are presented each year for the campus community and the general public. Students participate in every aspect of theatre production, including acting, musical theatre, design, directing, technical production, and stage management.

In addition, the theatre is an important venue for the university's dance department, which has garnered national attention on its own and through its affiliation with the American Dance Festival. The theatre hosts the annual Fall Dance Gathering, which showcases innovative new works by student, faculty, alumnae, and other artists.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Carvins Cove Gets Easement Protection

Virginia Outdoors Foundation and the Western Virginia Land Trust hold the new easement at Carvins Cove^

The City of Roanoke has completed the donation of a two-part conservation easement in Roanoke and Botetourt counties that permanently protects 11,363 acres of open space, making Carvins Cove the largest publicly-held easement in the state.

The first part, 6,185 acres, was placed under easement in 2008 and the remaining 5,178 acres were placed under easement last week.

“The latest easement is the culmination of a decade and a half of efforts by the local land preservation leaders, state agencies, and local elected officials,” Governor Tim Kaine says. “It exemplifies the spirit of partnership that makes Virginia’s land conservation program so successful, and is a testament to the foresight of Roanoke’s citizens to protect this critical resource for generations to come.”

The easement, co-held by the Virginia Outdoors Foundation (VOF) and the Western Virginia Land Trust, is on the Carvins Cove Natural Reserve, the second-largest municipal park in the nation. The property is owned by the City of Roanoke and surrounds Carvins Cove Reservoir, the largest source of public drinking water for several municipalities in the Roanoke Valley.

The Western Virginia Water Authority owns the reservoir and water treatment plant, which are not included in the easement.

The Carvins Cove Natural Reserve is managed for watershed protection and public recreation, including hiking, fishing, boating, and equestrian use. The property is near Interstate 81 and borders 14 miles of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. The rock outcrop at nearby McAfee’s Knob, which overlooks the conserved property, is one of the most frequently visited and photographed panoramas on the Appalachian Trail.

The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Division of Natural Heritage has identified rare biological communities on the property, which the easement will protect by limiting future development.

At its fall Conservation Celebration held on the campus of Hollins University Sunday, the Western Virginia Land Trust presented Governor Kaine with its A. Victor Thomas Environmental Stewardship Award for his commitment to open space preservation in Virginia.

VOF now protects more than 20,000 acres in Botetourt and Roanoke counties, and nearly 550,000 acres of natural, scenic, historic, open-space, and recreational lands statewide, including more than 4,000 miles of streams and 200,000 acres of farmland. The Western Virginia Land Trust, a private non-profit land conservancy, has helped to preserve more than 76,000 acres of land and 30 miles of streams in southwest Virginia since 1996.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Spectrum Presents Center in the Square Plans

Center's new roof features aquarium and gardens^

Center's re-designed lobby area^

Spectrum Design’s plans for the $27 million renovation at Center in the Square headlined the organization’s meeting yesterday. About half that amount has been raised through donations and tax credits.

Center is the landlord for museums and arts organizations—most notably at this point the Science Museum of Western Virginia, which will be one of the more significant beneficiaries of the renovation. The museum will have direct access to new rooftop gardens, a 5,000-plus gallon aquarium and a number of other bells and whistles.

Renovations are anticipated to be completed by 2012—coinciding with the expected re-opening of Mill Mountain Theatre, which closed earlier this year in order to re-organize. The Harrison Museum of African American History would also come on board in 2012 if all goes as planned.

Among the important renovations is the restoration of the Campbell Avenue facade to its 1917 look.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Carilion Dedicates Riverside 3 Facility

Carilion CEO Ed Murphy (on right with white beard) and other dignitaries show off the cornerstone^

Coordinated care and improved service are at the emphasis of a new Carilion Clinic facility dedicated today in Carilion’s Riverside Center. Riverside 3 opens to patients on Sept. 14.

Located at the corner of Reserve Ave. and South Jefferson St. near Roanoke Memorial Hospital, the building will house various medical specialties including orthopaedics, internal medicine, rheumatology, gastroenterology, neurosurgery, physical medicine, neurology, general and breast surgery, and trauma surgery.

Officials say that placing physician specialists in a central location, along with support services such as an electronic medical record, imaging and lab, will lead to better coordination and collaboration, improve care and outcomes for patients. All scheduling for physicians in the Riverside 3 building will be handled through a new centralized patient scheduling center.

“The Riverside Center is evolving into a unique center for patient care and education. We’re excited to be among the first physicians to see patients here,” says Jeri Lantz, M.D., section chief of general internal medicine at Carilion Clinic. “The building’s design follows the principals of Carilion Clinic--putting patients at the center of care.”

In addition to physician offices and treatment rooms, the building features Health Information Centers containing an audio library, clinical wizards, health news, interactive tools and a video library. These centers are located in patient waiting areas. The Riverview Café will be on the main level.

Other notable features include a “green roof,” made up of special plants that reduce runoff and keep the building cool, and a covered bicycle parking area to encourage employees to bike to work.

The new Riverside building has applied for LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council and expects certification to be granted in the near future. LEED is an internationally known green building certificate that addresses six areas related to green building: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and innovation in design.

LEED-certified buildings are designed to reduce waste sent to landfills, conserve water and energy, lower operating costs, reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions, increase asset value, provide a healthier environment, and demonstrate a commitment to social responsibility and environmental stewardship.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tech, Carilion Look at Strength and Diabetes

Systematic, progressive resistance training--also called strength training--is a safe and efficient way for middle-aged and older adults to improve their health is the conclusion of a Virginia Tech-led research team that includes experts in behavior, exercise, physiology, and medicine. The team is designing a program to help pre-diabetic adults begin and maintain resistance training in order to prevent diabetes.

"Much attention has been directed at aerobic exercise for weight management and health; while resistance training is encouraged to build strength and maintain lean body mass, particularly in older adults," says Richard Winett, director of the Center for Research in Health Behavior at Tech. "However lab-gym based studies have shown that resistance training has other potential benefits for prevention and treatment of heart disease, some cancers, and diabetes, and some people may find this form of exercise more appealing."

"In the case of diabetes, improved muscle function may improve insulin and glucose metabolism," says Brenda Davy of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "But these positive effects depend upon maintaining resistance training over the long-term."

Davy and Winett are principal investigators on a five-year, $3.2 million National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)-funded behavioral change intervention program to help older adults begin and maintain resistance training. Additional biological and psychological measures will be part of the study. The first phase will be at the Virginia Tech Riverside Clinical Research Center on the Carilion Clinic campus in Roanoke.

"The project is a good example of the potential of interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers from different fields," Winett says. Davy brings knowledge of health and exercise physiology and Winett brings expertise in behavioral science to the collaboration. "The research I have been involved with for most of my career has been related to food intake, nutrition, weight management, and physical fitness," Davy says. "But despite all we have learned, most people still do not adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles. Some of the most exciting scientific advances in years to come will be how to help people improve health behaviors long-term."

National data indicate that only 10 to 15 percent of older adults perform any strengthening exercises. Increasing the prevalence of resistance training to 30 percent is an objective of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2010 initiative.

As many as 200 people will be part of the study over the five-year period.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tech Professor Gets Nan-CT Funding

Professor Ge Wang (right) and his colleagues at work^

Virginia Tech engineering professor Ge Wang and his colleagues have successfully applied for more than $1.3 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop the next-generation nano-CT imaging system.

In 1991, Wang produced the first paper on CT scans and the new research promises to greatly reduce the required dose of radiation. Virginia Tech and Xradia, a leading nano-CT company, are also collaborating on the project with a cost-sharing investment of close to $800,000.

CT is an imaging method that shows objects by sections or sectioning, through the use of x-ray waves and computer processing. "X-ray nano-CT is a cutting edge imaging tool," Wang says, "but a long-standing barrier to realizing its full potential is its inability to precisely reconstruct an interior region of interest within a larger object from purely local projections."

Wang, has a scholarly record of achievements in the imaging world. More than 1,000 scientific citations are attributed to his group's pioneering efforts. In 2002, for example, he and his research group pioneered another highly sensitive imaging procedure called bioluminescence tomography (BLT).

One application of the in vivo molecular imaging technology became the identification of tumors in live animals. As an additional example, in 2007 he and his collaborators, Yangbo Ye of the University of Iowa and Hengyong Yu, who is the associate director of Wang's CT lab, patented a novel X-ray imaging method called "interior tomography."

Interior tomography, Wang says, was a first step toward overcoming the long-standing barrier to realizing the full potential of X-ray nano-CT. Despite the ability of this cutting-edge imaging tool as a non-destructive, non-invasive recorder of information, it cannot "precisely reconstruct an interior region of interest within a large object from purely local projections," Wang says. And, when used in medicine, a patient is subjected to "a radiation dose that must be increased dramatically to obtain improved resolutions."

Wang suggested to the NSF that the combination of X-ray nano-CT and interior tomography will provide "a versatile nano-imaging tool that can visualize fine features within a larger object, and use a much lower radiation dose and in much less time." This new work is the foundation of the NSF project.

Working with Wang on this NSF grant are Chris Wyatt, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering; Linbing Wang, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; and Yu, all at Virginia Tech. Also, David Carroll, associate professor of physics at Wake Forest University, is a member of the team.

On the industrial side, the key collaborators are Steve Wang, S. H. Lau and Wenbing Yun. Together, they believe they can construct this next generation of a nano-CT imaging system that will provide images that will reveal deeply imbedded details, including subcellular features. And, they believe they can handle a sample that is ten times larger than what is currently available, and at much reduced radiation dose," Wang says.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tech Solar House on Display

An innovative solar house that has been designed and constructed for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon by a team of Virginia Tech faculty and students will be on exhibition at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., Sept. 5-27.

Virginia Tech and the National Building Museum have a history of collaboration. Through tours of the house and public programming, the museum and Virginia Tech aim to educate the public about the importance of sustainable design within the built environment.

The Virginia Tech solar house, named LUMENHAUS, will be on display on the museum's west lawn at the intersection of 5th and F Street, in Northwest Washinton, while the team makes final improvements on the construction of the house.
In another development, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a three-year $1,421,725 grant to Jean Peccoud, associate professor at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech, to develop GenoCAD - a web-based computer-assisted design environment for synthetic biology.

Synthetic biology, a rapidly emerging area of biological research, applies methods developed in engineering to design artificial biological systems that meet user-defined specifications. It has also been used to re-design natural systems to better understand the fundamental properties of living organisms. "We are considering DNA as a language to program living organisms instead of computers," said Peccoud. "This analogy has led us to apply methods and results from computer science to biology. In particular, rules describing how different functional elements should be combined can be described in the language grammar."

Friday, September 4, 2009

Iron Chef Roanoke Coming Next Week

If you’re looking for some hot competition and football’s not your bag (too violent), baseball’s over, cross country’s ... well ... cross country then we have a dandy for you. It involves iron, chefs, food and gas stoves.

Give up?

On Tuesday, September 8, 3:30-6 p.m. at the Roanoke Civic Center Special Events Center hospitality industries of the Roanoke Valley (150 competitors) will compete for bragging rights.

Sponsored by The Roanoke Valley Hospitality Association, the Olympics will feature games such as Water Waiter Relay, Your Turn to Play Engineer, So You Think You Can Housekeep, Hospitality Hockey and The Hunt for Hospitality. New to this year 's event is the Copper Skillet Competition.

Set up like the "Iron Chef," local chefs will be given a "mystery box" in which they must create the best dish as judged by Chefs and culinary foodies. They will be given 45 minutes to complete the task with a 15 minute brainstorm. Great visuals and all going to support the Roanoke Valley Hospitality Scholarship awarded to a student pursuing a career in hospitality.

This one’s sponsored by National Business College, The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, Holiday Inn-Salem, U.S. Foodservice, Ovations, Residence Inn Marriott, Courtyard By Marriot, The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center, Roanoke Civic Center, Holiday Inn-Tanglewood, and Hunting Hills.

Retail Alliance Information Session in Lynchburg

The Retail Alliance is host for a breakfast on Wednesday, Sept. 9 8-9:45 a.m. at the Craddock Terry Hotel to introduce the Lynchburg business community to the organization and its mission of helping local independent businesses compete.

The program will outline the Retail Alliance emphasis on providing education, training, advocacy and discount services to local retailers. The Retail Alliance¹s current campaign is designed to educate consumers about the role small independent businesses play in the economy and encourage them to spend their dollars with their friends and neighbors.

For each dollar invested at a local business, 45 percent stays in the community, versus 13 percent spent at a national chain.

"Holiday shopping season is fast approaching and we know that many retailers rely on this time of year for nearly half of their sales,” says Retail Alliance President and CEO Susan Milhoan. "We want to be a resource to Lynchburg merchants to ensure they have the most successful season possible and to help the community remain a place where small businesses can thrive.”

Small businesses account for 45 percent of the nation¹s total payroll and up to 80 percent of all new jobs created during the past decade. The launch of the Lynchburg Chapter is part of the Retail Alliance¹s long-term plan to develop a presence throughout all of Southern Virginia.

For more information about the Retail Alliance, its services and the buy local campaign, visit www.retail-allliance.com or call David Brandt with Rubin Communications Group at 757-456-5212.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Coming Soon: Social Media, How To Do It

Beginning with the October issue of Valley Business FRONT magazine, operating in the strange new frontier of social media will become a little easier each month.

We have put together a crack team of experts and users to write about how social media operates, what it means to you professionally and personally and how to avoid the pitfalls and pratfalls that can make the whole endeavor a pain in the butt.

Jill Elswick, a veteran journalist, marketer and social media butterfly, kicks off the commentary with an overview that will help you understand what all the fuss is about and she'll be quickly be followed by Patsy Stewart, Janeson Keeley, Adam Thompson, as well as others in the coming months. All are well-known in social networking sites and they know their way around. That will be to your benefit.

Look for it and keep coming back to moreFRONT.com for the best of business news.

Scenes From the William Fleming High Ribbon-Cutting

The Fleming trophy case^

The new lunch room^

The lobby at the entrance^

A typical hallway^

The gym, which will hold the entire student body^

A classroom^

Mayor David Bowers (center), School Superintendent Rita Bishop (to his left) and other dignitaries cut the ribbon^

Senior Sarah Furrow gives a stem-winder of a speech to cap the ceremonies^

The crowd was big and warm^

The new William Fleming High School^

Photos, story by DAN SMITH

A large, appreciative crowd showed up in the late summer sun to give the new $57 million, 295,000 square feet William Fleming High School its sendup. The new school replaces the old William Fleming High (named for a Revolutionary War figure), which was built in 1960. Members of the first three classes of that school attended.

The building was designed by Rife + Wood Architects (Richard Rife and George Assaid) of Roanoke and the general contractor was J.M. Turner (whose owner is a former school board member.

Rife + Wood also designed Fleming's sister school, Patrick Henry High on the south side of town. Fleming is on the north side. Fleming's accompanying football field is expected to be completed in time for next season.

Mayor David Bowers and various other dignitaries, including Doris Ennis, former principal who has been appointed "Administrator on Assignment" (serving as interim principal until a scandal involving Fleming's current principal, is settled) were in attendance. They included most of Roanoke City Council, U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte and Virginia Sen. John Edwards, Virginia Del. Onzlee Ware and various members of the current and past school boards. Also in the audience was former Roanoke City Councilman Alfred Dowe, a Fleming graduate, who ran afowl of the law and resigned from the council.

Perhaps stealing the show was a polished senior spokesman who wound up the ceremonies--almost as an afterthought, leaping onto the stage after the ribbon had been cut and the crowd was ready to tour. Her short speech was so appealingly delivered and so upbeat that the crowd stayed put and applauded enthusiastically as she finished.

Taubman Names New Executive Director

TV camera closes in on the Taubman's new executive director David Mickenberg^

Director David Mickenberg and Taubman board president Dr. Paul Frantz^

David Mickenberg, the newly-appointed executive director of Roanoke's Taubman Museum of Art says arts organizations must have "a 360-degree understanding" of their place in the "social, economic and environmental" communities where they are housed. Mickenberg, the Ruth Gordon Shapiro '37 Director of the Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College, succeeds Georganne C. Bingham, who retired from the museum in May. Bingham directed the museum through its fund-raising efforts to its opening before retiring.

Mickenberg has also served as a senior lecturer in Wellesley College’s Department of Art.

Mickenberg emphasized that the art museum "is no longer a stand-alone organization" in the arts community and it must become "an integral part" of efforts to strengthen all arts in the region.

Says John Williamson, co-chairman of the search committee, “David brings a caliber of curatorial experience and knoweldge, fundraising prowess, management capabilities, and relationships within the museum and art communities that will be instrumental in shaping the direction and future of the museum. He is skilled at running complex institutions, and he knows what it will take to operate and manage all of the varied components that comprise the Taubman.”

Mickenberg says that "during the last 20 years" arts funding from federal agencies "has been lost," but "the Obama Administration has begun to increase some of that funding." However, he warns, "the arts community as a whole must realize that government resources are finite and seek other sources of funding."

Dr. Paul Frantz, president of the Taubmen's board of trustees, says, "David Mickenberg has the background, experience and vision needed to lead the museum. We are certain that he will successfully build upon the foundation created in this first year of the museum’s operation and move the museum forward as we work toward our goal of establishing the Taubman as a leading art museum on a national level.”

At the Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Mickenberg successfully completed a $10.5 million endowment campaign for programming and acquisitions, oversaw the thematic reinstallation of the collections, and significantly increased the attendance at the museum by faculty, staff, students, and the public. Under his leadership, the museum created a curatorial exchange program with the Louvre, began an international fellowship and internship program in the arts for Wellesley students, organized exhibitions that circulated nationally, and significantly enhanced and expanded the museum’s collections.

“I am extremely honored to accept the position of executive director and join the Taubman at such an exciting time,” said Mickenberg. “I believe that the potential for tremendous success exists, and I look forward to leading the institution as it continues to grow and develop into a premier museum and center for the arts.”

Prior to his tenure at the Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Mickenberg served as the director of the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University and was a lecturer in the university’s Department of Art History from 1986-2001. While there he successfully led the capital and endowment campaign, built an award winning new museum that opened in 2000, curated numerous exhibitions that circulated to museums throughout the country, and created several on-line projects that explored how new media could be used to extend and compliment the museum experience.

From 1981-1986, he served as the executive director of the Oklahoma Museum of Art.

“We are delighted to have David as our new executive director,” said Eugenia L. Taubman, chair of the museum’s capital campaign committee. “His appointment is a major step forward for the museum, and we are very excited for what lies ahead under his guidance and management,” added Taubman. The Taubman Museum of Art is named for Taubman and her husband, former Ambassador to Romania Nicholas F. Taubman.

Editor Dan Smith contributed to this story and photos.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Group Plans To Renovate S&W Cafeteria

The old S&W is the Downtown Sports Club now^

This is what the entryway looks like today and ... ^

... This is what it will look like when it's renovated^

A local group of four building professionals headed by Spectrum Design President John Garland has purchased the building at 16 W. Church Ave. now housing the Downtown Sports Club and the former home of the original S&W Cafeteria with plans to plans to renovate it.

The Group, 16 W. Church LLC, which includes Garland and four members of his firm, plans to renovate the 37,000 square-foot facility to provide healthy living amenities for downtown residents, including an upscale convenience store/grocer and pharmacy, for which they are soliciting interest for an owner/operator. They paid $425,000 for the building.

The StayWell Marketplace is what Garland hopes to create with the building, reflecting its healthy emphasis--which will include a grocery store and pharmacy, something downtown residents have wanted for some time. “Roanoke has experienced a boom in downtown living, but the amenities that suburban living offers have been slower to follow,” says Garland. “This building is in a perfect location to provide healthy living goods and services. In restoring it, we are excited to not only reinvigorate a city landmark, but offer downtown residents something that will make their experience more enjoyable.”

Spectrum, which has five buildings on Valley Business FRONT's FRONTList15: Best Buildings list in this month's issue, has a history of sensitive and sensible renovations in the Roanoke Valley and, recently, in Rocky Mount.

Initial renderings include a convenience store or grocery store and pharmacy, light food service, market stalls and a potential renovation of the Downtown Sports Club into an upscale exercise boutique.

The group is looking at other "healthy" businesses like a dentistry practice, massage therapy, and personal training. A chiropractor’s office will remain.

The building will be restored to its original 1951 architecture, most of which is intact, according to Garland. There are elements that need verification and the partners are asking the public to help identify those lost historic features. Garland is looking for the best photography which details the building’s front elevation, including the original row of lighting under the front canopy and the original S&W signs, as well as photographs that illustrate the interior entrance, including the finishes and lighting.

Photos will be posted to an online gallery on Spectrum Design’s Facebook page and a “Downtown Amenity” package valued at $500 will go to the provider of the image that best reflects the building’s former life.

“When the city first established the downtown historic district, the S&W Building was not quite 50 years old and was not listed as qualifying for historic tax credits, something that can shave tens of thousands of dollars off the restoration process. Now we have the opportunity to take advantage of this process, which will make a huge difference. Historically it has been one of Roanoke’s most revered locations--in the 1950s and 1960s the SW Cafeteria was where families ate while shopping downtown.

"If we can find documentation of these few features that have faded over the years, we can ensure the renovation is completed properly,” Garland says. Photographs can be submitted to John Garland by e-mail to jgarland@spectrumpc.com or by mail to 10 Church Ave SE, Plaza Suite 1, Roanoke Virginia, 24011. A winner will be notified on Monday, October 5.

Dan Smith contributed to this story and took the photos.