Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Businessman Gordon Willis Sr. Dies in Roanoke

Roanoke businessman Gordon Willis Sr., a who played a role in some of the most significant issues of his time, died in late December at 90 after a long illness. Professionally, he worked in his family’s business, Rockydale Quarries Corp., and he was an organizer of North Cross School and the Virginia Community College system, also serving as chairman of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

He worked in the 1960s on Roanoke’s biracial committee, which helped ease the tensions that led other communities into explosive confrontations. He was honored with, among other things, Noel C. Taylor Humanitarian Award from Total Action Against Poverty and a Brotherhood Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews. In 1992 by Gov. Douglas Wilder named him a Cultural Laureate of Virginia. Virginia Tech’s experimental Smart Road was named after Willis because of his advocacy. He served on the board of Roanoke Electric Steel Corp. (Steel Dynamics Roanoke Bar Division).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Team Effort: Digital version of ER Pediatric Response Chart


At a practice emergency room facility, Dr. Andre A. Muelenaer Jr. (left) and Virginia Tech College of Engineering graduate student Carlos Guevara display the large-screen digital format of the Broselow Tape, developed in conjunction with the college, Carilion Clinic Children’s Hospital and the tape’s original creator, James Broselow.

A well-known paper-based medical chart used by pediatric emergency personnel across America is undergoing a 21st century boost in an collaborative effort between Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, Roanoke-based Carilion Clinic Children’s Hospital and the physician who created the original method some 25 years ago.

The Broselow Pediatric Emergency Tape – otherwise known as the Broselow Tape -- has been a staple of emergency rooms and child trauma units for nearly three decades. Created by Hickory, N.C.-based physician James Broselow, the Broselow Tape is a long, durable tape measure used on child during a medical emergency.

Using a color-coded format, it provides a specific medical instructions – amounts of medicines to dispense or level of shock voltage to emit from a defibrillator, for instance – to medical caregivers based on the height and then subsequent weight of the child. This information now will be displayed on a large LCD monitor within emergency rooms, for all personnel to see.

“We are converting the existing Broselow Tape into an electronic format to improve resuscitation team communications and patient safety,” said Dr. Andre A. Muelenaer Jr., an associate professor of pediatrics at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and director of the Pediatric Medical Device Institute, located in Roanoke.

Additional displayed information will include medicines administered to the patient, including the time of administration and the next scheduled allotment. In the instance of burns, an automated calculation of the affected surface area will be displayed, along with automated calculation of fluid resuscitation.

A click of a mouse/remote control can move responders from one screen to another. The software running the newly-dubbed eBroselow software program runs on LabVIEW, owned by National Instruments. Known as TEAM Broselow, the method is being tested at various hospitals, including facilities in Roanoke; Austin, Texas; and Winston-Salem, N.C., and will be fine tuned as additional input comes in from doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel, said Muelenaer.

Many of the new features already include input from medical personnel around the country, Muelenaer said.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Seeking Customer Service Stories


Valley Business FRONT's cover story for March will be an examination of customer service in our Roanoke Valley-New River Valley regions and we'd like your help in livening up the story with some good examples of customer service: the good, the bad and even the ugly.

We do not want anonymous stories. We are asking for stories that are true and telling of the kinds of customer service one can expect in this region. We will likely contact any companies named for their side of it if negative, but if you don't name the company--simply give the area it works in, say "a bank in Roanoke"--we will go with your story.

We would like to take photos of those participating, as well.

Let us hear your stories and tell them to the business community. That community can learn from them.

E-mail Dan Smith at editrdan@msn.com or call 540-556-8510.

(Photo: onlineinvestigai.com)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Honoring Valley Business FRONT's Contributors

Emily Field accepts her Most Valuable Staffer award from Editor Dan Smith.^

David Perry (right rear) apparently wishes he could be one of the girls: Jill Elswick (from left), Jane Dalier, Susan Ayers, Anne Piedmont and Donna Dilley.^

Susan Ayers gets one of her two awards from Publisher Tom Field (left) and Editor Dan Smith.^

Paulette Jayabalan (center) shakes hands with Susan Ayers, as Donna Dilley watches.^

Keith Ferrell and Kathy Surace commiserate.^

Tom Field cracks a joke at marketing award winner Jane Dalier's expense.^

Writers Mike Miller (left) and David Perry pose. Below speaker Nancy Agee of Carilion with her pal Dan Smith and award winner Rob Johnson.^

Valley Business FRONT's annual writers awards luncheon was a source of celebration for nearly 30 people who contribute to the region's best business publication. Guest speaker Nancy Agee of Carilion, who was FRONT's first subscriber and who is a member of its editorial board and a voracious reader, praised the quality of the writing in the magazine.

A list of award winners is in the following post. Alison Weaver became the first person to win both the Contributor of the Year and Story of the Year awards.

Company Bringing 80 Jobs to Franklin

Solution Matrix, Inc., a leader in cold-therapy products for the health care industry, will relocate its headquarters and manufacturing operations from Pennsylvania to Franklin County. The company expects to be in operation by November 2011.

The company will invest $2.25 million in building and equipment, constructing a 25,000-square-foot facility on a 4.27 acre site in the Franklin County Commerce Center along US Highway 220 south of Rocky Mount. Employment is projected to be 80 within three years.

Positions will range from production workers to managers and the average annual wage for all jobs will be between $20,800 and $37,440.

“The business climate and market access inherent in a Franklin County, Virginia, location will help our company manage its growing market share,” says Keith Marshall, president of Solution Matrix. “Franklin County also offers an experienced and motivated work force.”

Privately held Solution Matrix designs, manufactures and sells cold-therapy products used by hospitals, physical therapists and other health care providers post-surgery for joint replacement or rehabilitation from acute sports and other orthopedic injuries.

“Solution Matrix is a growing business and market leader," says Charles Wagner, chairman of the Franklin County Board of Supervisors. "It is the kind of state-of-the-art company we seek to attract to Franklin County and our community is pleased to welcome another health science company to the Commerce Center."

“We are delighted to welcome a medical equipment manufacturer to the region," says Beth Doughty, executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership. "It strengthens this growing cluster."

The company will receive a $150,000 grant from the Virginia Tobacco Commission, $50,000 performance grant from Franklin County, and training funds from the Virginia Department of Business Assistance. For information on the company visit here.

Alison Weaver Top FRONT Contributor

Double winner Alison Weaver flanked by Publisher Tom Field (left) and Editor Dan Smith. Right is Susan Ayers. Below are Janeson Keeley and David Perry.^

Alison Weaver became the first double winner in the annual Valley Business FRONT Writers Awards Tuesday at the Hunting Hills Country Club. Alison's distinction does not just cover the two-year history of the FRONT, either. It goes back to the Blue Ridge Business Journal, where the awards began more than 15 years ago.

She was named both the Contributor of the Year and finished first in an extremely strong field for Story of the Year for her piece "Frat Boys of ITT," the story of a group of fired fiber optics division professionals who went on to great success in other careers. Several of her cover stories were in the final mix of the competition, but runners up were Susan Ayers ("Real Estate") and Rob Johnson ("Betrayed").

Alison was an assistant editor with the Blue Ridge Business Journal about 15 years ago and later became a copy editor at the local daily paper. She has worked with FRONT virtually from the start.

Susan was selected as the Editor's Choice award winner by Editor Dan Smith who chooses his own criteria each year. This year, he said, "the award goes from Susan's terrific grit. She is a bulldog who won't let go of a story until it's right--in much the same vein as Alison. But she's a newbie, working at this level for less than a year. She has been truly impressive."

David Perry, last year's Contributor of the Year, took the Photograph of the year, a shot of a local banker riding a bicycle that was filled with motion. Janeson Keeley, another rookie who has written 12 columns for FRONT on the Internet, was the Columnist of the Year. Said Smith, "Janeson works this beat like nobody else. She only gets about 500 words an issue, but often interviews as many as six people for a column."

Office Manager and bookkeeper Emily Field was named the Staffer of the Year for her overall contributions to the business--which are enormous--and Jane Dalier, an advertising executive who has taken over social media marketing--won the Marketing Guru Award, as selected by Publisher Tom Field.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Spilman Firm Adds Bank Group

The Regional law firm Spilman Thomas & Battle has formed the Community Banking Group to serve the needs of community banks. “We are excited to offer legal services tailored to community banks,” says Eric W. Iskra of client relations. “We have closely followed the growth trend of smaller banks and financial services providers for several years, and we see this sector as a real driving force in the economy of the Mid-Atlantic Inland Basin.”

This new Spilman practice group consists of an insightful and experienced team of more than 20 attorneys from a cross-section of Spilman’s current practice groups. In comprehensive fashion, its attorneys will advise clients across a broad range of areas of law including: mergers and acquisitions, tax, wealth management, labor and employment, regulatory, securities, white collar/compliance, construction, corporate, and bankruptcy and creditors’ rights – in addition to traditional banking and finance matters.

Timothy R. Moore, Counsel in Spilman’s Winston-Salem office, will lead the new practice group. He has a depth of experience working with community banks, as well as extensive knowledge in traditional banking and finance law. Moore says

, “These firms, which are regulated differently than larger FDIC-type financial institutions, have different needs when it comes to legal advice and representation. We responded by aligning our services and organizing our personnel to directly serve community banks and savings banks around their specific needs. Our goal is to act as an extension of our community banking clients rather than an outside service.”

College to Rent Patrick Henry Rooms for Students

Patrick Henry Hotel in downtown Roanoke.^

Roanoke's Jefferson College of Health Sciences (JCHS) will house its fall 2011 resident students in the Patrick Henry Hotel building that is currently undergoing a total renovation at 617 South Jefferson Street. Developer Ed Walker is creating a multi-use facility at the old hotel, most of its rooms being residental.

The move of resident students to the Patrick Henry will allow JCHS to almost double its number of resident students. Seventy-seven JCHS students live on the eighth floor of Carilion Roanoke Community Hospital. The move also provides housing for JCHS students within walking distance of the college’s campus at Community.

In summer 2010, all JCHS services and resources were relocated to CRCH from the Reid Center at 920 South Jefferson Street. The agreement comes as JCHS continues to see record numbers of applications from prospective students, which also increases the demand for housing.

JCHS will occupy multiple floors in the new residence space at the Patrick Henry building, each of which will include one-bedroom, two-bedroom and studio apartment style units.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Center in the Square Nears $9 Million Goal

Architect's drawing of Center in the Square's renovation.^

Center in the Square has announced that it has raised $8,802,776 towards its $9 million fundraising goal that will help finance the total renovation of the cultural organization’s 200,000 square foot facility on the Market Square in downtown Roanoke.

Says George B. Cartledge, Jr., CEO of Grand Home Furnishings and Chairman of Center’s Board of Directors, “We are getting very close to our goal and are confident people in this community will help us go over it by a wide margin.”

Center in the Square announced the public phase of the capital campaign in late August after it received a $500,000 pledge from the Steel Dynamics Foundation and a $750,000 challenge grant from the Kresge Foundation. At that time, almost $8 million had been raised.

“The campaign is going very well and exceeding expectations,” says Bob Lawson, campaign co-chairman. “When we do exceed our goal, any additional amounts raised will go into our endowment to be used for sustaining the new building’s operation in the future. So whether a contribution goes for bricks and mortar or sustaining future operations, you may be assured it will go toward the new building.”

The total estimated building cost for the redesign and renewal of Center in the Square is $27 million. State, Federal, and New Market tax credits have been sold providing $18 million in funding.

The “Igniting Dreams, Energizing Promises” capital campaign will provide the final $9 million. Center in the Square is the home of the Science Museum of Western Virginia, Mill Mountain Theatre, Roanoke Ballet Theatre, Opera Roanoke, the History Museum and Historical Society of Western Virginia, and the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge. Center will be the new home of the Harrison Museum of African American Culture when renovations are completed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tech Helps Devise Cancer Treatment

Virginia Tech engineering researchers and a colleague from India have unveiled a new method to target and destroy cancerous cells using hyperthermia. The method was reported at the 63rd annual meeting of the American Physical Society held today in Long Beach, Calif.

The cancer treatment uses hyperthermia to elevate the temperature of tumor cells, while keeping the surrounding healthy tissue at a lower degree of body heat. The investigators used both in vitro and in vivo experiments to confirm their findings.

The collaborators are Monrudee Liangruksa, a Virginia Tech graduate student in engineering science and mechanics, and her thesis adviser, Ishwar Puri (pictured), professor and head of the department, along with Ranjan Ganguly of the department of power engineering at Iadavpur Univesity, Kolkata, India.


In an interview prior to the presentation, Puri explained to further perfect the technique they used ferrofluids to induce the hyperthermia. A ferrofluid is a liquid that becomes strongly magnetized in the presence of a magnetic field. The magnetic nanoparticles are suspended in the non-polar state.

“These fluids can then be magnetically targeted to cancerous tissues after intravenous application,” Puri said. “The magnetic nanoparticles, each billionths of a meter in size, seep into the tissue of the tumor cell due to the high permeability of these vessels.”

Afterwards, the magnetic nanoparticles are heated by exposing the tumor to a high frequency alternating magnetic field, causing the tissue’s death by heating. This process is called magnetic fluid hyperthermia and they have nicknamed it thermotherapy. Temperatures in the range of 41 to 45 degrees Celsius are enough to slow or halt the growth of cancerous tissue.

However, without the process of magnetic fluid hyperthermia, these temperatures also destroy healthy cells. “The ideal hyperthermia treatment sufficiently increases the temperature of the tumor cells for about 30 minutes while maintaining the healthy tissue temperature below 41 degrees Celsius,” Puri said.

Monday, November 22, 2010

LewisGale plans Geriatric Psych Unit

LewisGale's Victor Giovanetti: Unit "will focus on meeting the needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens"

LewisGale Regional Health System will soon add a Geriatric Psychiatry Unit at LewisGale Hospital at Alleghany to meet the growing demand for inpatient mental health services specifically designed to meet the unique psychiatric needs of seniors.

“We strategically chose Alleghany as the site for our Geriatric Psychiatry Unit because of its rapidly growing senior population,” said Victor E. Giovanetti, President, LewisGale Regional Health System. “This specialized unit will focus on meeting the needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens and ensure they have the best health outcomes.”

Giovanetti anticipates patients will come from all over Southwest Virginia to receive this specialized care. The 15-bed unit will focus on treating patients 65 and older who are dealing with a mental health challenge that requires immediate intensive therapy to help them return to their previous level of functioning. The average length of stay will be 11 days.

“Our goal is to stabilize the patient and help them get back home or to their original care setting such as a nursing home or assisted living facility,” said Paula Mitchell, Vice President, Behavioral Health Services. “Seniors often have more complicated health problems that require a team approach to deal with both their psychological issues and medical conditions at the same time, and that’s what this new unit will provide.”

The new service will also bring new jobs to the area. The hospital plans to hire an additional 25 to 30 full-time employees once the unit is fully operational. “We are excited to bring this new service to Alleghany to meet an important community need while at the same time benefitting our local economy through the creation of new jobs,” said Greg Madsen, CEO, LewisGale Hospital at Alleghany.

Construction will soon begin to renovate the fifth floor of the hospital, the new home for Geriatric Psychiatry Unit. The project will cost more than $1.43 million dollars. The Geriatric Psychiatry Unit is scheduled to open in September, 2011.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Roanoke College Gets Huge Gift

Roanoke College received a $2.5 million bequest from the estate of the late Mary Ellen Hardin Smith, of Roanoke. The gift is the second largest by an individual in College history and will endow the Shields Johnson Scholarship, to provide financial assistance for students from the Roanoke Valley.

The scholarship is established in honor of Smith’s first husband, the late Shields Johnson, a 1931 graduate of Roanoke College and a former reporter, business manager, and vice president and general manager with Times-World Corp.

“This scholarship, born in the mind of Mary Ellen Hardin Smith decades ago, will now make education more affordable to students from the Roanoke Valley for years into the future,” Roanoke College President Michael Maxey says. “Her commitment to the Roanoke Valley and to the education of students was exemplary and Roanoke College is honored to establish this scholarship according to her wishes.”

Brenda Poggendorf, vice president of enrollment, says the gift “will impact students in significant ways as these scholarships will help top students from the area realize their dream of a Roanoke education.”

Smith, the former Mary Ellen Hardin, met Johnson when they were both students at Roanoke College. Smith was a charter member of Roanoke College’s Society of 1842, the leadership group for those who leave a gift to the college in their will. The group was established in 1982 and today includes 840 members.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Carilion Picked for Care Connection for Children

Carilion Clinic has been selected as one of six regional networks in Virginia to facilitate efforts to ensure that local children with special health care needs have access to optimally effective, community-based medical and support services. Called Care Connection for Children, special services include increased access to medical specialty care as well as assistance with obtaining health insurance, accessing area resources and determining eligibility for outside funds.

According to the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), children with special health care needs are children “who have or are at risk of a chronic physical condition that requires health care of a type and amount not usually required by children of the same age.”

“We are so excited that we were selected to help administer this important program in our area,” says Alice Ackerman, M.D., chief pediatric officer and chair of Carilion Clinic Children’s Hospital. “We are passionate about children’s health care needs and Care Connection for Children is a natural fit for us. We look forward to making a difference in our community.”

To be eligible for the service, children must be Virginia residents, under 21 years of age, have special needs (as defined by VDH).

Since 1936, the Virginia Department of Health has been an advocate for children with special health care needs. In 1998, a comprehensive assessment was completed and through a federal block grant, VDH expanded its responsibility and became a “change agent to improve systems that care for these children.”

Laura Rawlings Resigns as Arts Council ED

Laura Rawlings takes Roanoke College position.^

By DAN SMITH

Laura Rawlings has resigned as executive director of the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge, taking a job as director of The Roanoke Fund at Roanoke College. Rawlings had been the director of the council for three years through some turbulent times since the resignation of Susan Jennings, who heads Roanoke’s Public Arts Department.

With state funding drying up and the economy at its worst in decades, the council had to be inventive to raise operating funds. Under her direction, the Arts Council instituted its 40/40 fall show, featuring 40 days of arts and culture and just recently it kicked off its first ArtView—the brainchild of Rhonda Hale of the council—and it has been pronounced a success, though turnout was relatively low. It was the first such event featuring artists from Roanoke’s sister cities and interest among artists, especially, was high.

In a story that was scheduled to run in December’s FRONT, writer David Perry quoted Rawlings as saying, “One of the challenges we have as a service organization is that we don't have a way to earn income. We can't do what the symphony does and sell tickets.”

According to Perry’s story, another challenge is persistent rumors of imminent demise, which Rawling says inhibits fundraising. Finances are stable, she says, and the future shows promise. Ralwings insists the council is solvent: “Our budget has remained stagnant for about 20 years. I guess the good news is that we've been able to maintain what we do and have developed some new programs for our members.”

“Ms. Rawlings was employed by The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge three years ago to increase awareness of the Arts and Cultural venues and activities in the Greater Roanoke Region,” said Phil Sparks, President of The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge. “During that period she was very successful in that effort by developing and coordinating various programs that promoted all of the arts in the region. On behalf of the Board of Directors, member organizations and artists, I want to wish her the very best in her new endeavors as she now turns her attention, enthusiasm, and energy towards Roanoke College.”

The Arts Council's total annual budget is about $250,000, 16 percent of which is in-kind services, including those provided by the arts council's landlord, Center in the Square. Other sources of revenue include program underwriting (41 percent), contributions (24 percent), fundraising (9 percent), member dues (9 percent), and services and fees (3 percent).

“We're not one of those organizations that gets a lump sum in any one area,” says Rawlings. “We get little pots of money from many sources.” A sizable chunk—about 35 to 40 percent—goes toward staff, two full-time (Rawlings and Hale), two part-time. The Arts Council has kept a strong member base of visual artists and has even reached out to writers as members.

Says Rawlings, “For the most part we have maintained our memberships. That to us is a stamp of approval that we still are relevant and are helping them.”

(Editor Dan Smith is an Arts Council board member. Photo by David Perry.)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sports Medicine Group Opens for VCOM

The Via College of Ostaeopathic Medicine (VCOM) in Blacksburg has opened a new Academic Sports and Osteopathic Medicine. It is a community based practice and teaching site for VCOM students and family medicine residents at Montgomery Regional Hospital.

In center, cutting the ribbon, are Dr. Joy Palmer and Dr. Mark Rogers, physicians at ASOM. To Rogers’s left is Dr. Dixie Tooke-Rawlins, Dean of VCOM. To Palmer’s right is Dr. Jan Willcox, vice dean of VCOM.

The new Academic Sports and Osteopathic Medicine (ASOM) practice currently has six exam rooms and a welcoming and inviting medical space for patients. While APCA will continue to see primary care patients, those seeking physician services at ASOM will primarily seek treatment for sports and other musculoskeletal issues. Physicians at APCA and ASOM will continue to work in conjunction with each other and VCOM students will train in both sites.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Walkabout Opens Second Roanoke Store

Walkabout Outfitter will open its new Roanoke location at the District at Valley View Mall Wednesday, Nov. 17, at 1 a.m. with a ribbon-cutting.

This is the third retailer to open at Valley View in the second half of 2010. The 3,890 square foot store is next door to Twist & Turns, which opened September 15 and adjacent to Cheddar’s Casual CafĂ©, which opened on October 18.

Walkabout Outfitter, based out of Lexington, offers one retail store there and another on the Roanoke City Historic Market (where Twist & Turns was until recently). Husband/wife owner team, Kirk and Tina Miller of Natural Bridge wanted a presence at Valley View in order to take advantage of foot traffic generated by adjacent stores to include Barnes & Noble and Panera Bread. With space available, they felt the timing was right.

The Valley View store will add 2 full-time and 5 part-time employees and will carry North Face, Patagonia, Mountain Hardware, Keen, Merrell, Life is Good, Montrail and much more.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Taubman Museum Outlines Program

Officials at Roanoke's Taubman Museum of Art, facing a serious revenue challenge and proposals to change the way it operates, met with community members tonight to present some ideas.

The official Taubman line, edited here, follows:

"Over the next year, the Taubman will continue to ensure the arts play a leading role in Roanoke by embracing a new art center model that emphasizes accessibility, community and diversity.

"Executive Director David Mickenberg and members of the museum’s board of trustees outlined the model tonight. An art center encompasses the functions of an art museum but is broader in scope and more of a hybrid non-profit, permanent cultural institution.

"The collections form one of many equivalent cores around which exhibitions and educational programs are organized. There is however, equanimity between exhibitions, collections, lectures, performance, film and video, seminars, symposia, conversations, and other forms of presentation.

"The art center serves as a focal point of social and cultural engagement, a sort of town hall for the arts. It is the ideas and experiences, educational initiatives and learning environments, and community engagement and collaboration that form the core of the art center and make it distinct from an art gallery or museum. The art center model emphasizes making art and the museum more accessible.

“'Accessibility is a key concern for us,' explains Mickenberg. 'It is our desire to remove the impediments to participation, open the museum to multiple forms of social, aesthetic, and learning experiences, and for visitors of all ages to feel that the Taubman is their museum.'

"'This is a museum that wants and needs to be owned by the community. In order to achieve that goal, our activities must appeal to as many people and as diverse an audience as possible,” he says.

"The Taubman will be announcing a number of new programs and collaborations in the coming year, including:
  • Exceptional exhibitions organized by the museum in collaboration with some of the leading museums nationally;
  • Expanded community-based programs such as Spectacular Saturdays, Red, White & Art and Conversations;
  • New collaborations with local artists, community organizations and universities;
  • Enhanced educational opportunities in collaboration with city and county public schools;
  • and New family events that provide personal and rewarding experiences with art for parents and children.
"Beginning later this month, and continuing through the end of the year a series of community dinners, neighborhood meetings and focus groups are being planned, during which museum representatives will actively solicit ideas. “There is expertise and knowledge in this community that belongs in this museum,' emphasizes Mickenberg. 'Our new mission absolutely includes harnessing that knowledge to make our exhibitions and programs a much richer experience for everyone,' he adds."

Lanford Brothers Named to Transportation Hall of Fame

Jack (left) and Stan Lanford: Hall of Famers.^

Brothers Jack and Stan Lanford, founders of family-run highway and bridge contractor Lanford Brothers, have been inducted into nation’s highest place of honor in the transportation design and construction industry.

The Lanfords, who began the employee-owned company 50 years ago in Roanoke, have joined the American Road & Transportation Builders Association Transportation Development Foundation Hall of Fame, which honors individuals or families from the public and private sectors who have made extraordinary contributions to U.S. transportation development during their careers.

The committee of judges included nine construction industry journalists who reviewed the nominees and selected the hall of fame’s inaugural class, which included the Lanfords. “The transportation design and construction industry is full of visionaries and game changers like the Lanford brothers who have demonstrated exceptional leadership over their lifetime and played an important role in helping shape development of America’s transportation network,” says ARTBA-TDF Chairman Leo Vecellio, chairman and chief executive officer of Vecellio Group Inc., in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Stan and Jack Lanford, after starting Lanford Brothers Co. and working together for more than 25 years, were successful, long-time chief executives at their respective firms, Lanford Brothers Company and Adams Construction.

Both were elected to serve as ARTBA chairman (Jack in 1991 and Stan in 1999), and as president of ARTBA’s state chapter affiliate, known today as the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance. During their careers, both testified before the U.S. Congress on transportation investment and policy issues.

The Lanford family’s biggest—and most enduring—legacy on the industry, however, is their creation and endowment of the Highway Worker Memorial Scholarship fund in 1999. This first-of-its-kind program, which has become a national model replicated by other groups, provides post-high school financial assistance to the children of highway workers killed or permanently disabled on the job.

Today, it is supported by contributions from industry firms, state transportation departments and labor unions.

Impressive New Equipment Moving to VTC

Michael Friedlander: "Large scale worldwide analysis of the development of human brain function and decision-making."^

Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute has been receiving new research equipment tied to human brain function for weeks. A magnetic resonance imaging machine (MRI) will be delivered Nov. 17 and is noteworthy in that it weighs 30,000 pounds and is a critical tool for important new programs, including the Roanoke Brain Study.

"The research will include a large scale worldwide analysis of the development of human brain function and decision-making," says Michael J. Friedlander, executive director of the research institute.

A second MRI will be delivered in December. They will be part of the new Human Neuroimaging Laboratory and Computational Psychiatry Unit to be directed by Read Montague, developer of the process known as hyperscanning. Read joined the institute as a professor Nov. 15, and also is a professor of physics at Virginia Tech.

The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute investigators will functionally interconnect the two Roanoke MRIs with one that was installed in October at the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center in Blacksburg. "These interconnections allow investigators to carry out interactive functional brain imaging studies between multiple individuals at different sites simultaneously, providing unparalleled access to monitor the brain’s activity during social interactions where pairs of groups of individuals communicate with each other through computer interfaces," says Friedlander. "We will be able to study how such human behavior known as social cognition functions in health and after it is affected in certain disorders that can affect the brain during childhood and throughout the lifespan, such as autism spectrum disorders, dementia including Alzheimer’s disease, and depression, and even in conditions such as substance abuse."

The safe, non-invasive technology – using no radiation – will allow Virginia Tech Carilion researchers to study how various thoughts, behaviors, and sensations affect the activity within the billions of nerve cells within the brain. This occurs while studying normal healthy volunteers or persons who may have experienced a change in brain function due to such conditions as stroke, head injury, or various brain disorders that may occur throughout the lifetime.

The Virginia Tech Carilion research team has also developed a worldwide interactive functional brain imaging research network that provides the capacity to interconnect MRIs from multiple sites across the United States and throughout the world.

Agreements are underway with sites in Asia and Europe, says Friedlander. Such functional brain imaging experiments generate large amounts of data that must be stored and analyzed in a protected environment. The research institute manages this with a large adjacent data center that houses multiple racks of computer clusters that collect, store, and process the images and brain responses.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Technology Staffer Locating Downtown Roanoke


Aerotek, a global staffing provider, is opening an office in downtown Roanoke to support employment in the Roanoke Region with technical, professional and industrial recruiting and staffing services.

“We see an increasing need to recruit and place qualified professionals in positions in the Roanoke area, and our new office will help to serve the region’s staffing needs,” says Sara Owens, Aerotek’s Roanoke office manager.

“Aerotek’s confidence in the Roanoke market is further evidence that the economy is emerging from the recession,” says Beth Doughty, executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership.

Aerotek’s new regional office is located at 210 S. Jefferson St. Maryland-based Aerotek will employ up to five people internally within the next year and will recruit and place individuals in positions throughout the region. The company has locations throughout the United States and Europe.

HomeTown Bank Returns to Profitability


HomeTown Bankshares Corporation, the parent company of HomeTown Bank, reported a net income of $310 thousand for the 3rd quarter of 2010. This compared to a net income of $155 thousand for the third quarter of 2009.

A net loss of $2.1 million was realized for the nine month period ended September 30, 2010 vs. net income of $300 thousand during the same period last year. After accumulated dividends on preferred stock of $150 thousand in the third quarter, the company had net income available to common shareholders of $.05 per share for the quarter ended September 30, 2010, compared with $.04 per share for the same period in 2009.

“We are pleased to have returned to profitability in the third quarter,” says Susan K. Still, president and CEO. “And for the fifth consecutive quarter we have grown the level of our core earnings.”

Core earnings represent a non-GAAP measure determined by taking income before income taxes and adding back any loan loss or OREO provision and backing out any securities gains or losses. Core earnings demonstrate that the basic or core engine of the bank is functioning well and producing revenue.

Earnings performance in the third quarter was enhanced by a 33 percentincrease in net interest income to $2.8 million, a substantial increase over last years $2.1 million. This increase is largely due to the increased size of our loan and investment portfolios.

The company’s net interest margin for the third quarter increased to 3.31 percentup from 2.97 percentfor the same period in 2009, primarily due to the re-pricing of deposit liabilities. Non-interest income increased 21 percentto $235 thousand for the quarter mainly due to increased mortgage loan brokerage fee income.

'Pipeline Originality' Helps Tech Rank High

Virginia Tech robot Charli.^

Virginia Tech ranks 10th among universities globally in the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) Spectrum Patent Power Scorecards, which analyzed the strength of patent portfolios for calendar year 2009.

"Pipeline originality is what earned us the high ranking," says Mark Coburn, president of Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc . According to IEEE, "Pipeline originality measures the variety of technologies upon which an organization's patents build, based on the concept that inventions created by combining ideas from several different technologies tend to be more original than those that make incremental improvements upon the same technology."

Patents that refer only to earlier patents of the same technology will have a low originality score, while a patent that refers to numerous kinds of technologies is more original.

A 2009 Virginia Tech patent that illustrates pipeline originality is for a ceramic-metal composite material that dampens vibrations, making it useful in useful in vehicles, marine propellers and building materials. The patent for "Ferroelastic Ceramic-Reinforced Metal Matrix Composites" references patents from several different areas, including different materials, bonding methods, systems, and actuators, said Coburn.

"Incorporating ferroelastic ceramic particles in a metal matrix also strengthens the composite," he said. "Virginia Tech makes a point to support research that crosses disciplines to solve problems. Our inventions are often the creative integration of technologies, resulting in robust products," says Virginia Tech Vice President for Research Robert Walters.

During fiscal year 2010, 37 U.S. patents and seven foreign patents were awarded to Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties, and 44 license and option agreements were signed.

(Virginia Tech photo.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dominion Gives Pamplin $40K for Student Career Searches

The Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech has received a $40,000 gift from the Dominion Foundation to help Pamplin students with their career search.

The gift will be used to create a Web application to match students with their ideal employer and employers with their ideal recruits. “This system will generate leads and provide a user-friendly experience where both students and employers can be identified based on specific preferences,” said Stuart Mease, director of undergraduate career services.

Pamplin students continue to be popular among employers, with five of the college’s majors routinely among the 10 majors most sought after by recruiters visiting campus, according to the university’s career services office. The college’s Business Horizons career fair, organized annually by Pamplin undergraduates, attracted more than 130 employers this fall.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Paychecks Plus Rises from the Ashes

Paychecks Plus has scheduled its grand-reopening Nov. 11, following reconstruction from a fire in January. The fire occurred during a critical time: the first month of a new year when a great deal of work was scheduled.

Paychecks Plus is payroll, tax processing and business services firm. The company suffered major structural damage to offices on Colonial Avenue in Roanoke County. Paychecks Plus is in the business of handling business services, including payroll processing along with tax planning for small businesses, individuals and corporations and fire has the potential to be harmful to both the business and its customers.

This was the busiest time of the year for Paychecks Plus, and the worst type of disaster that could have happened. Working closely with their Erie Insurance Agent, Forest Wagner and Consolidated Construction Services, Paychecks Plus didn't miss a deadline. Within four days of the fire, Paychecks Plus was operational in temporary office trailers with the help of Consolidated Construction Services.

Consolidated, a Roanoke based insurance restoration and remodeling company. worked closed with the owners of Paychecks Pus to identify the most critical files and information necessary to continue operation. Consolidated secured, cleaned and returned these files to Paychecks Plus by the time it was in operation in its temporary office space.

Local Biotech-Pharma Companies Get Cash Infusion

OcuCure Therapeutics in Roanoke, Synthonics in Blacksburg, and Revivicor in Blacksburg are among companies granted federal funds through the Qualifying Therapeutic Discovery Project (QTDP). The money is intended to accelerate and support the development of novel drugs and therapies.

These grant awards are made through the QTDP, a tax credit program which is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. The goals of the QTDP Program are to spur small biotech and pharmaceutical companies to develop novel drugs and therapeutics, create high-paying U.S. jobs, and advance U.S. competitiveness in life, biomedical and medical sciences.

“This program makes a difference for a small firm like ours. It creates good jobs in the region and helps to develop our novel product and get it to market” says Sunder Malkani, CEO of OcuCure Therapeutics.OcuCure is developing a therapeutic eye drop for treatment of age-related macular degeneration and proliferative diabetic retinopathy, the leading causes of blindness in the developed world.

The Therapeutic Discovery Project Program is a $1 billion fund established to provide tax credits to companies with 250 employees or fewer. It covers up to 50 percent of qualified investments in projects aimed at creating new therapies, reducing long-term health care costs, or significantly advancing the goal of curing cancer within the next 30 years. To provide an immediate boost to U.S. biomedical research, the credit is available for qualified investments made or to be made in 2009 and 2010.

Companies may elect to receive the tax credit as a grant. "As a small biotech company with limited resources, in this economic climate, programs like QTDP are essential to move technology forward at a competitive pace." says David Ayares, CEO of Revivicor. Revivicor is a regenerative medicine company focused on providing human-compatible, alternative tissue sources for treatment of human degenerative disease.

“The economic environment over the last two years has been difficult for most everyone and Synthonics has felt this pressure, as well. Fortunately, we have been able to continue advancing our technology during these lean years. The tax credit program will provide the boost that Synthonics needs to accelerate our programs substantially.” says Tom Piccariello, President and CSO of Synthonics. Synthonics is developing novel chemistry technologies that are designed to improve the delivery and performance of pharmaceuticals.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

VWCC One of the Best Digitally

Virginia Western Community College has been recognized by e.Republic’s Center for Digital Education and Converge Online as a top-rated community college in the sixth annual Digital Community Colleges Survey receiving a grade of A. Virginia Western joins 18 other community colleges described by the Center for Digital Education as “national leaders in utilizing technology to provide exceptional services to students, educators and administrators.”

The survey examined community colleges’ use of technology to enhance the student experience and increase educator effectiveness. The survey also looked at the technological tools schools had in place to increase convenience and provide alternative learning options. Specifically, the survey noted schools’ use of online registration, distance learning, tutoring and advisory services. Technology training for students and faculty and Web 2.0 social and collaborative capabilities were also key indicators of success.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Food To Fork Kicks Off in Roanoke

Roanoke County's Doug Chittum talks with Carawba Sustainability Center's Christy Gabbard.^

Susan Short of Virginia Tech's Outreach Program Development and Ms. Gabbard chat.^

Vendor set up with local goodies to sample.^

Culinary Institute students deliver freshly-cooked local food.^

Food producers set up their display.^

Producers and retailers talk during the show.^

The local foods movement in the Roanoke Valley continues to expand and today there is a symposium at the Claude Moore Complex and Dumas Center that puts producers, retailers and consumers at the same table.

Field to Fork opened at 3 p.m. and finishes this evening with dinner that is being prepared at the Culinary Institute at Virginia Western in the Moore Complex. That dinner will feature local foods.

Doug Chittum of the Roanoke County Department of Economic Development and one of the planners of the event says,“The purchase and consumption of locally grown foods contributes to the environmental, economic, and health of our region. By providing a space where local growers and buyers can meet and network, organizers hope to help cultivate relationships that will ultimately ignite and sustain a local foods movement in the greater Roanoke Valley.”

Among those sponsoring the event are VT EarthWorks, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Jamisons’ Orchard, Runner-bean.com, Roanoke Natural Foods Cooperative, various economic development offices Virginia Tech and local businesses.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Prime Photonics Finds Partner

Lios Technology, which distributes OFDR distributed temperature measurement systems; has announced a partnership agreement with Blacksburg’s Prime Photonics, which concentrates on environment sensor solutions for the commercial and military product marketplace.

The benefit of this cooperation between suppliers of fiber optic based measurement systems and sensors, say executives, is to combine customer bases and expand the scope of measurements offering point-type as well as distributed measurements. Says Konrad Linckh, vice president of Lios Technology.

"This partnership allows Lios Technology to expand its market penetration, combine the application knowledge with Prime Photonics and offer an increased range of measurement options.”

“We see tremendous potential for LIOS distributed sensing products in the US and we look forward to exploring the significant product and technology synergies that will be available through the partnership of LIOS and Prime,” says Steve Poland, Prime Photonics CEO

A Realtor-Farmer With the Giving Gene

Darin Greear with his load today.^

Darin Greear, a Realtor with The Palmer Team at Long & Foster and the owner of a farm in Riner is shown with a truck load of home grown veggies destined to become a donation.

This load of 6,800 pounds of turnips and 2,300 pounds of winter squash were delivered to the Radford Worship Center today. The load is just a small fraction of food donations he will make by the year’s end. So far this year he has delivered 30,000 pounds of veggies.

Last year his donations exceeded 60,000 pounds and were sent to over 20 food pantries and shelters. Darin works with Sarah Ramey of Virginia Gleaning Network & the Society of St. Andrew to get his produce in the hands of people who are in need of it.

Company Puts R&D Arm in Roanoke

Maxx Performance today announced it will open a research & development and manufacturing facility in Roanoke, creating a projected 12-15 jobs over the next three years and investing up to $700,000 in equipment.

The company will be located in the former Valley Rich Dairy building on Aerial Way Drive. Maxx Performance is a provider of microencapsulation/encapsulation technologies used by manufacturers of baked products, confection goods, dairy or meat products, nutritional supplements, and animal feed.

The company’s products mask taste and off-odors, extend shelf life, and enhance flavor and texture to help manufacturers overcome application and processing challenges, optimize product delivery, and improve time to market.

“Our new Virginia-based facility will house a state-of-the-art application test center where customers can evaluate our ingredients in their products and develop formulations that can be scaled up,” says Dr. Winston Samuels, president and CEO. “It will also allow us to work with the brightest minds at Virginia Tech to innovate more of the practical applications our customers need to succeed.

"Locating our facility in Roanoke enables us to give back to the region some of what was given to us while we were students at Virginia Tech.”

Microencapsulation is at the leading edge in food formulation technology. For example, bitter tastes such as caffeine, green tea extract or certain vitamins and minerals can provide healthful benefits but affect how foods taste.

Microencapsulation, containing these ingredients and their tastes in microscopic capsules, enables the tastes to be managed within a completed product and, for example, reduce the need for artificial sweeteners. “As the economy emerges from the recession, we are seeing more interest in the Roanoke region as a business location,” says Beth Doughty, executive director of the Roanoke Regional Partnership.

Headquartered in Chester, N.Y., the company (here) is a privately held firm established in 2004. The company is locating within Roanoke’s Enterprise Zone and will be eligible to receive associated state and local incentives.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Yokohama To Spend $13 Million on Salem Expansion

The Yokohama Tire plant in Salem will expand considerably.^

Yokohama Tire Corporation (YTC) announced today that it is expanding operations at its Salem manufacturing plant because of increasing demand for its consumer and light truck tires.

The $13 million project will include new tire-making machinery, upgrading and modifying existing machines and an increase in high-performance and light truck tire manufacturing flexibility. The expansion is to be completed by August 2011.

“We have seen strong demand and our increase is well above the industry average,” says Dan King, Yokohama vice president, sales and marketing. “We have gained more allocation from our offshore plants, but it is not enough. That’s why the expansion at Salem will help fill the pipeline with our popular consumer tires, as well as light truck tires.”

King says the strong demand for Yokohama tires is across the board. In June, for instance, YTC’s parent company in Japan announced a third-term expansion in its Thailand plant. The investment will cost 9.7 billion yen ($117 million) and will increase the plant’s capacity to produce passenger car and light truck tires by 1.4 million units. This will expand the plant’s overall output to four million tires annually.

The Thailand plant has been producing passenger car and light truck tires since 2006, and tires for trucks and buses since April 2005.

“The plant expansions are a strategic initiative aimed at ensuring that our product supply is in step with the market demand,” says King. “The investments are a reinforcement of Yokohama’s commitment to the consumers and our dealer network.”

LewisGale drops the hyphen

Victor Giovanetti makes the announcement of the name change.^

HCA Virginia Health System announced its new branding strategy for LewisGale Regional Health System today at a press conference.

Joined by the CEOs of regional HCA hospitals, Greg Madsen (Alleghany), Scott Hill (Montgomery) and Mark Nichols (Pulaski), President Victor Giovanetti said the announcement was “one that will certainly be included in the hospital’s history books,” and the public needed to be more aware of the growth, size and scope of LewisGale.

Members of the press were invited by Nancy May, VP marketing and Joy Sutton, marketing manager, to report the campaign launch. The system is comprised of 4 hospitals, 8 outpatient centers, 135 employed physicians and mid-levels, and over 550 affiliated independent physicians.

(Photos: Tom Field.)

A Health Care Case for Bankers, Lawyers

Ed Murphy makes his health care case to bankers and lawyers.^

Bill Rakes talks to a full house at the Bankers Forum.^

By DAN SMITH

The 50 or so gathered bankers and lawyers at the first Bankers Forum today at Roanoke's Shenandoah Club got a bit more than they bargained for with the unexpected appearance of Carilion CEO Ed Murphy at the speaker's podium.

This first-of-a-series talk to some of the region's notable bankers and lawyers was to have been by the Greenbrier's Jim Justice, the man who saved that monument recently, but he ran into a health problem and Murphy stepped in to give one of his patented and detailed Harvard-trained talks.

Murphy's thrust to an audience that was generally more conservative than he was one they could identify with: the lack of sustainability in the increase of health care costs. Murphy, who cited chapter and verse of the consistent and dramatic increase in costs over the past 30 years (4.2 percent, compared to a Gross Domestic Product increase of 2.2 percent and a rise from five percent in 1965 to more than 17 percent now of health care expense as a percentage of GDP) was well armed with proposed solutions.

Those solutions weren't predictable, coming from a health care executive and a physician. He wants--expects--his own industry to be more responsive to the needs of the consumer and to be held accountable for outcomes. He wants to "link the [health care] budget to innovation." He insists that at this moment in history, providers are paid for "doing things to patients, not caring for them." Hospitals, he insists, are penalized for saving and rewarded for increased spending.

Murphy presented the case that 30 percent of health hcare costs go to treatment that "provides no value or causes harm."

The interest in his topic was intense and the Q&A (both formal and after the session) was brisk and intelligent.

Bill Rakes of Gentry Locke Rakes & Moore, a Roanoke law firm, says the forums will be held "every three or four months" and will feature a wide range of topics for an invitation-only audience.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Internet Futures for the PRSA


A panel consisting of FRONT Editor Dan Smith (top photo, from left), WDBJ7 Internet News Manager Tracie Gilmer and Roanoke Times Editor Carole Tarrant discussed how the Internet is being used by news organizations at the Blue Ridge Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America's monthly meeting Oct. 14 at the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center. Thomas Becher of tba (standing left in wide photo) moderated the discussion.