Friday, February 26, 2010

Virginia Tech's Big Build Home Project Starts Monday

The Big Build will kick off construction of a house on March 1 on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, and six weeks from now a family in nearby Pulaski will have a brand new, environmentally friendly home.

The student-designed house will be constructed in a campus parking lot. The Big Build invites all Virginia Tech students, faculty, and staff, and the people of the community to participate in the project. Register here.

The project was initiated and is coordinated and advised by Virginia Tech faculty members Kimberly Mitchell, an assistant professor in the Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resources Management and Leon McClinton, director of Residence Life.

“The Big Build at Virginia Tech recognizes the critical issues of housing affordability, green housing, and sustainability,” says Mitchell. “By volunteering to work on this project, all participants -- students, faculty, staff and the local community -- will join together in a common goal of building a house for a Pulaski family.”

The student president of the Big Build is Maximus DiSesa, an undergraduate in the Pamplin College of Business (finance major). “We have students collaborating with faculty, not only to design and promote the build, but on the actual construction, as well,” DiSesa says. “We hope this six-week adventure we can bring the best parts of giving to a family in need, while reminding us of one of the most important values in life: service.”

The house will then be moved in mid-April to its final site in Pulaski.

Enterprise Efficiency: Thinking Business

Keith Ferrell (right), who writes occasionally for Valley Business FRONT and who is nationally known as an expert in new media (among other things; he's written 18 books and is the former editor of Omni magazine) is part of a new Web-based think tank (for lack of a better explanation) called Enterprise Efficiency. EE calls itself "a unique interactive community of business technology leaders and executive decision makers – including CIOs, analysts, consultants, and other IT-involved professionals – to share ideas, insights, observations, and best practices, as well as the intellectual and emotional support to help enterprise technology executives make these goals a reality."

It offers a lot of advice, updates, news and just generally good business talk. Visit it here and let us know what you think. If Keith's part of it, we can promise you it will be thoughtful and lively.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Carilion Putting Clamps on Medical Reps

Roanoke-based Carilion Clinic is changing the way it deals with with pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers' representatives.

A new policy, developed after more than a year of consideration, is intended to erase any appearance of improperly influencing medical decisions. The policy is similar to those at the University of Virginia Medical Center, Geisinger Health System, and the Cleveland Clinic.

Information provided by pharmaceutical representatives, say Carilion officials, generally promotes newer, more expensive medications that may not always offer a significant advantage over existing, lower cost alternatives. This can drive up the cost of care. The new policy takes effect throughout the Carilion system on July 1, and several locations are already implementing the new guidelines.

Key components of the new policy include the following:

• Visits by vendors are by appointment only, and limited to non-patient care hours.
• All vendors must be registered through Carilion Clinic’s Corporate Purchasing Department.
• Vendors will be issued a temporary visitor’s badge and must wear the badge at all times when on Carilion property.
• Vendors are not allowed in patient care areas, and may not be present during patient appointments.
• All gifts, food and meals from vendors are prohibited.
• Carilion physician practices will no longer accept or keep medication samples from pharmaceutical representatives.

As an alternative to medication samples, Carilion Clinic physicians will prescribe generic medications (available from retail pharmacies for $4) whenever possible, encourage pharmaceutical representatives to provide vouchers that can be used to obtain a free supply of medication from pharmacies and maintain current information about assistance programs provided by pharmaceutical companies.

Hutchison Law Group Celebrates Opening

Ken Maready (left) and Scott Merrell of the Hutchison Law Group in Blacksburg flank Bob Giles of Rural System at a recent opening reception at Bull & Bones Feb. 18. Hutchison specializes in business and intellectual property counsel to established and emerging companies. It recently expanded into Blacksburg to take advantage of the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center’s need for intellectual property law. The company was founded in 1995 in North Carolina.

Uncovering 1925 at the Patrick Henry Hotel

This is the lobby of the Patrick Henry circa 1925. (For a larger view of these photos, doubleclick on them.)^

The block walls at the back of the lobby were uncovered and will be restored to their 1925 beauty.^

This is an original blueprint for the Patrick Henry Hotel.^

These pieces came from the ceiling on the mezzanine.^

Printers blocks, prints and (background) the cloth drawing of the Patrick Henry are on this table.^

Nathan Vaught shows off some of his finds to the press.^


Ed Walker's renovations in downtown Roanoke continue to reveal remnants of other times as he attempts to turn the aesthetics clock backward. His newest project (following closely on the rehabs of the Hancock and the Cotton Mill in recent years) at the Patrick Henry Hotel is 100 days old and already 1925 is showing through all over the lower floors.

A press conference this morning was designed to showcase the hotel and publicize the fact that it is a commercial venture seeking renters for its offices, retail clients and a restaurant to occupy the lower floors, in addition to renting the 126 residences on the upper floors. But the discoveries dimmed that bulb considerably.

Blair Godsey of the Altus Group, speaking for Walker this a.m., said, "The success of the Patrick Henry's redevelopment will rely on the inspired commitment of five to six flagship businesses. These companies will be able to choose from among some of the most distinctive and well appointed commercial spaces in Virginia." Those spaces, he said, will rent for "something under $20" a square foot per year. "We have not firmly established a rate," he said, "but it will be competitive."

Plans include 17,000 square feet of office space on the mezzanine qand second floor; 9,300 square feet of retail and restaurant space and 14,000 square feet for document storage. Plans at this point are to open in the fall of 2011, Godsey said.

Godsey said the construction crew has "made a lot of progress in a very short period." The cleanout of the upper floors--above the fifth--is finished and roofing materials are in place for construction "when the weather allows," said construction director Nathan Vaught.

Vaught, a man of few words who seems more intent on getting back to work than talking to the press, nevertheless took great delight in showing off some of the "finds" that his crews have uncovered in stripping the hotel to its walls. He said that the hotel had undergone several renovations over the years and there was a lot to take down.

Among the finds are original blueprints, a pencil drawing of the lobby on cloth, printers blocks with architectural drawings and ornamental pieces from the ceiling of the mezzanine. There was also a large safe uncovered in the lobby.

One of the most interesting finds was the discovery that the hotel's original fuse box, hidden behind years of renovations, not only still works, but also had fuses in them that were as good as the day they were installed. Don't make 'em like that any more. Same could be said for the Hotel.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Small Spotlight on Accomplishment

The estimable Anne Clelland, the maven of one of the most consistently interesting and informative Web sites in our region, Handshake 2.0, has proposed something of a partnership with Valley Business FRONT, wherein we both give some exposure to business people in the region who are doing interesting work.

The first of these is available here today and we hope you'll take advantage of meeting one of your productive business colleagues each Monday on Handshake 2.0 and at this blog. There's a lot going on in the region and this small spotlight will give you some measure of the quality of people who are accomplishing great things in the New River and Roanoke Valleys.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Roanoke Won't Renew Countryside Management Contract

The City of Roanoke has canceled its contract with Meadowbrook Golf Inc., for the operation and management of Countryside Golf Course, effective March 1, 2010. Meadowbrook Golf has managed the facility for the city since 2005.

Assistant City Manager Brian Townsend cited economic and fiscal conditions that not permit the city and Meadowbrook to reach agreement for continuing the contract. The city expects shortfalls in revenue in the current and subsequent fiscal years and, says Townsend, believes needed investments in the course to ensure successful operation would be difficult to justify.

The par 71 public course opened in 1967 and built on the former Kinsey dairy farm in North Roanoke. The architect was Ellis Maples. Greens fees have been $20-$35. Roanoke bought the course in 2005 and its future has been the subject of hot debate at times.

Roanoke City administration plans to review the options for finding a new use for the golf course facility “in a manner that is consistent with city goals and objectives to enhance the quality of life for all residents,” according to a statement.

“Staff will work closely with community stakeholders in this effort,and develop a plan for both short-term and longer-term options for the use of the property, including recreation, open space, natural areas, and limited areas of development potential.”

The potential closing of Countryside or sale of its land has been a hot-button issue for some, including City Council Candidate Valerie Garner.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

ND&P Wins Major National Advertising Awards

Neathawk Dubuque & Packett, which has an office in Roanoke, won 36 awards--more than any other agency in the country--in the seventh annual Service Industry Advertising Awards (SIAA) competition, including a Best of Show.

ND&P, whose offices are in Roanoke, Richmond, Chattanooga, Charlotte, Durham and Tampa, has clients that include ITT Night Vision, Virginia Tech, Carilion Clinic, The Jefferson Hotel, Roanoke Regional Partnership and Virginia Western Community College.

Ten of ND&P’s awards were for work created in the agency’s Roanoke office for Blileys, Kindred Healthcare, Meriter Health System, Minds Wide Open: Virginia Celebrates Women in the Arts, and the Virginia State Police.

“We are really proud of our team in Roanoke and the award-winning work for these clients,” says Todd Foutz, ND&P’s executive vice president and Roanoke office director. “The SIAA Awards are a terrific endorsement of the creativity of our staff. We are equally proud of the work we do for all of our clients.”

The Service Industry Advertising Awards began in 2003 and are the only advertising awards to specifically recognize the achievements of the service industry. More than 300 advertising agencies and 900 institutions participated in the seventh annual Service Industry Advertising Awards. A national panel of judges reviewed every entry for execution, creativity, quality, consumer appeal and overall break-through advertising content.

ND&P is a full-service advertising, marketing, and public relations agency.

Roanoke Sponsors Free Branding Seminar

Roanoke City’s Department of Economic Development is sponsoring the workshop "What Big Brands Know…Grow Any Business Like a Billion Dollar Brand" Thursday, Feb. 25, 8- 9:30 a.m. at the Roanoke Higher Education Center.

The workshop will introduce business owners and managers to Gerry O'Brion, corporate marketing executive for companies like Procter & Gamble, Coors Brewing Company and Quiznos. O'Brion will discuss big brands and why the strategies they use are not complicated. He will teach use of these strategies in growing and improving businesses of all sizes.

The Department of Economic Development has collaborated with CIE Partners and Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center to bring this workshop to Roanokers.

It is free, but space is limited to 50 participants and you must register no later than Monday, Feb. 22. Call Lisa Soltis at 540-853-1694 or e-mail

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Roanoke Recycling Expands to Downtown District

Beginning tomorrow (Thursday Feb. 18), the City of Roanoke’s Solid Waste Management will expand the collection of bottles and cans for recycling to all businesses and residents within the Central Business District.

This expansion of service is the result of a three-week pilot program conducted with several CBD restaurants. Participants are asked to place only bottles and cans (no general trash) in city-issued containers or clear plastic bags. Bags must not weigh more than 60 lbs. Bottles and cans can be placed out for collection at the same time that paper products are placed at the curb.

Solid Waste Management is coordinating with the Downtown Neighborhood Association and DRI to communicate with businesses and residents about how the bottle and can recycling collections work.

C'burg Workers Comp Law Firm Spins off Big Richmond Firm

The Two Rivers Law Group has spun off from Sanders Anderson Marks & Miller of Richmond and established offices in Christiansburg and Richmond. The group was the Workers' Compensation Practice Group and has become a separate shareholder-owned company that is independent, says president M. Pierce Rucker.

"This step, consistent with our most recent strategic plan, occurs through a process common in the corporate world, but rare among law firms," says Rucker, "and represents an innovative and exciting business growth model developed by the shareholders of the Workers' Compensation group and Sands Anderson's Board of Directors."

"We're thrilled to have this chance to chart our own course," Cecil H. Creasey, chairman of the Workers' Compensation group, said.

"Taking control of their own costs and revenue will enable this very busy group of lawyers and workers' compensation professionals to maintain the flexibility and agility necessary to effectively meet their clients' needs, while allowing Sands Anderson to continue focusing its resources and efforts on the practice areas identified in its strategic plan," saysRucker. The firm wplans to employ 25 to 30 people. The Christiansburg office is at 15 West Main Street.

Stuart Mease Makes Move to Pamplin

Stuart Mease, who only recently moved from a role of recruiting and retaining young workers in Roanoke (where he was immensely popular) to Rackspace Email & Apps in Blacksburg, now has another gig: he'll be working with job prospects at the Pamplin College of Business at Virginia Tech.

In a post on Handshake 2.0's site (here), Mease announced he will become director of the Undergraduate Career Services, responsibl "for employer development, providing jobs search assistance to students and overseeing the annual Business Horizons Career Fair" in September.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pulaski Hospital Gets New Top Executive

Mark Nichols (right) has been named chief executive officer at Pulaski Community Hospital, and began in the new position on January 2.

“I am excited to join the team at Pulaski Community Hospital as well as the Pulaski community,” says Nichols. Nichols joins PCH with 19 years of service in a number of leadership roles with HCA, most recently serving as the CEO for Coliseum Northside Hospital in Macon, Georgia.

“Mark brings with him outstanding depth and breadth of healthcare leadership and management,” said Victor Giovanetti, President of HCA Southwest Virginia. “Mark is very civic minded and looks forward to being an active member of the Pulaski community.”

Nichols holds a Master’s Degree in health services administration from the University of Illinois and a Bachelor’s Degree in public administration and sociology from Drake University. He and his wife Stacy have three children.

Carilion Clinic Makes Executive Appointments

Carilion Clinic, based in Roanoke, has made a number of executive appointments as the second round of its re-organization begins its five-year run. CEO Ed Murphy told the staff in a memo, "During this time we will further develop our multi-specialty, integrated plhysician group with hospital and ancillary services that assure the right care for the right patient at the right time every time."

Among Murphy's stated goals in the next round are care integration across services and facilities; cooridnated and planned care, continuing improvement in quality, efficient and timely access, lower costs, medical and health professions' education based in teamwork and practical research. It also includes focus on population health, better management of chronic disease and enhancing primary care foundation and specialty capabilities.

At the center of the goals are some organizational changes, including executives moving or doubling up their duties. The changes include:
  • Mark Werner, M.D. has been appointed President of the newly combined Carilion primary care physicians group and the specialty physicians group, known as Carilion Clinic Physicians. Werner will continue as Chief Medical Officer for Carilion Clinic.
  • Nancy Howell Agee has been appointed President of the Carilion Clinic Hospital division, including Carilion Roanoke and New River Valley medical centers and community hospitals. Agee will continue as Carilion Clinic’s Chief Operating Officer.
  • Donna Littlepage has been named Vice President for Finance for Carilion Clinic Physicians.
  • Don Halliwill has been named Vice President for Finance for Carilion Clinic’s Hospital division. Halliwill formerly served as CEO of the New River Valley Medical Center.
  • Bill Flattery will assume the rule of Vice President for Operations and Practice Management with Carilion Clinic Physicians. Flattery formerly serviced as the President and CEO of Bedford Memorial Hospital.
  • Melina Perdue has been named interim CEO of Carilion New River Valley Medical Center. Purdue will continue her role as Senior Vice President of Regional Operations.
  • Patti Jurkus has been named President and CEO of Bedford Memorial Hospital and Vice President, Carilion Clinic.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Another Opportunity for Carilion Plan

The Medicare Open Enrollment period, which runs from Jan. 1 through March 31, offers many area residents another opportunity to enroll in the new health plan sponsored by Carilion Clinic, according to an announcement by Carilion Clinic Medicare Health Plan (CCMHP).

Those who have a Medicare Advantage plan that includes drug coverage or Original Medicare and a Part D plan, and live in the plan’s approved service area, may be eligible to switch their coverage to CCMHP during this period. Area residents who live in the plan’s service area may also join now or when they qualify because they:

• Are turning 65.
• Become eligible for Medicare because of a disability • Involuntarily lose their Medicare coverage.
• Move out of their current plan’s service area and into the CCMHP service area.

Complete information about eligibility to enroll during this period is available by calling the plan at 1-800-779-2285. Coverage begins on the first of the month following enrollment during the OEP.

The plan’s provider network includes seven Carilion Clinic hospitals and more than 700 physicians, including more than 100 non-Carilion community physicians. Members must continue to pay their Medicare Part B premiums. The plan offers three HMO plans, including two Point-of-Service plans that allow beneficiaries to choose providers outside of the network.

Enrollees who choose the HMO plan without the Point-of-Service option must use providers within the plan’s network and should contact the plan to find out if their providers of choice participate in the plan’s network. The plans provide all of the benefits of Original Medicare plus additional benefits, including prescription drug coverage, at a cost that is usually less than Medicare Supplement plans.

The CCMHP Medicare-approved service area includes the cities of Bedford, Lexington, Radford, Roanoke and Salem, and the counties of Bedford, Botetourt, Craig, Floyd, Franklin, Giles, Montgomery and Roanoke. Carilion Clinic Medicare Health Plan is a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a Medicare approved Part D sponsor.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Roanoke Credit Rating Remains High

All but one of the ratings services that provide Roanoke’s credit rating have kept it at an AA level, according to the city's financial advisor, Public Financial Management Inc.

Of the three nationally recognized municipal rating agencies, Standard & Poor's and Fitch have affirmed the city's AA credit rating, while Moody’s has downgraded it to A1. This comes despite a difficult economy.

  • Ongoing successful redevelopment of downtown;
  • Growth potential related to the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and Research Institute and Carilion Clinic;
  • Financial management characterized as "strong" by Standard & Poor's under their Financial Management Assessment process.

    In downgrading Roanoke one level, Moody’s cited income levels and city fund reserve levels below national averages. All three ratings are viewed collectively by the market, which suggests that investor interest in future bond issuance will remain strong.

    These ratings are important because they affect the rates at which the city borrows money and a lower rating could act, in effect, as a tax increase.
  • NTELOS Gets Funds To Provide Broadband to Alleghany Highlands

    Waynesboro-based wireless provider NTELOS Holding Corp. has qualified to accept a $16 million federal broadband stimulus award, which will make available broadband services and infrastructure to the rural Alleghany Highlands of Virginia.

    The award, which requires NTELOS to match the $8 million federal grant, enables NTELOS to build a "future proof" fiber optic network to serve the needs of the area into the future.

    President Frank Berry of NTELOS Wireline says, "The Alleghany Now Broadband Initiative will bring high-speed fiber optics directly to 4,000-plus homes and approximately 233 businesses and 36 community anchor institutions, public safety entities, and critical community organizations. This initiative will directly employ over 40 people and will create over 100 jobs.'

    NTELOS is the only Virginia company to receive a federal stimulus award thus far from the Rural Utilities Service 50/50 program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

    The Virginia House of Delegates Committee on Commerce and Labor presented a bill in a form that enabled NTELOS to accept the award and to fund its $8 million portion of the broadband investment. David Kleppinger, executive director of the Alleghany Highlands Economic Development Corporation, says, “This infrastructure is absolutely critical to the economic future of the Alleghany Highlands.”

    Farmhouse Transformation Wins Architecture Award

    Visiting architecture faculty Marie and Keith Zawistowski’s practice, OnSite, received one of nine 2009 Virginia Society American Architects Awards (VSAIA) for Excellence in Architecture for their transformation of the 200-year-old Arritt Farmhouse in Potts Creek.

    The project involved the renovation of the existing farmhouse and the design and construction of a new three-story tower. The new structure, which contains a quilting studio and guest rooms, is a torqued, translucent volume with window openings that frame specific views of the mountains and an adjacent creek.

    The time-tested timber framing techniques inspired the tower’s structure. A 3-D computer model enabled the design to be developed as a kit of parts that were pre-cut and coded for efficient on-site assembly.

    (From press release.)

    Thursday, February 11, 2010

    New River VOICE Goes Non-Profit, Names Advisory Board

    The New River VOICE, the region's first non-profit news source, has announced the formation of its first editorial advisory board, a seven-member group made up of professional journalists and communicators. Additionally, the Freedom Foundation of Southwest Virginia (FFSWVA) has been incorporated as a non-profit community organization that will begin to serve as publisher of the New River Voice.

    The VOICE, which publishes online, has been using a combination of professional journalists, students and citizen journalists in producing its stories.

    The FFSWVA has applied for its 501(c)(3) nonprofit tax status from the Internal Revenue Status and is awaiting the application to be processed. The New River VOICE (online at is a Web publication based in Radford that serves the New River Valley by offering news, features, and opinions about the people, arts, culture, and politics of the area.

    The editorial advisory board will provide advice and expertise in numerous areas such as media law, ethics and credibility, interactive media and journalism for the Web, writing, editing, nonprofit journalism, publication management, environmental journalism, and political journalism.

    The board includes Valley Business FRONT editor Dan Smith; Bill Kovarik, a professor of communications at Radford University; Jenn Mackay, a journalism professor at Virginia Tech; Patrick Beeson of the Scripps Interactive Newspaper Group in Knoxville; Melissa Chessher of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications; Patsy Sims, director of the MFA in creative nonfiction program at Goucher; and Russ Walker, executive editor of, a Web magazine.

    Tech Gets Big Grant To Extend Broadband to Rural Areas of Virginia

    The Virginia Tech Foundation has received a grant award from the U.S. Department of Commerce Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program to extend Virginia’s open-access fiber optic backbone into the central Appalachian region of the state.

    The Virginia Tech Foundation served as the applicant and provided financing for a $1.385 million cash match to meet the 20 percent match eligibility requirement for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration program.

    “I applaud the efforts of the Virginia Tech Foundation to provide public Internet service to un-served and under-served communities in Southwest Virginia,” says 9th District U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher who has worked steadily to help extend broadband through his rural district.

    Says Raymond D. Smoot Jr., COO of the Virginia Tech Foundation, “The total project budget is $6.925 million, with $5.54 million provided from federal grant assistance.”

    Over the last decade, Virginia has invested funds from the tobacco indemnification settlement and federal funding sources to build high performance fiber optic networks throughout the rural, tobacco-growing regions in the Southside and Southwest areas of the Commonwealth. This grant will allow extension of the network outside the tobacco region. The new path will add 110 miles of fiber to the system beginning at an existing node in Bedford and stretching through Bedford, Roanoke, Botetourt, Craig, Giles, and Montgomery counties to reach Blacksburg and Virginia Tech.

    (From press release.)

    Two Roanoke Fire Stations for Sale: You Can Move Your Business In

    Fire Station No. 9 in Roanoke.^

    Fire Station No. 5.^

    If you were impressed by the rehabilitation of Fire Station No. 3 in Roanoke by Interactive Design Group (see December issue of Valley Business FRONT) you’ll have the opportunity to do the same kind of renovation for your business. In a fire station. Roanoke has two fire stations for sale and is looking for an alternate use for historic downtown Fire Station No. 1.

    Proposals are due March 15, 2010 for purchase of Fire Station No. 9 and Station No. 5. Proposals need to include intended use of property, improvements the purchaser plans to make, and a suggested price. Inquiries should be sent to to Robert Ledger in the Department of Economic Development. He can be reached by e-mail at or called at (540) 853-6439.

    Fire Station No. 9 opened in September 1929 under supervision of Captain L. W. Hawkins, and cost $10,500 to build. Station No. 9 was built to serve the neighborhoods of Melrose-Rugby, and Villa Heights, which had only recently been annexed into the City of Roanoke.

    Fire Station No. 5 opened September 5, 1911 for the Loudon-Melrose neighborhood and N&W West End shops. Fire Station No. 5 is one of two Roanoke stations to house an automobile re-steamer. The design is considered to be significant today because it was designed to be compatible with the surrounding residential architecture.

    Fire Station No. 1 is not for sale and likely will not be, but the city is looking for proposals for its use. Several non-profit organizations have expressed interest.

    State's College Endowment Funds Hit Hard

    Hollins University's endowment loss was the least among Virginia colleges.^


    A study from the National Association of College and University Business Officers and Commonfund Institute is not something most of us would go looking for in normal times, but these days, with Harvard losing nearly 30 percent of its enormous endowment—amounting to the gross national product of a small country—there is considerable interest.

    Harvard’s loss of $11 billion between 2008 and the end of 2009 is the most dramatic loss, but on the entire list of 842 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada, almost all have some loss and the institutions in the black are almost all tiny by comparison.

    The institutions have $306 billion among them. The best performer in Virginia is Hollins University with an impressive -7.2 performance (and in this economy, losing just a little is, indeed impressive). VMI was initially reported to have a plus-40, but VMI Foundation PR Director Scott Belliveau, when questioned, said the numbers for 2009 and 2008 were inadvertently reversed and “we’re a little red-faced about it.” The actual value dropped 28.9 percent, Virginia’s worst, not its best.

    The entire list for the U.S. and Canada is here.

    Virginia Tech, with a loss of 14.4 percent of its endowment, was ranked second in 24/7 Wall Street’s assessment of the Best Managed Endowments (behind Washington State). Harvard was named Worst Managed.

    The average loss for the institutions on the entire list is 23 percent of the endowment, which represents an enormous amount of money.

    Liberty University in Lynchburg is not on the list. Explains Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr., “Liberty has not formed a separate foundation to hold its new endowment. Liberty is a young school (founded in 1971) and most its alumni have not yet reached the point in their careers where they are able to make substantial contributions to the university’s endowment.” Liberty has a restricted fund that serves the same function as a foundation, says Falwell.

    For the complete story and the list of Virginia schools, see the March issue of Valley Business FRONT.

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    John Carlin Takes Ferrum PR Job

    John Carlin, who left Access Public Relations recently in something of a high-profile, surprise move, has landed at Ferrum College, where he is the new public relations director.

    Carlin replaces Natalie Fuance, who left Ferrum to start a noon interview program with WSLS TV in Roanoke, Carlin’s long-time employer.

    He was news anchor at WSLS before retiring from broadcasting in November 2008 to enter public relations with Access. Since then he has established himself as a PR strategist, having won three Gold Summit Awards in 2009 from the Public Relations Society of America. He announced his own public relations agency, John Carlin Public Relations, shortly after leaving Access.

    “We are excited to have John join the staff,” says Vice President for Institutional Advancement Lee King. “His 28 years of experience in broadcasting give him the type of background and understanding that we were looking for. In addition he lived here in Franklin County for more than a decade so he knows this community well. John will make an immediate, visible impact, and we are so excited about that.”

    Carlin’s reporting career was highlighted by a Peabody award for the station’s coverage of the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech. Carlin has also won three Emmy awards and his newscasts garnered three National Edward R. Murrow awards as well.

    Carlin serves on multiple boards and commissions in the Roanoke Valley, often chairing publicity committees.

    “Ferrum College is a great fit for me,” says Carlin, who also served as adjunct faculty at Virginia Tech from 1996-2007, where he taught news writing. “I enjoy the campus environment, and Ferrum is in the midst of some intriguing projects. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get started.”

    Ferrum College has enjoyed admissions growth in recent years, under the leadership of college President Jennifer L. Braaten. Applications have more than doubled since 2002, from 1,312 to 2,672 last year. In addition the campus has seen more than $20-million dollars in capital improvements since 2005.

    “When you have growth you have an exciting, dynamic environment,” says Carlin. “This is a pivotal time in Ferrum’s history, and I’m thrilled to be here during this time.”

    Among the items on Carlin's agenda, developing the college’s social media “footprint” by creating or enhancing its presence in places like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

    Liberty University Surpasses 50,000 Students; Most Are Online Students

    According to his estimations, “We’re now the world’s largest Christian university,” says Liberty University Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. When the spring semester got under way in January, more than 50,000 students were taking classes on LU’s campus in Lynchburg, and through Liberty University Online.

    There are nearly 12,000 residential students and more than 45,000 online students; through early February a total of 57,371 students were enrolled.

    “Dad [Jerry Falwell Sr.] originally had a goal of 5,000 students,” says Falwell Jr. “Elmer Towns [Liberty co-founder and dean of the School of Religion] has often told the story about how that vision changed almost overnight when my father suddenly declared that Liberty would one day enroll 50,000 students. He revised the vision slightly due to technological advances in education delivery methods. Over the last few years, we have seen online delivery methods become even more popular.”

    Founded in 1971 as Lynchburg Baptist, the school began with 154 students. Classes were held in the Thomas Road Baptist Church Sunday school classrooms. LU has seen steady growth over the years with its student population, but has seen a boom in recent years both on campus and online. LU Online had about 27,000 students enrolled in May 2008 — that number has grown by nearly 20,000 in less than two years.

    (From press release.)

    Tuesday, February 9, 2010

    VMT Loans Diesel to Clifton Forge Museum

    Diesel locomotive is pulled away from the VMT, heading for Clifton Forge.^

    The Virginia Museum of Transportation announces it has loaned one of the diesel locomotives in its collection-the Chesapeake & Ohio EMD GP7 Locomotive #5828-to the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Heritage Center in Clifton Forge.

    Norfolk Southern Corporation and the Buckingham Branch Railroad Company moved the locomotive to Clifton Forge last week to begin a five-year residence at the C&O Heritage Center. As part of the agreement, the C&O Railway Heritage Center will give the blue locomotive a fresh paint job to ready it for display.

    "The Heritage Center is very excited to have this locomotive at our museum in Clifton Forge," says Center director Rick Tabb. "It is an important piece of railroad history and a key component of the story of the transition from steam to diesel. We are grateful for the support and contributions of the Virginia Museum of Transportation, its board of directors and staff, Norfolk Southern Corporation, the Buckingham Branch Railroad, and CSX Transportation. The locomotive is going to be an exciting exhibit and attraction to draw visitors to Clifton Forge."

    Says Beverly T. Fitzpatrick, Jr., executive director of the Virginia Museum of Transportation, "The loan of this equipment is yet another concrete example of the cooperation among the rail groups in Virginia's Rail Heritage Region as we work to attract more tourists to central and western Virginia."

    Locomotive #5828 is one of 180 GP7 diesel-electric locomotives built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway in the early 1950s. Power was provided by a 16-cylinder engine which generated 1,500 horsepower. The class was predominately retired from service by the early 1990s.

    Monday, February 8, 2010

    City Council Member Gwen Mason Named Clean Valley Council Director

    Roanoke City Council member Gwen Mason, who lost her bid for a seat in the Virginia General Assembly in the fall, has landed a new gig. She is the new executive director of the Clean Valley Council. Mason replaces Ann Masters, who died of a heart attack Dec. 18.

    Mason will begin her duties feb. 17.

    A lifelong environmentalist, she was elected to Roanoke City Council in May 2006 where she was instrumental in the formation of Roanoke's Clean and Green Business Coalition. She pushed for establishment of target emissions reduction for the City of Roanoke, the first municipality in the Roanoke Valley to make such a pledge.

    She worked toward establishment of Citizens for Clean and Green, a diverse community group promoting energy conservation, efficiency and other green initiatives.

    "Gwen Mason brings so much knowledge and enthusiasm,” Allan C. Robinson, Chairman of the Human Resource Committee for Clean Valley Council, says. “We are very excited about her vision for this organization and her commitment to carrying on Ann Masters’ dream of environmental stewardship and education.”

    Mason works part-time from home as a grant writer for non-profit organizations. Her undergraduate degree from Smith College is in American government. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Virginia.

    She worked for 15 years for the Federal government in Washington, D.C., including 13 years at the Department of the Interior. Ms. Mason served on the staff of Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt for two years.

    She is married to Bill Mason, a manager with the N.B. Handy Company in Roanoke. They have two children in Roanoke City schools and enjoy the outdoors, reading, and tennis.

    "With a solid history of making Roanoke a better place to live, the Clean Valley Council has a fine board of directors, dedicated staff and a wonderful mission,” Gwen Mason says. “I'm honored to join the cause and look forward to building the organization's future."

    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    Baseball Job Fair March 6

    The Salem Red Sox will hold their annual seasonal job fair between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, March 6 at the Salem Red Sox offices at Lewis-Gale Field.

    The Red Sox will accept applications for ushers, security, kids’ zone employees, ticket takers and sellers, diamond girls, and concession employees including waitresses, stand workers, cooks, vendors, and hawkers.

    Anyone interested in game-day employment for the 2010 season is encouraged to visit here to download, print, and complete a Salem Red Sox job application before attending the job fair. For more information, call (540) 389-3333.

    Hollins' Endowment Managed Well in Downturn

    Hollins President Nancy Gray.>

    Hollins University is listed among the nation’s foremost educational institutions in defying the economic downturn and maintaining a healthy financial endowment, according to a nationwide survey of public and private colleges and universities.

    The National Association of College and University Business Officers found the value of college and university endowments across the U.S. fell by an average of 23 percent from 2008 to 2009. However, Hollins' endowment declined by only 7.2 percent during that time period, from $120.2 million on June 30, 2008 to $111.5 million as of June 30, 2009.

    (As of December 2009, the university's endowment had rebounded to a value of more than $126.5 million.) In comparing the 344 colleges and universities with endowments of $100 million or more, Hollins had the eighth-best performance in the nation during 2008-2009.

    "Despite the country's economic challenges, our alumnae have remained steadfast in their commitment to support the university. A conservative investment strategy also contributed to protecting our endowment from the worst of the recession's impact," says Hollins President Nancy Gray. In Virginia, Hollins was second only to Virginia Military Institute in endowment performance among the 15 schools with funds of $100 million or more. There has been some question about the n umbers used by VMI, however.

    Hollins also had the second-best performance overall among the nation's women's colleges. "Hollins has faced the country's economic challenges from a position of strength," Gray says. "In addition to preserving our endowment, we have been operating with balanced budgets for the past five years and eliminated our debt. With the NACUBO survey, we are pleased to be recognized for our sound financial management as well as our fundraising efforts."

    (From press release.)

    Commercial Occupancy Stable in Downtown Roanoke

    Roanoke’s commercial district remained stable—with a slight decrease—for 2009, according to the newly-released Poe & Cronk Real Estate Group 23rd Annual Office Market Survey.

    This year’s survey incorporates data covering more than 100 existing nongovernmental office buildings measuring 10,000 square feet or larger. Overall occupancy rates declined from 92 percent to 91 percent.
    The occupancy rate in the Central Business District dropped from 94 percent to 93 percent primarily due to the addition of the vacated 47,960 square foot Stone Printing Building, which housed the Social Security Administration. The South Business District (SBD) occupancy rate decreased by 1 percentage point to 89 percent while the North Business District (NBD) increased to 89 percent.

    According Senior VP Thom Hubard, “Full service rental rates in this year’s survey range from $10 per square foot to $27. This represents a slight increase, due in large part to increased utility and development cost. The office market has been stable for a number of years and appears to remain that way in the future despite national office market trends.”

    Wednesday, February 3, 2010

    Population, Income Increase in Roanoke Region

    The Roanoke Region's population and income rose between 2006 and 2008, according to the Roanoke Regional Partnership's first annual Report on Regional Economic Progress.

    The indicators will be monitored annually for the next five years. The report, charting 14 indicators was prepared by the research staff of the Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission. It presents new data for the region served by the partnership.

    The report shows a mixed picture of progress in population growth, income, taxable sales, business establishments, retail and restaurants, gross metropolitan product, new vehicle registrations, home sales, and metropolitan economic performance. Quality-of- life indicators are part of the report, as well.

    Growth rates dramatically improved between 2006 and 2008 from earlier in the decade. Several localities went from losing population each year to positive growth. The region as a whole went from zero growth in the earliest part of this decade to 0.6 percent annualized growth between 2006 and 2008.

    Another key indicator is income. Inflation-adjusted incomes have been stagnant in the region over the longer term. More recently (from 2004 to 2006, most current available), data suggests that the region has had faster growth than Virginia. The Metropolitan Statistical Area median adjusted gross income for married couples increased by 7.57 percent from 2004 to 2006, while the state's increased just 6.11 percent. However, the region remains far off Virginia's income figures.

    Quality-of-life indicators reinforce the region's new focus on promoting outdoor amenities. Virginia state park attendance in the region is increasing at a significantly higher rate than in the Commonwealth in general. Use of Carvins Cove has grown as well.

    Employment in the arts, entertainment, and recreation sectors have declined, losing ground against Virginia trends. The indicators were selected to reflect a general picture of the economy and regional assets. Partnership Executive Director Beth Doughty says the report may be expanded in future years to reflect more assets and economic indicators. "The report is a communications tool to help people feel good about their region as well as identify areas that need continued attention. It's a report card."

    A summary of the results was presented at the Roanoke Regional Partnership's annual meeting on Feb. 4 at Hotel Roanoke. Doughty noted that business recruitment activity was slow in 2009 as companies pulled back on capital investment.

    Activity in business recruitment and expansion included the opening of Lite Steel Technologies, expansion at Foot Levelers, expansion of Empire Foods, and the location of Cole&Russell, Architects.

    Blacksburg Company Seeks To Reduce Computer Energy Waste-for Free

    Blacksburg-based MiserWare Inc., founded by Professor Kirk Cameron and Joseph Turner in 2007 to commercialize energy-saving technologies developed at Virginia Tech for PCs, laptops, and servers, is giving away software.

    Early technologies were designed for shared servers, but the company is now offering energy-saving software for individual Windows-based computers. In laptops, energy savings equate to extended battery life while the laptop is in use.

    "We set out to save the world," says Cameron, director of the Scalable Performance Laboratory and an associate professor of computer science at Virginia Tech. “We wanted to spread the impact of the technologies we developed to reduce energy waste in computers by creating software for use by the masses.”

    MiserWare has announced the availability of a free Windows version of its software that saves energy in just about any computer running Windows (download here). Turner, vice president of engineering and computer science doctoral student in the College of Engineering, said the technology is intelligent. “Our software adapts to the user’s needs," he says. "It’s like having a car that is as fast as a Ferrari when you need it, yet as efficient as a Prius.”

    The researchers turned entrepreneurs are not new to innovation. Cameron’s laboratory has been developing energy efficiency techniques for computers for nearly a decade. Over the past five years, his lab has been awarded nearly $4 million in external grants for their green information technology research to improve the energy efficiency of servers.

    According to Cameron, the first MiserWare products can save as much as 35 percent of server energy use. For a typical server, savings can be $100 per year with an additional savings of $100 in reduced cooling.

    "The key selling point of the software is that these savings come without loss of system performance; so, data center operators do not need to worry about the software affecting existing service levels," he says.

    (From press release.)

    Tuesday, February 2, 2010

    Tech Prof Gets Grant to Fight Computer Attackers

    Danfeng Yao (right), an assistant professor in the computer science department at Virginia Tech’s College of Engineering, will use a $530,000 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) grant to develop software that will differentiate human-user computer interaction from that of malware.

    The new computer program will do this by identifying and enforcing unique properties of human computer usage. Millions of computers worldwide are infected annually by malicious software in the form of viruses, worms, and Trojan horses, with scores of computers becoming part of a “bot” army that runs potentially dangerous automated tasks over the Internet.

    Infected computers can be coordinated and used by cyber criminals to launch illegal and destructive activities such as identity theft, sending reams of spam messages, launching distributed denial of service attacks, and committing click fraud.

    Yao’s work will focus on identifying characteristic human-user behaviors, developing protocols for fine-grained traffic-input analysis, and preventing forgeries and attacks by malware. She will design and apply a combination of cryptographic techniques, correlation analysis and hardware-based integrity measures to carry out these tasks.

    “Existing malware-detection approaches are limited in their ability to identify and discern malicious bots from legitimate and benign ones,” Yao says. “The proliferation and sophistication of malware clandestine activities--as well as its growing capacity to do serious harm--requires constant vigilance and upgrading.”

    Greater threats also exist: Some malware, as in the recent case involving hacker sources from China against Internet giant Google, are tools of cyber warfare meant as espionage tools or to destroy critical network infrastructure of a major corporation, financial centers or even a nation’s defense agency.

    “The program will adaptively learn from the user’s patterns, to differentiate legitimate network activities and usage from malicious software,” Yao says.

    Unusual Law Tournament at Liberty University

    UPDATE: This has been postponed until some time in March by bad weather.

    The Business and Transactions Legal Society and the Liberty University School of Law in Lynchburg are sponsoring an intramural business transactions tournament this weekend that is possibly the first of its kind in the nation.

    The competitors have been presented with a realistic securities regulation situation that requires them to draft a memorandum explaining and justifying their proposed solutions. The competitors are required to present their proposal to a panel of business professionals, professors from the school of business, and law professors.

    The tournament is similar to a moot court tournament in some ways but is based upon what transaction lawyers are more likely to do in practice. The first round is Friday night at Liberty University School of Law beginning at 7 p.m. The final round is Saturday at 10 a.m. The public is invited to attend.

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Branch Group Gets New CEO

    Roanoke-based The Branch Group, one of the largest general contractors in the Mid-Atlantic, has selected J. William Karbach as CEO to replace James C. Harrison, IV, who has retired.

    Branch, which has five operating companies, also promoted two senior executives to new corporate positions as part of its leadership transition strategy. Steve Aud was promoted to COO of Branch and Larry Dickenson, to executive VP.

    Aud, a 29-year veteran of the Branch organization, has been president of Branch & Associates. In his new role, Aud is responsible for guiding the overall direction of each company and mentoring leaders.

    Dickenson will continue as president of R. E. Daffan Inc., a contractor based in Northern Virginia, while assuming the responsibility for business development and external relations for The Branch Group. He has 26 years experience with Branch.

    The company’s growth and Harrison’s retirement created the need for two new executive positions. “With this reorganization at the corporate level, the Branch Group is well positioned to continue its growth,” said Harrison.

    Pace, Giles Law Foundation Fellows

    Michael Pace (above) and Tracy Giles (right).^

    G. Michael Pace, managing Partner at Gentry Locke Rakes & Moore and Tracy Allen Giles of Giles & Lambert, have been inducted into the Virginia Law Foundation 2010 Class of Fellows. Of the 25 inductees at the Jan. 21 dinner at the Virginia Bar Association Annual Meeting in Williamsburg, they are the only Roanokers.

    Induction as a Fellow of the Virginia Law Foundation is an honor conferred by the Virginia Law Foundation board to select Virginia attorneys, law professors, and retired members of the judiciary who are deemed to be outstanding in their professions and in their communities.

    In addition to his participation as a board member of a number of regional organizations, Pace was instrumental in establishing The Virginia Bar Association Rule of Law Project, an educational program for Virginia middle school students that was recently introduced to a global audience.

    Giles practices bankruptcy law with his wife Malissa Lambert Giles and serves on board of Apple Ridge Farm, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide outdoor experiences and academic programs for inner city and at-risk youth. He also serves on the Board of Blue Ridge Legal Services.