Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Radio: Breaking Out in a Movie

My Radio has a significant part in the new movie 'Meet the Joneses.' From left: Jeff Hoffman, J.P. Powell, Brett Lemon and Hunter Johnson.^


Roanoke band My Radio is suddenly one of the toasts of the music world and we're going to have to wait a bit see if this is 15 Minutes of Fame or PermaFame. We should know soon enough.

The band--comprised of J.P. Powell (transplanted here from Boston with his his symphony violinist wife, Shaleen), Jeff Hoffman, Brett Lemon and Hunter Johnson--is a featured group on MTV's music page (here) this week and has a prominent musical role in the new movie "Meet the Joneses" with Demi Moore and David Duchovny (the trailer is here with the song, "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah," playing in the last two minutes).

This is all designed as part of a marketing plan that is both newly conventional and ahead of the business, says Powell.

My Radio has worked as a group with this very moment in mind. Everything it has done--writing, arranging, performing, marketing--has been designed "to parlay the momentum we're building" into a career centered on making music, not just making money.

"When I met Hunter (two years ago) after moving down here from Boston," says J.P., "we decided that if we were going to make music, it was going to be different from the way we had done it in the past. Our first goal was to find other like-minded misicians and put together a band. Then we'd write great songs [J.P. writing most of them], record them the best way possible" and get them to the public. That was the function of the Internet Age, he says, because it "makes the world smaller--and more confusing." Getting "above the noise" was a goal and finding a company to help was a major step in that.

Micah Wilshires "is the common link for us in recording" songs at three studios in North Carolina and two in Charlottesville, says Powell. He "helped shape the sound" and when it was ready, "We targeted Ocean Park Music in California" to push it. "They loved it," he says.

My Radio is the only completely independent group represented by Ocean Park, says Powell. Using a "placement company" is "becoming a trend," Powell says and the exposure has been good in a number of ways, especially in driving people to the band's Web site (here) where you can buy records. The movie, says Powell, is also quite lucrative.

Powell is philosophical about the movie: "We have no control over how the movie does," he says, "but we understand that this is our moment and we have to take full advantage of it. This week, we're featured on the 'Needle in a Haystack' portion of MTV's music Web site and that's a big deal.

"If all this pulls together the way we thing, we'll have enough money to make another record and, for us, that's what it's about."

With all this swirling about, Hunter and J.P. are opening a bar downtown in Roanoke. It's called Lucky. "That fits what's been happening lately," say J.P.

Spring Flowers for a Name and a Song

Amanda Bass and her buddy show you some of what you can buy at StarCity Gardens.^

Horticulturist Amanda Miller Bass (daughter of Interactive Design and Development owner Mary Miller) is opening a new garden shop in Roanoke and does she have a deal for you!

Amanda says that anybody shopping at StarCity Gardens during its gfrand opening--now--at 4701 Melrose Ave (between Va. 419 and Peters Creek Road) who says they were sent by Mary will get a 10 percent discount. If you sing (and dance) the Chicken Dance Song, you get another 15 percent.

The shop is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and this is your opportunity to support yet another young ambitious person's dream by buying your spring flowers and herbs.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

FRONT Boys Talk About Environmental Issue

Bob Grebe and Kimberly McBroom talk about VBFRONT on Mornin' this a.m.

Valley Business FRONT Editor Dan Smith and Publisher Tom Field appeared on WDBJ7's Mornin' show this a.m. with Bob Grebe, talking about the magazine's April environmental special issue.

The issue will not only cover business and the environment, but, said Smith and Field, it will be an environmental issue, the first that will not be printed on paper. The on-line only nature of the April issue will be only for the one issue; VBFRONT will return in paper form in May, but "this is a statement," said Smith. "We are commited to environmentalism and this was one way we could put our money where our mouth is."

See the interview with Grebe here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Venture Capitalist To Speak at Tech April 8

John May, the managing partner of New Vantage Group in Northern Virginia, will give a talk on Thursday, April 8, 9:30-10:30 a.m., as the featured speaker in the BB&T Distinguished Lecture Series on Capitalism, hosted by Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business.

The talk, “Valuation of Early-Stage Ventures,” will be held at the Inn at Virginia Tech’s Latham Ballroom. It is free and open to the public, no tickets required. For more info, call (540) 231-5737. Free parking is available at the Inn at Virginia Tech.

An expert on “angel” investors, wealthy individuals who provide funds for business start-ups, May co-authored a 2001 book, Every Business Needs an Angel, and co-edited a 2003 book, State of the Art: An Executive Briefing on Cutting-Edge Practices in American Angel Investing. Co-chair of the World Business Angels Association and chair-emeritus of the Angel Capital Association, he serves as a lead instructor for the latter’s “Power of Angel Investing” seminars.

May’s firm, which creates and manages early-stage venture funds for angel investors, administers four regional angel groups with more than 300 individual members and has three joint ventures with sister organizations. May has, over the last 20 years, advised or served as a general partner of five early-stage venture capital funds, including the U.K.-based Seraphim Capital.

He is a Batten Fellow at the University of Virginia’s Darden Business School. Featuring two speakers each year, the BB&T Distinguished Lecture Series on Capitalism discusses current issues in business management and government policy, in addition to topics related to capitalism. The lecture series is part of a Pamplin College teaching program to explore the foundations of capitalism and freedom.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Roanoke Natives Give $1 Million to Hollins Abroad-Paris Program

Hollins University alumna Jean Hall Rutherfoord and her husband, Thomas, have made a gift of $1 million to support Hollins’ study abroad program in Paris.

This endowed fund will pay the salary and benefits for what will now be called the Rutherfoord Director of the Hollins Abroad Paris Program. “For more than 50 years, Hollins has been nationally recognized for the quality of our study abroad programs,” says Hollins President Nancy Gray. “This generous gift will help ensure our Paris program has strong, forward-thinking leadership for years to come and provides the best possible experience for our students, both academically and personally.”

Established in 1955, Hollins Abroad Paris was one of the first international study programs in the country. The semester-long curriculum combines classes, field trips in and around Paris, guided group excursions to other regions of France, and special academic options to provide a comprehensive cultural experience. Its offices are near the Sorbonne (where many of the program’s faculty have studied or taught) in the center of Parisian intellectual and artistic life.

“Study abroad allows our students to gain first-hand, in-depth knowledge of another culture, see the world from a new perspective, and develop intercultural skills that help them succeed in today’s global society,” Gray explains.

Jeannie and Tom Rutherfoord are both originally from Roanoke and now make their home in Washington, D.C. Jeannie graduated from Hollins in 1974 and says her semester abroad in Paris during her college years had a profound impact on her that continues to resonate today. “I studied French at Hollins and the opportunity to immerse myself in French culture solidified my ability to speak the language, which continues to be invaluable to me,” she says, noting that she works closely with the Washington, D.C. council of the French Heritage Society, a private foundation dedicated to preserving French architecture in the United States and France. Another reason she cherishes her semester overseas is because “I gained my best friends in life while I was studying abroad.”

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Tree Planting for Ann Masters

Scores of Ann Masters' friends and family gathered at noon for the planting of a plum tree in her honor at Wasena Park.

Barbara Duerk (right) presents small commemorative plaques to Ann's daughters Cam Miller (left) and Sam Durham.

Cam and Sam remember their mother.

A crowd of friends and family gathered at noon today at Wasena Park to plant a plum tree in memory of former Clean Valley Council director Ann Masters. Ann, who died at Christmastime this past year, was remembered as a staunch environmentalist who helped pull Roanoke into the movement. The tree was planted at the entrance to the park, one of Ann's favorites.

FRONT Editor Dan Smith Among Cool Cities Award Winners

Editor Dan Smith (left) with fellow nominees Denise Membrano of Cox9 and Dan Radmacher of The Roanoke Times.

Diana Christopulos (on stage) talks of the environmental progress being made in the Roanoke Valley at this a.m.'s Cool Cities meeting.

FRONT Editor Dan Smith (center, green shirt) flanked by Mark Hanson, Ron McCorkle, Bill Weitzenfeld and Charlotte Moore on his right and Adam Cohen of Structures, Neil Signon and John Richardson of Franklin County Schools on his left.

Roanoke-based Cool Cities Coalition named winners of its environmental awards for 2010 this morning during its annual meeting and among them was Valley Business FRONT Editor Dan Smith. Smith was selected for the media award partly because he “believes there is no separation between green business and traditional business,” according to the citation.

Smith was cited for his commitment to environmental responsibility in the business community, throughout his editorial career including his earlier affiliation with the Blue Ridge Business Journal and his current work with Valley Business Front. Smith will be inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame Thursday in Richmond.

Other finalists in the media category were: Dan Radmacher, Roanoke Times; Denise Allen Membreno, Kianna Wade, and Jason Lisk (Cox-9 Urban Voices segment production team).

The Cool Cities Coalition awards are presented to individuals, businesses and government agencies whose efforts have contributed to the overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the Roanoke Valley.

The other finalists and winners are:

Special Achievement

Billy Weitzenfeld, Executive Director, Association of Energy Conservation Professionals, was recognized as the driving force behind the Green Living and Energy Expo, which over the past ten years has become one of the premier energy conservation events in the country, drawing thousands of citizens and business people to learn and exchange ideas about energy efficiency and conservation.

Category: Business

Winner - Structures Design/Build, Adam Cohen, owner. Structures was cited for its contribution to and work on the Center for Energy Efficient Design, currently under construction at the Gereau Center for Applied Technology and Career Exploration in Franklin County; also for its innovative offering of the Passive House low- or no-energy building design, and for owner Adam Cohen's community involvement. Other finalists: Retellus, Rutherfoord, and Boxley Materials.

Category: Government

Charlotte Moore, Cave Spring District Supervisor, Roanoke County and Franklin County Schools.

Moore was cited for her involvement and support of the work of Roanoke County to measure its carbon footprint, set specific reduction goals for community greenhouse gas emissions, and establish a citizens committee to further these goals through community involvement. Franklin County Schools received recognition for its commitment to the Center for Energy Efficient Design. Teachers Neil Sigmon and John Richardson have been closely involved with this project. Finalists - The City of Salem; Roanoke County Schools.

Category: Individual

Mark E. Hanson was cited for commitment to renewable energy innovation, his initiative in forming a local chapter of the Renewable Energy and Electric Vehicle Association through which he has recruited a cadre of volunteers to provide help with DIY renewable energy systems in the community.

Category: Nonprofit

Sharebike (founder Ron McCorkle was cited for its effectiveness in raising awareness of bicycling as a viable element of our local transportation system, and for its involvement with other groups to stimulate, support and link together a wide range of community-based bicycle initiatives in the Roanoke Valley. Other Finalist - Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tech Approves $89 Million Arts Center

Plans were approved early this week for Virginia Tech’s new 130,000-square-foot, $89 million Center for the Arts, which is expected to help redefine downtown Blacksburg and shape the performing and visual arts environment throughout the region.

“As a university, we must strive to educate the whole person — to prepare students for life at work as well as for life beyond work,” says Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger. “The study of the arts helps us achieve this goal, and our new Center for the Arts will be our new home for the fine and performing arts that will enrich the lives of our students, and the entire university community as well, for generations to come.”

Construction of the facility will begin this fall and is scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2013. The center's design was led by the globally renowned architectural firm, Snøhetta, winner of the international competition to create a museum pavilion at the World Trade Center site in New York City. Joining Snøhetta on the project are STV Architects, with offices in Fairfax; Holder Construction Co., construction manager-at-risk, with offices in Herndon; Arup, a global engineering and acoustics firm with corporate offices in New York City; and Theatre Projects Consultants, headquartered in Norwalk, Conn.

The Center for the Arts complex will include both new and renovated facilities at the intersection of North Main Street and Alumni Mall. “Its location — at the main entrance to campus near the center of Blacksburg--symbolizes our commitment to the arts and its importance to the university and to our broader community,” says Ruth Waalkes, executive director for the Center for the Arts.

The Center for the Arts will comprise three major areas — the performance hall, several visual arts galleries, and the Center for Creative Technologies in the Arts. It will seat 1,300 people and will have the flexibility to present theatre, music, and dance performances. The visual arts galleries will incorporate display space for traditional visual art as well as interactive and digital forms and will exhibit both temporarily donated and university-owned artwork.

The space will also be suitable for interactive and distance-learning activities and will further facilitate collaborations with the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, to include exhibitions and educational outreach opportunities.

The Center for Creative Technologies in the Arts will be housed in new space as well as renovated space in Schultz Hall. The center, a technological incubator, laboratory, and studio setting to be sued to explore the many intersections of art, education, and technology, will enhance public education at the primary, secondary, undergraduate, and graduate education levels.

The center will include the Collaborative Performance Lab that will provide a venue for exploration for the visual and performance arts using the latest interactive technology.

Construction of the facility will begin this fall and is scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2013. The center's design was led by the globally renowned architectural firm, Snøhetta, winner of the international competition to create a museum pavilion at the World Trade Center site in New York City. Joining Snøhetta on the project are STV Architects, with offices in Fairfax; Holder Construction Co., construction manager-at-risk, with offices in Herndon; Arup, a global engineering and acoustics firm with corporate offices in New York City; and Theatre Projects Consultants, headquartered in Norwalk, Conn.

Progress Changes Name to Chocklett Press

Progress Press in Roanoke has changed its name to Chocklett Press, an homage to founder A.L. Chocklett Sr., who began a small print shop in his home in 1935.

A press release from Chocklett Press says, "Our new Web site and brand are very different from what you’ve seen from us before. To read about our history, discover how we work, to see some of the folks you talk to every day, and check out our impressive portfolio go here."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Thomas Becher Speaks to Writers

Thomas Becher talked to participants of the Writers Workshop series at Roanoke’s Center-in-the-Square Tuesday. A solid crowd of twenty-one writers listened to Becher (president of Roanoke-based tba, a public relations and advertising firm), and his tips on marketing your work by leveraging PR and social media. The workshop series is a program by The Arts Council of the Blue Ridge and sponsored by the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference and Valley Business FRONT.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

NCTC Award Nominees Announced

The NewVa Corridor Technology Council (NCTC) has selected nominees for the 2010 TechNite Awards. Winners in five categories will be recognized at the 11th annual TechNite Awards Banquet on April 7 at The Inn at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

The nominees are:

Rising Star Award

Keraderm LLC; InteractiveGIS Inc.; AC&E Inc.; Modea; Nicus Software Inc.; Smart College Visit Inc.; NetVentures Corporation; ABS Technology Architects; MiserWare Inc.; JPI; Interactive Achievement Inc.; Knowledge NoteBook; Handshake 2.0; 2D Array; TORC Technologies LLC.

Entrepreneurial Award

Anne Clelland, Handshake 2.0; Ken Maready, Hutchison Law Group; David Catalano & Aaron Herrington, Modea; Pat Matthews, Rackspace; Vinod Chachra, VTLS Inc.; Jonathan Hagmaier, Interactive Achievement Inc.; Tracy Wilkins, TechLab Inc.; Richmond Dugger III, UXB International Inc.; Brett Malone, Top Gear Consulting; Marty Muscatello, CCS-Inc.

NewVa Leadership Award

Henry Bass, Automation Creations Inc.; Gordie Zeigler, SyCom Technologies Inc.; David Danco, Delta Dental of Virginia; David Ayares, Revivicor Inc.; Doug Juanarena, GenTek Ventures; Sam English, CIE Partners; Advance Auto Parts; Jay Foster, SoftSolutions Inc.; Allan Tsang, 88Owls Inc.

Innovation Award

Whitman, Requart and Associates LLP; Design Nine Incl; DevelopEase LLC; Interactive GIS Inc.; Rackspace; NewCity; Breakell Inc.; The Coaches Console; Aegisound LLC/Adaptive Technologies Inc.; Maxtena Inc.; TMEIC-GE; VTLS Inc.; UXB International Inc.; Delta Dental of Virginia Inc.; TranSecurity LLC.;Abokia Inc.; Trane Inc.; Advance Auto Parts; Flypaper Inc. Revivicor Inc.

Educator Award

Dale Vipperman, Christiansburg High School; Steve Franco, Glenvar High School; Matthew Rezac, Shawsville Middle School; Michael A. Beamer, Ranoke County Schools; Kelly Viars Ratliff, Salem City Schools; Delta Dental of Virginia; James Irby, Montgomery County Public Schools; Burton Center for Engineering; James Struzinsky, Roanoke County Schools; Karen Busher, Colonial Elementary School; Ferri Lockhart, Roanoke City Public Schools; Angela Charboneau, Roanoke City Public Schools. Virtual Virginia.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

KnowledgeWorks Summit Set in Early April

VT KnowledgeWorks will present the two-day Second Annual Entrepreneurship Summit April 7 and 8 at The Inn at Virginia Tech and Skelton Conference Center in Blacksburg. The workshop is designed for prospective company founders, entrepreneurs launching or re-vamping a business, growing companies seeking expansion capital, and individuals interested in investing in early-stage companies.

The first day of the summit will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and includes the finals of two Business Concept Competitions, a Technology Showcase featuring the latest regional high-tech companies, and several business seminars. The Business Concept Competitions showcases students and entrepreneurs throughout Virginia and western North Carolina as they test their business concepts before a panel of faculty and local business leaders. The winning team
receives a $5,000 cash prize.

The winner of the Open Competition receives business acceleration services at VT KnowledgeWorks. Both first place teams also receive summer workspace in the VT Corporate Research Center to develop their ideas further.

The Entrepreneurship Summit extends into another full day on April 8 when five ready-to-fund companies will present before a panel of angel investors. The Open Angel Forum is a live pitch session providing a unique opportunity to undersstand how capital is raised, with real companies and investors. The five presenting companies are, LimbGear, Maxtena, NewCityLabs, and RRx. Also on April 8, John May, managing partner of the New Vantage Group, will lead a session on the Valuation of Early-Stage Ventures.

Over the last 20 years, May has been an advisor to, or a general partner of, five early-stage venture capital funds, including the UK-based Seraphim Capital formed in 2006, and is the co-author of Every Business Needs an Angel (Crown Business: 2001).

Some of the other speakers are Bob Flores, former CTO of the Central Intelligence Agency; Steven Rogers, serial internet entrepreneur and founder of Cryptek, Objective Communications, Cetacean Networks, Rivulet Communications and Centripetal Networks; Pat Matthews, founder of and General Manager of Rackspace Apps; and Mike Drzal, attorney aat LeClairRyan.

Register online here. Fees are $30 for April 7 and $50 for April 8. Call

Ground Broken for L-G Imaging Center

HCA's Victor Giovanetti addresses the gathered as the shovels await the ground-breaking.^

Karen Waldron framed by a bulldozer.^

Andy Kelderhouse (left) of Waldron Homes and Nancy May of HCA listen to Giovanetti.^

Karen Waldron addresses the gathered in front of the Daleville Town Center.^

Television covers the ground-breaking.^

(Double-click on photos for larger view.)


The Daleville Town Center continues to march slowly toward making "town" meaningful in its development. Officials from developer Fralin & Waldron, Botetourt County and HCA were on hand at mid-day today to break ground for a $5 million, $19,564 square foot building that will be home to a Lewis-Gale outpatient imaging center and physician practice.

It is a facility about which developer Karen Waldron said, "From the time Fralin & Waldron envisioned the Daleville Town Center, medical services have been seen as a need and an opportunity." HCA Southwest Virginia President Victor Giovanetti said the facility "offers what patients and their physicians are now expecting in healthcare services: highly advanced technology from a convenient, easily-accessible location."

Daleville Town Center will mix residential--and environmentally friendly--housing with shopping and other services for a growing section of Botetourt County in a town-like setting.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Tech Prof's Study Shows Derivatives Widely Used

Yong Chen: “Derivatives users engage less in risk shifting.”^

A study by an assistant professor of finance at Virginia Tech reveals that 70 percent of the more than 5,000 hedge funds he examined in a recent 12-year period use derivatives, those “financial weapons of mass destruction” that have been and blamed for catastrophic losses and bankruptcies.

Yong Chen’s new research counters the popular perception of derivatives as dangerous tools and investments. In a study to be published in the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Chen, who teaches at the Pamplin College of Business, investigates how derivatives are used by hedge funds and focuses on the relationship between derivatives use and hedge funds’ risk-taking behavior.

Despite the widespread use of derivatives by hedge funds, Chen says, little is known about their effects on fund risks and performance. How do derivatives users differ from nonusers with respect to fund risks and performance? Do hedge funds that use derivatives demonstrate a greater propensity for risk shifting? Are derivatives-using funds more likely to fail?

“Such questions, and their answers, are very important to investors, lenders, and regulators.” Examining more than 5,000 hedge funds during 1994-2006, Chen found that 70 percent of them trade derivatives. On average, those that do so showed lower fund risks (as measured by fund return volatility, average market exposure, and market exposure during market downturns or extreme market events).

“Overall, the evidence does not suggest that derivatives use by hedge funds leads to more risk-taking.”

His findings would be of broad interest, he says, given the current concern about the risk-taking activities of hedge funds and other quasi-bank institutions among lenders, investors, and regulators, who are seeking to increase government oversight of hedge funds.

“In the past two decades,” Chen says, “derivative markets and the hedge fund industry and have experienced explosive growth and wielded increasing influence on the market and economy.” Deriving their value from other assets, derivatives are financial instruments that allow investors to speculate on the future price of an asset — commodities or shares, for example — without buying the underlying asset.

Developed to allow investors to hedge, or insure against, risks in financial markets, derivatives such as futures, options, and swaps, have become investments in their own right. Hedge funds, which use aggressive strategies to maximize returns in managing investments of wealthy private investors or institutions, have become major players in derivative markets, Chen says. “The pervasive use of derivatives by hedge funds stands in sharp contrast to mutual funds,” he notes, citing one study that found that only about 20 percent of mutual funds use derivatives.

The high-risk image of derivatives, Chen notes, resulted from a number of spectacular financial failures, all of which involved derivatives trading: the bankruptcy of Orange County, Calif., in 1994; the collapse of British-owned Barings Bank in 1995; the fall of U.S. hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management in 1998; the failure of another U.S. hedge fund, Amaranth, in 2006; and the huge losses of French bank Société Générale in 2008.

It was legendary investor Warren Buffet who called derivatives “financial weapons of mass destruction.” Depending on the purpose — hedging or speculation — the use of derivatives may be associated with lower or higher fund risk, Chen said. “Although it cannot be ruled out that some hedge funds use derivatives to speculate on asset prices,” he says, “the overall evidence is more consistent with risk-management-motivated use of derivatives.”

Chen’s study found that “derivatives users engage less in risk shifting,” the practice in which funds performing poorly in the first half of a given year tend to increase portfolio risk in hopes of catching up in the second half, while funds performing well try to lock in their returns by lowering risk. Derivatives users, he adds, are also less likely to liquidate during market downturns.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Virginia Tech Engineering Small Disaster Helicopter

Tech's Kevin Kochersberger with the helicopter.^

Students at Virginia Tech’s Unmanned Systems Laboratory are perfecting an autonomous helicopter designed to fly into American cities blasted by a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb. The helicopter is roughly six feet long and weighs 200 pounds.

The helicopter is designed to enter an American city after a nuclear attack in order to detect radiation levels, map, and photograph damage. “It’s for a worst-case scenario,” says project leader Kevin Kochersberger, of the College of Engineering (director of the Virginia Tech Unmanned Systems Laboratory).

Kochersberger and his team of grad students re-engineered a remote-controlled Yamaha helicopter to fly in fully autonomous mode. They also created flight control software that will direct the helicopter to radioactive sources on its own accord.

To carry out various missions, the researchers outfitted the helicopter with various “plug-and-play payloads” as the vehicle’s weight capacity is limited. The payloads are boxes that fit under the helicopter’s main body, carrying devices that would detect radiation levels in the atmosphere and on the ground, and take video and still images of damage.

One payload is unique: A miniature tray-like robot on treads that can be launched via a tether wire from the helicopter to collect evidence. The helicopter would hover over the robot, and pull it back via the wire. A student team is building this robot, which will boast not only “chunk” sampling capability, but also a miniature vacuum which could suck up dust and dirt.

It is expected that the helicopter will have night vision capabilities, and enhanced imaging technologies that improve vision through smoke and fog as the project progresses.

The project, already funded at $735,000 with an additional $650,000 allocated for 2010, is overseen by the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency and spearheaded by the Department of Energy’s Savannah River National Laboratory. Plans call for the helicopters to be mission-ready in three years.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Carilion-Spectrum Merger Final

Spectrum Laboratory Network and Carilion Labs have finalized their merger, creating a new, regional laboratory company serving 37 hospitals and 14,000 physicians in eight states. Spectrum-Carilion becomes one of the 10 largest laboratory companies in the US, offering a full range of service to clients, including comprehensive clinical, anatomic pathology and esoteric testing services.

The merger follows the purchase of Spectrum by Welsh, Carson, Anderson and Stowe, the majority owner of the Spectrum-Carilion. Carilion Clinic owns 33 percent of the new company. Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based Novant Health is also a minority owner.

David Weavil, a 30-year veteran of the laboratory industry will serve as the new company’s CEO. Bud Thompson, former president of Carilion Labs, will serve as executive VP of administration and and hospital relations.

“The merger of these two companies creates exciting opportunities to further advance service and quality for our clients,” says Thompson.

The company is jointly headquartered in Greensboro and Roanoke and will be re-named later this year.

Virginia Tech to Establish Campus in India

S.K. De Datta: "An international strategic plan that envisions centers in all regions of the world."

Virginia Tech has been welcoming Indian students for years and now it hopes the tables will be turned. Tech is taking a significant step toward establishing a new campus overseas through the execution of an agreement with a large private sector group.

The proposed Virginia Tech, India campus will be located on at least 30 acres in the state of Tamil Nadu in southeast India initially encompassing a 70,000-square-foot campus facility. Virginia Tech has a presence on five continents. The most developed centers are in Switzerland and the Dominican Republic.

Master’s and Ph.D. programs are planned for approximately 300 students in engineering and the sciences. The institution – called Virginia Tech MARG Swarnabhoomi, India – fulfills Virginia Tech’s desire to have a presence in India with ample land for future growth and proximity to a major metropolitan city.

The proposed campus will be located within a two-hour drive of Chennai (formerly known as Madras), India’s fourth largest city and the capital of Tamil Nadu. “This is a historic moment for Virginia Tech,” President Charles W. Steger says. “Virginia Tech, India will create a place in India where engineers, students, and high tech science professionals from the United States and India will work together and learn from each other. Together, they will create things that none of them could do alone. Equally important, I envision this campus as a springboard to further partnerships with the private sector as well as research institutes throughout India and south Asia.”

“[Virginia Tech], India contributes to Virginia Tech’s becoming a truly global university,” says S.K. De Datta, associate vice president for international affairs. “We are committed to an international strategic plan that envisions centers in all regions of the world. We believe this strategy is vital to educating our students, preparing them for the global job market, and enriching our faculty.”

The agreement represents more than three years of research and preparation on the part of a high-level team involving Steger, representatives of several of Virginia Tech’s academic colleges, and John E. Dooley, vice president for Outreach and International Affairs. The enterprise is expected to draw on Virginia Tech research resources such as the Institute for Critical Technology and Applied Science and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. The Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech also will be involved.

“Learning, discovery and engagement – the three pillars of scholarship at the Blacksburg campus – will be in force at [Virginia Tech], India,” Dooley said. “Graduates with master’s and Ph.D. degrees from [Virginia Tech] India will help fulfill the country’s need for quality faculty members to teach in ever-expanding engineering and science colleges in India.” Virginia Tech will manage the campus and design its academic programs, research facilities, and labs. The university will also promote the idea of education abroad at the new campus and arrange for faculty exchanges.

The new campus is expected to become the site of high tech seminars, workshops, and symposia. On Tuesday, De Datta and Dooley are scheduled to accompany MARG Limited representatives including G.R.K. Reddy, MARG Limited’s chairman and managing director, to Danville to tour the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research as a potential model for the new campus. “We want to see if they like the architecture and design,” De Datta says. “The size is about right.”

In 2007, a government commission in India urged that the country increase its number of universities from 350 to 1,500 by 2015. In 1999, Virginia Tech became the first U.S. institution to offer a degree program in India – a master’s in information technology offered in conjunction with the S.P. Jain Institute. Harvard, Yale, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Georgia Institute of Technology are also pursuing centers in India.

(From press release.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Tech Makes Switch to Healthy Flour

Virginia Tech’s Dining Services has introduced T2 flour, which is high in whole grains and makes some foods in the student dining centers more nutritious. T1 is a 1:1 replacement for traditional white flour with 30 percent Ultragrain and 70 percent refined flour. T2 has 55 percent Ultragrain and 45 percent refined flour.

T2 is being used in breads, rolls, pastries, and assorted cookies. The flour use is a response to student requests for a wider variety of nutritious options. During the fall 2009 semester, the T2 flour was piloted in various bakery items and taste-tested by student employees and managers.

The brand-new baking ingredient consists of white flour with whole-wheat properties, so the texture and flavor of the final products remain unchanged, yet the high whole grain content helps provide students with more fiber in their diet.

Says Ted Faulkner, associate director of Dining Services, “A diet rich in fiber has many benefits.” University cooks hope they hope to incorporate T2 flour in fresh pizza dough, a popular item with students. “By making minor adjustments to some of our existing bakeshop recipes we were able to convert to T2 flour. The switch was easy,” says Kendall Holliday, pastry chef at Southgate Food Processing.

Items including T2 flour can be found in the bread bowls at Owens Food Court; the baguettes from Blue Ridge BBQ at Hokie Grill & Co.; the bread bowls and the oatmeal bar at Deet’s Place; the cookies at Vet Med Café; and in the donuts, cake, pastries, and the Yes To Go products at DXpress, Hokie Grill & Co., and Shultz Express.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Tech-Carilion Research Names Director

Michael J. Friedlander (right) of the Baylor College of Medicine has been named founding executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute in Roanoke, effective June 1.

Friedlander will have responsibility for development of a research strategy, recruitment of research teams, development of collaborative translational research programs, and partnership of the institute with the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, existing Virginia Tech research programs, Carilion Clinic, and other research partners, says Virginia Tech senior VP and provost Mark McNamee.

Friedlander has a long and varied medical background and he has an international reputation for research in the area of neuroscience, including synaptic plasticity, brain development and traumatic brain injury. He has received more than 40 funded projects to support his research activities over the past several decades and serves on the editorial boards of four different scientific journals.

Says Friedlander, “The Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute offers an ideal environment to develop one of the nation’s premiere research initiatives to address some of the major health problems in Virginia and the United States. This initiative represents a unique collaboration between a leading research university and premiere healthcare system that, together, will build broad multi- and interdisciplinary biomedical and bio-behavioral research programs.”

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Roanoke Bike Builder Wins National Award

Roanoke bicycle builder Aaron Dykstra (above) has won a major national award: Best New Framebuilder at the North American Handmade Bicycle show. Dykstra operates Roanoke's Six-Eleven Bicycle Company in Grandin Village. He studied under the well-known bike builder Koichi Yamaguchi and hand cuts and miters every tube, ensuring precision in his frames. Dykstra builds frames to suit the riders buying them from a carefully selected combination of tubes and materials. The bikes come with a lifetime guarantee.

Says Dykstra on his Web site, "From a young age bicycles have been enormously important to me, much more so than other childhood playthings. I grew up hearing a romantic narrative from my grandparents about the time they spent touring Europe by bicycle after World War II. With photos, slides and a meticulous travel journal, my grandfather would paint stories of the mountainous terrain and quaint little villages they visited while touring. Though my grandparents are gone, those stories continue to motivate me."

His story continues: "In my early teens I started racing, and at 15 I got my first job in the bicycle industry in a small local bike shop in Roanoke,. I became increasingly involved with road and mountain bike racing and spent the majority of my teen years riding on the incredibly gorgeous roads and trails that Southwestern Virginia has to offer.

"At 17 I left Roanoke to join the Air Force. During my technical training in San Angelo, TX, I purchased an old Bianchi track bike and began spending what little free time I had riding the long lonely roads of western Texas. When I was finally stationed at Langley AFB in Hampton, VA, I was able to start riding and seriously training again. But that would be short lived.

"After 9-11, the Fighter Squadron I was assigned to got deployed to a forward location in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. In the midst of my long desert deployment, I began thinking seriously about framebuilding. Being around and working with fighter jets all day really motivated the mechanical side of my brain. I have such distinct memories of leaning up against an F-16 wheel and sketching out frame designs on a pad of paper. Out on the flightline under the merciless sun I realized I needed to follow my dreams in the bicycle industry as soon as my enlistment was up.

"When I got out of the military, I moved to Brooklyn, NY and eventually got a job as a mechanic at a small but incredibly busy bike shop. Commuting by bike became second nature, and the urge to race again soon followed. After a few years and a few too many close calls while riding in NYC traffic, some friends in Chicago lured me to the Midwest. I took a job working for a cycling advocacy non-profit and soon got introduced to the velodrome, where I became reacquainted with track bikes. The Chicago cycling community is truly one of the best on earth. In 2006 a bunch of friends got together and formed a race team we called Team Pegasus.

"It was an absolute blast riding, training with friends, and racing weekly at the track during the summer. Between getting married, getting back into racing, and the life long friendships forged, my time spent in Chicago will always be some of the best times of my life. But as anyone who has endured the Chicago winters will tell you, summer always comes to an end.

"In 2008 my wife was offered a job in Roanoke and I knew it was my chance to make professional framebuilding a reality. We purchased a small house in Grandin Village and I started showing my wife all the good rides in Roanoke that I knew from my past.

"Just a week after closing on our house, I flew to Colorado where I was extremely fortunate to be able to study the art of framebuilding under master Japanese builder Koichi Yamaguchi. The minute I picked up the torch, I knew I had made the right decision. I spent the following year honing my skills with the torch, holed up in our small basement with two tanks and a whole lot of steel tubing. And thus, Six-Eleven Bicycle Co. was born."

Regional Commission Gets Energy Grant

The Roanoke Valley-Alleghany Regional Commission (RVARC) will be awarded $277,751 to develop a pilot energy efficiency and conservation program in the Roanoke Valley and Alleghany Highlands. The Regional Commission’s proposal was one of 26 applications that were selected for funding from over 150 submissions that came from all regions of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Commission’s new energy efficiency program will employ retired engineers and scientists to provide confidential and non-regulatory pollution prevention and energy efficiency assessments to businesses and institutions in the region.

Volunteer assessors will identify utility cost-cutting measures through on-site energy and water efficiency auditing, strategic energy management planning, technical assistance, solid waste reduction, and project implementation guidance. No-cost technical assistance and training will be provided to industries, businesses, and public facilities, including K-12 schools and local governments. The program will be modeled on successful programs throughout the nation that harness the expert knowledge of retired technical professionals, such as North Carolina’s Waste Reduction Partner’s (WRP) program.

It is anticipated that the new Regional Commission program will begin accepting request for energy assessments by Fall 2010. Several of Virginia’s Planning District Commissions played a vital role in reviewing applications and will continue to manage this program as it moves into the implementation stage.

The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy partnered with the state’s 21 planning districts in order to take advantage of their well-established administrative, project management, and technical support capacity as well as their communications systems and channels with local governments and the local business and non-profit communities.

The funding is provided by the Virginia Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block (EECBG) program, which was established to help local governments, cities and counties implement strategies to encourage energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives. The EECBG program was initiated as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

StellarOne picks Smoot as head of board

Raymond D. Smoot Jr. (far right) of the Virginia Tech foundation, has been elected chairman of the board of directors of StellarOne Corporation, following the retirement of William P. Heath Jr. (right).

Smoot has served as Chief Operating Officer and Secretary-Treasurer of the Virginia Tech Foundation since October, 2003 and is responsible for management of assets in excess of $1 billion including the university’s $500 million endowment, the Virginia Tech Corporate Research Center, the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, and the River Course, a Pete Dye golf course.

He is also director and treasurer of the university’s technology transfer company and its bookstores and related operations. Smoot is a native of Lynchburg and has previously served as Chairman of StellarOne Bank and director of StellarOne Corporation.

Active in community affairs, he serves as director and investment committee chair of Carilion Clinic, and director of Warm Hearth (a non-profit retirement community), RGC Resources, Inc., and the Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine.