Thursday, August 26, 2010

Anna Lawson, Marshall Hahn in JA's Hall of Fame

Junior Achievement of Southwest Virginia has named two new laureates for the 20th annual Southwest Virginia Business Hall of Fame. They are Anna Logan Lawson, former owner and director of Frigid Freeze and T. Marshall Hahn, former president of Virginia Tech University and former President of Georgia-Pacific.

The induction is Monday, Nov. 1 at the Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center. Tickets are $100 each.

Lawson, 66, spent 12 years on the board of Frigid Freeze Foods, a frozen food distributorship in Salem, where she acted as corporate secretary for most of her tenure. She is a founding organizer/director of Valley Financial Corporation and Valley Bank, where she chaired the ALCO Oversight Committee for 15 years, and now chairs the Human Resources and Nominating Committees.

In the non-profit arena, she has held writing and editorial positions at Hollins College and the Kettering Foundation in Ohio.

She has served on several non-profit boards, including four which she had chaired in recent years, including Total Action Against Poverty, Hollins University, The Nature Conservancy-Virginia Chapter and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. She has served as a director or trustee of Virginia Environmental Endowment, Virginia Land Conservation Foundation, The Nature Conservancy-Virginia Chapter, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, Art Museum of Western Virginia (Taubman Museum), and the Rice Center for Environmental Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Lawson received her B.A. and M.A. degrees from Hollins and Ph.D from the University of Virginia.

Born in 1926, Thomas Marshall Hahn Jr. was President of Tech from 1962 to 1974 and Director of Georgia Pacific from 1983 to 1993. The Kentucky native graduated from the University of Kentucky in 1945 and became a physicst for U.S. Naval Ordnance Laboratory. He earned his Ph.D. at MIT in 1949 and served there as a a research assistant at MIT, beginning in 1947.

He worked for UK as a physics professor then, in 1954, went to Tech as head of the Department of Physics. He was the leading force in establishing a doctoral program in nuclear engineering physics at VPI, and in the acquisition of the nuclear reactor simulator that was put into operation in 1957.

Hahn was instrumental in the Virginia Tech's transition from a largely military and overwhelmingly white and male technical institute focused on agriculture and engineering to a coeducational, multiracial research university with a thriving college of arts and sciences and burgeoning graduate program. During his tenure Virginia Tech tripled in size. Student unrest during the Vietnam War targeted Hahn and he served until 1974.

He became chief executive officer of the Georgia-Pacific Corp. Hahn's tenure as CEO of Georgia Pacific from 1983 to 1993 included the boom years for the paper industry and the GNN takeover. The latter was one of Hahn's strategic decisions to build the paper side of Georgia Pacific's business.

He was chairman of the Salvation Army National Capitol and Virginia Divisional advisory board, 1972-74; chairman, Virginia Cancer Crusade, 1972; member, Virginia State Board of Agriculture and Commerce, 1962-74; member, board of visitors, Ferrum Junior College, 1966-74; cresident, Southern Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges; and member, Governor of Virginia's Commission on Status of Women, 1964-66.

His directorships also included the board of control of Southern Regional Education Board; First National Exchange Bank of Virginia; The Lane Company; Dominion Bankshares, Inc.; Roanoke Electric Steel Corporation, and Shenandoah Life Insurance Company.
Established in 1990 by the Board of Directors of Junior Achievement of Southwest Virginia, the Business Hall of Fame honors leaders of the free enterprise system who serve as business role models for our region’s youth.

Laureates for induction into the Southwest Virginia Business Hall of Fame are chosen based on their outstanding leadership in the free enterprise system and business success as well as contributions and involvement in the community. A committee of their peers, distinguished business leaders in our area, selects laureates. Inductees must be retired or no longer occupy the position in which their principal business contributions were made.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Citizens To Use High Speed Network Funds

Citizens Telephone Cooperative (above) in Floyd has been given a $9.2 million dollar government grant to to extend its open-access fiber network into unserved and under-served communities in the region.

The project, New River Valley-Regional Open Access Network or NRV-ROAN, is an $11.5 million dollar project to construct 186 miles of middle mile fiber with access in remote communities with the purpose of providing access for economic development, research, education, emergency response, and health care.

The grant proposal was a joint effort between Citizens and the New River Valley Network Wireless Authority (NRVNWA). This “middle-mile” project traverses a seven county region, including Wythe, Pulaski, Floyd, Giles, Montgomery, Roanoke and Botetourt. Initially this 186-mile route will be 200 Gbps and include eight primary interconnection points that are strategically positioned to provide service to unserved and/or under-served areas and to tie into other open access networks. This will allow wireless and other internet service providers to offer services to areas where service was previously unavailable; or areas that were determined to be economically infeasible.

“The impact and opportunities this joint venture will provide on these rural communities by allowing them to gain access to high quality, high speed, and affordable networks is paramount,” says Dennis Reece, assistant GM of Citizens. Adds Congressman Rick Boucher, “Our work to build Southwest Virginia’s broadband infrastructure has borne fruit. For example in the spring, I announced that DIRECTV would locate a virtual call center in our region as a result of the region’s extensive broadband network, and that center now employs 137 Southwest Virginia residents.

"The federal funds announced today represent another major step forward in advancing our economic development opportunities by expanding our information technology infrastructure”.

Because of this new expansion, more than 50 community anchor institutions including Virginia Tech, Radford University, New River Community College, public safety entities, healthcare facilities and government facilities will have access to speeds between 10 Mbps and 10 Gbps through Citizens’ extended open-access network. Entities such as Radford University will now have diverse routing, significantly decreasing the chances of network loss and New River Community College’s two campuses will now be interconnected, as will four public school systems: Pulaski, Giles, Montgomery and Wythe.

Frank Moose Jeweler To Close; Jennings To Open New Shop

After reflecting, Geoff Jennings decided changes were in order.^

The Frank L. Moose awning has been a First Street fixture for years. Jennings (below) at work.^


"I'll be able to ride my bike to work now," said Geoff Jennings, looking ahead to early next year when his new venture opens in Raleigh Court. Frank L. Moose Jeweler, which he has owned for more than a decade, will cease to operations after 83 years in business at the end of December.

Frank L. Moose Jeweler was opened by Jennings’ grandfather in 1928 and three generations of the family have worked in its downtown location. The lease will end in February 2011 and Jennings decided not to renew it.

“Our children are all employed in various vocations without plans to come into the family business,” says Jennings, who is president. Jennings' wife, Susan, is director of Roanoke City's art program. Jennings, a physical fitness devotee, is excited about the prospect of getting to work without a car and of working in a place where bulldozers and construction workers aren't busy all around him.

"Three years ago, the construction in this area nearly killed us," he says, referring to the rehabilitation of a major building on his street. The area has been almost constantly under some kind of construction for several years and continues on Campbell Ave. Construction is pending on First Street as two major new projects are considered at this moment. Jennings says he is worried that John Garland's new project next door will require a construction dumpster as his store is trying to have a close-out sale.

“After 38 years in the family business, this was really a quality of life decision for me and although it saddens me to close the business, it will afford me the time for an exciting new venture.

Jennings will open a smaller jewelry store in the Grandin Road area in March 2011. The new store will be named F. Geoffrey LTD. The shop will feature estate and high-end consignment jewelry pieces, as well as sterling silver jewelry and hand-blown glass from Fenton Art Glass Company.

Two current staff from Frank L. Moose Jeweler will work in the new shop, which will be at 1919 Westover Avenue.

"With this shop, I can carry on the family tradition of the quality and integrity that Frank L. Moose Jeweler has provided for 83 years, says Jennings. He will hold a private reception and launching a going out of business sale on September 24.

"You’ll have the first opportunity to purchase at a special price,” he says. A going out of business sale will continue through December.

Frank L. Moose Jeweler has been owned and operated by members of the Moose family since 1928.  Frank L. Moose started the business after gaining a great deal of experience in the jewelry business.  He passed the major operation of the store to his son-in-law, Hal Jennings, in 1949, but remained CEO until his death at age 97. 

Hal Jennings became president, choosing to pass up an opportunity to play professional baseball with the New York Giants in order to stay in Roanoke and work with his father-in-law.  He was president until 1998, when his son, Geoffrey, took over the position, carrying on the family legacy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Trinity To Expand Rocky Mount Plant

Trinity Packaging Corporation, a manufacturer of food service and industrial plastic bag products, plans a multi-million dollar investment in an additional facility in Rocky Mount that will create 25 new jobs over the next 36 months, bringing employment to 100.

The company has purchased the former Erath Veneer building, which is adjacent to the facility Trinity has operated since 2002 in the Franklin County-Rocky Mount Industrial Park. The company’s investment will include the building purchase, new equipment and expanded infrastructure.

Trinity Packaging, headquartered in Armonk, N.Y., was founded in 1917 as Trinity Bag and Paper Company. In 1979, Trinity entered into the plastics market and throughout the 1990s expanded its plastics product offerings to include retail store bags, mailing envelopes, food service bags and lawn and garden bags.

Trinity operates plants in Lewistown, Pa., Pueblo, Colo. Virginia competed against Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin for this expansion. "Our people are our greatest asset and the work ethic of people in the Rocky Mount area is outstanding," said Dan Mills, Trinity’s vice president of operations.

“Trinity Packaging’s success with its Rocky Mount facility helped drive the decision to expand here,” said Charles Wagner, chairman of the Franklin County Board of Supervisors. “In these tough economic times, adding jobs has never been more important. But Trinity Packaging’s decision is also a testament to the excellent business climate in Franklin County and the Commonwealth.”

The expansion will allow Trinity Packaging to increase the capacity of its Rocky Mount plant by hiring additional production workers for its printing and extrusion processes, as well as expanding space for new equipment, raw materials and storage. The company will begin hiring later this year and will work through the Virginia Employment Commission.

The company will benefit from a state and local incentive package, which includes a $100,000 Governor’s Opportunity Fund grant and $100,000 in Tobacco Region Opportunity Funds , in addition to local government grants, training funds and rail access funds.

Friday, August 13, 2010

VWCC Breaking Ground for First New Building in Ages

Virginia Western Community plans to break ground Monday August 16 on a new 68,000 square foot, LEED-certified academic building, its first new building in nearly two decades.

The Center for Science and Health Professions building will house science and health professions classes currently located in Anderson Hall. The Center will feature building-wide access to high tech features, expanded classroom space and state-of-the-art clinical and skills labs.

The Center will also have a dental clinic, offering routine oral exams and x-rays to the public, on the building’s first floor. This is the first new academic building construction Virginia Western will have built since the early 1990s.

“This is one of the most important additions to the Virginia Western learning experience we’ve made in quite some time,” says Dr. Robert Sandel, president of Virginia Western. “Our science and health students will take advantage of the newest technologies and clinical settings – ensuring their skills and knowledge make them competitive in today’s marketplace.”

Completion of the building is scheduled for early 2012. Barton Malow and CJMW Architects will manage the construction.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Another Downtown Project for John Garland

209 First Street is in for some renovations.^

Grafitti covers some of the surface at 209 First St.^

John Garland of Spectrum Design in Roanoke is continuing his quest to renovate downtown Roanoke. His newest effort will likely be at 209 First Street, directly behind the renovated State and City Building and a former part of the Leggett Department Store.

Garland has signed a purchase agreement to buy the four-story property from Jack Barbour for $350,000. The contract would be final in 30 days if it goes through. He plans to create three condos on the upper floors with the potential living/working space with studios and a first floor for business, he says.

He has scheduled an open house at 16 West Church (the old S&W Cafeteria) Sept. 9 to show off the newly renovated space for Oasis Chiropractic Clinic and as a PR event for the remaining spaces.

“We are almost there with Carilion and Zoom, but unfortunately they cannot make a commitment until Sept. 10,” he says. “We are moving ahead with eight apartments on the third and part of the second floors.”

The first floor will be retail space and he Garland has envisioned something of a City Market Building, but he has “no takers yet on the first floor, but we have not been pushing. The existing market vendors were enticed with the $20K offer from the City of Roanoke if they returned and some are not coming back downtown.”

Tanglewood Mall To Become College Campus

Virginia's State Council of Higher Education has unanimously approved the establishment of a new Miller-Motte Technical College at a renovated Goody’s retail space in the Tanglewood Mall (right). The college will also use space on the lower-level, where both Crystal Cottage and Hayden Music used to reside. Both stores have relocated inside the mall in order to make room for Miller-Motte.

The stated mission of Miller-Motte is to “maximize educational opportunities through fundamental and specialized studies, as well as develop professional attitudes and awareness of contemporary business and technical practices,” according to its literature.

The new campus will be the 40th in Delta Career Education Corporation system and is slated to begin enrolling students in January 2011. At its peak, the new Tanglewood campus is expected to enroll nearly 600 full-time students.

Construction at the former Goody’s location should begin in late August and is expected to be open for operation by early December. The building will have spacious classrooms, well-equipped labs with state of the art technology and a cafĂ©-style student lounge.

Between the former Crystal Cottage, Hayden Music and Goody’s locations, Miller-Motte will occupy 27,866 square feet of classroom, lab and office space. Says Michael Soloway, Tanglewood Mall Marketing Manager, “Both Crystal Cottage and Hayden Music now have more advantageous spots inside the Mall, and we increase Mall traffic, which benefits all of our retail stores.”

There are already 15 other Miller-Motte campuses located throughout the Southeast. Established in Wilmington, N.C. in 1916, the Miller-Motte campus in Lynchburg has existed since 1929.

The schools are accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Take Me Out to The Ball Game ...

The Creekmore Law Firm’s annual trek to Salem Stadium for a baseball game took place in mid-August in the middle of a heat wave that had temperatures hovering near 100 degrees and even the air conditioned sky boxes couldn’t provide cool. Still, there was plenty of lively conversation. Here Dian Akers of the Blacksburg Partnership (from left, top photo), Heather Browning of the Town of Blacksburg and Martha Moore of Brambleton Deli watch the game and sip a little brew; James Creekmore (right, center photo) talks to Ken and Joy Dupin of IntoCare; and Mary and Jim Miller pose at the rail. Mary owns Interactive Design and Development.

Fishwick: A Man of Many Seasons

The temptation is to say that with the passing of John P. Fishwick (above) at 93, the last of some type of person has left us. But that's not true. He was a man who left a large footprint on the Roanoke Valley and it was not one forged on the sweat of others. He did his own sweating.

He got rich, but he never forgot that he was not always rich, that a lot of people never would even reach the level of subsistence and he remembered them. When Vic Thomas left the General Assembly a few years, he uttered the most memorable line of his life, "Don't forget them that don't have nothing." Vick was not an English professor. He was a humanitarian. Like Jack Fishwick.

Warner Dalhouse is quoted in today's local daily as saying, "A lot of people spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to pay as few taxes as possible. I remember Jack Fishwick saying, 'We live in America and it's one of the greatest privileges that we could hope for. I don't mind paying my share of the taxes and I'm not looking for ingenious ways to pay less.'"


Fishwick's stamp is all over this region and it will be there for a very long time. He was a man of his time, of this time and of the future. We have few of those. But they're not all gone and I don't think they ever will be. Jack Fishwick, I suspect, would agree with that.

(Virginia Tech photo.)

Monday, August 9, 2010

More Security from CCS in New Company

CCS-Inc. of Christiansburg has launched a new cyber security subsidiary, FoxGuard Solutions.FoxGuard provides the products and services needed to protect and maintain critical control systems in power generation and other critical infrastructure facilities.

Critical infrastructure is defined by the Department of Homeland Security as “the assets, systems, and networks, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, public health or safety, or any combination thereof.”

Power plants, water treatment facilities, and chemical operations are just a few examples of America’s critical infrastructure at risk of a cyber attack.

“These facilities, like most businesses and organizations, use computers to operate. However, due to intrusion risk, most do not connect to the Internet and are therefore unable to receive important software updates,” explains Steve Miko, VP of software. “FoxGuard offers its customers the tools needed to keep computers and supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems protected and up to date without ever having to plug in to outside sources.”

FoxGuard provides these updates or “patches” via offline media at regular intervals on a subscription basis. In addition, FoxGuard offers the hardware necessary for these facilities to keep operations up and running.

“FoxGuard is a result of the increasingly urgent needs of several of our customers in the power industry to protect and update control systems that are not connected to the Internet,” comments CCS-Inc.’s CEO and President Marty Muscatello. “We continually look for ways to solve more of our customers’ technology challenges.”

FoxGuard Solutions helps power industry customers comply with North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s (NERC) Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) guidelines through its services and documentation.

Strokes Up; Recognition of Signs Is Credited

Carilion Clinic, which has just won a Gold Seal of Approval from The Joint Commission for Primary Stroke Centers at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital (CRMH), has seen the number of patients being treated has almost doubled in the past 12 months.

“We don’t think this means that a lot more people are suddenly having strokes”, says Carilion Clinic Neurologist Dr. Sidney Mallenbaum, M.D., medical director of the stroke unit. “Rather, we’ve been able to identify more strokes, and get people in for treatment while the stroke is still treatable.” In June 2009, CRMH treated 43 emergency stroke patients.

In June 2010, the number of stroke patients jumped to 80, the highest of the past 12 months.
June capped a 12-month period that saw a significant increase in cases, beginning last December.

Carilion Clinic has been working towards improved stroke care for several months, starting with the “Know the Five” campaign for heart attack and stroke, educating the public about the signs of stroke and encouraging people to seek emergency treatment quickly.

Treatment options at Carilion Clinic include medication therapy to dissolve the clot causing the stroke, and an interventional therapy in which a device can actually pull a clot out of the brain.

“These treatments can often bring a remarkable recovery, with little or no lasting damage, if we can get the patient in for treatment quickly enough,” Mallenbaum says.

In June, CRMH received the Gold Seal of Approval from the Joint Commission as a Primary Stroke Center. The Gold Seal of Approval recognizes centers that make exceptional efforts to foster better outcomes for stroke care. Achievement of certification signifies that the services provided at CRMH have the critical elements to achieve long-term success in improving outcomes. Carilion’s Joint Commission certified Stroke Center includes an important program called “Stroke Alert.”

Similar to Carilion’s Heart Alert program, Stroke Alert coordinates the response and treatment of a stroke from the rescue squad to the hospital, and makes sure treatment occurs as quickly as possible. As part of Stroke Alert, Carilion continues to encourage the public to be vigilant for the signs of stroke, and call 911 immediately.

(Drawing from

Liberty Law Earns ABA Accrdeitation

Dean Matt Staver (left) with Jerry Falwell Jr.^

Lynchburg-based Liberty University School of Law was awarded full accreditation approval by the American Bar Association during its annual meeting in San Francisco. On August 5, the ABA Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar granted full approval to the law school.

The Council is recognized as the accrediting agency of law schools by the U.S. Department of Education. Liberty University School of Law opened in August 2004. A law school must complete a full academic year before it is eligible to apply for provisional approval by the ABA.

Now that the law school is fully approved, it will move forward with plans to launch degrees in addition to the JD. Some of the degrees in planning include various specialties in law (LL.M.), a master’s in Public Policy, and a Ph.D. in law. When implemented, the non-JD degrees will be both residential and online.

The School of Law applied for provisional approval in 2005 and was awarded provisional approval on February 13, 2006, only eighteen months after the first students arrived on campus. Liberty officials say that to their knowledge the approval took the shortest time that any law school in history had obtained provisional approval at that time. It is not possible to obtain provisional approval in a shorter time.

Provisional approval means the ABA has determined that the law school is in substantial compliance with all the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools. Provisional approval allows students to sit for the bar exam. Without provisional or full approval, students can graduate from law school with a Juris Doctor degree but, generally, are not eligible to take the bar exam.

Without the ability to take a bar exam, a person with a JD degree cannot practice law. A law school must be provisionally approved for at least two years before it is eligible to apply for full approval.

applied for full approval in March 2009. In October 2009, the ABA sent a full Site Team to the campus for three days to conduct a thorough review of the program of legal education. On June 24, 2010, Dean Mathew Staver, Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr., and Vice Chancellor and Acting Provost Dr. Ron Godwin appeared before the ABA Accreditation Committee in Washington, D.C., for a three-hour hearing to review the law school’s program.

Composed of 17 experts in legal education and public representatives plus certain ABA staff, the Accreditation Committee concluded that the law school met all the ABA Standards for Approval of Law Schools and recommended full approval. On August 5, 2010, Staver and Falwell appeared before the Council for the final round of hearings.

Comprised of 24 separate experts in legal education and public representatives, the Council voted to grant full accreditation approval to School of Law on its first application. Obtaining full approval is a rigorous process and indicates that the law school is in full compliance with all the ABA accrediting standards for law schools. There are only 200 provisionally or fully ABA approved law schools in the country.

The law school plans on launching study abroad programs. The locations include Israel, Europe and Asia. The law school is also considering an accelerated degree program for eligible students to obtain an undergraduate and law degree in six, rather than seven years, by combining undergraduate courses and courses from the school of law. This fall the law school and Liberty University will announce the dual degree program, which allows law students to obtain a master’s degree, along with their law degree, in less time when combined together. These degrees include the JD/MBA, JD/MDiv, JD/MAR, JD/MEd, JD/EdS, JD/EdD, and JD/MA-Human Services.

Falwell, a graduate of Harvard Law, says, “The accreditation approval of the school of law represents a significant milestone in the history of Liberty University. It is a giant step toward the fulfillment of Liberty’s mission ... The speed of the approval is a credit to the school of law and to the quality of its program. The law school has surpassed my father’s expectations, and, in just a few short years, has already begun to positively impact the culture and legal education.”

Woods Rogers Opens Charlottesville Office

Roanoke-based Woods Rogers, a law firm serving businesses and individuals across Virginia and elsewhere since 1893, is expanding to a new office in Charlottesville. The office, at 100 Tenth St., Suite 303, is led by partner Russell T. (“Rusty”) Schundler (right), a former Roanoke-based Woods Rogers attorney whose practice areas include mergers and acquisitions, securities and corporate finance.

Schundler returns to Woods Rogers after practicing the last three years at McGuire Woods in Charlottesville, and joins W. McIlwaine (“Mac”) Thompson, Jr. and Peter E. Rosden, who also are with Woods Rogers in Charlottesville. Schundler has represented businesses in a wide range of industries on transactions from formation through exit, including mergers and acquisitions, bank financings, contract negotiation, and formation and finance of start-up entities. He has also worked with private equity funds, venture capital funds and hedge funds with formation, offerings of interests to investors, and the review and negotiation of investments. Schundler practiced with Woods Rogers between 2001-2007. He is a 2001 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and also has a bachelor’s degree from UVa.

Active in the community, Schundler serves as a director for Jefferson Area CHIP, Inc., a director for the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council, and as a director for WorkSource Enterprises. With the expansion of its Charlottesville presence, the Roanoke-based firm is now able to offer clients in central Virginia a wide array of services and resources from its three other locations in Roanoke, Richmond and Danville.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Valley Computer Showroom Opens

Left to right: Alice Stoddard, Bill Jones, Kevin Boggess, Lisa Garst, Bill Wills, Deborah Goodwin, Rose Wills, Randy Foley

Valley Computer Service and Sales has opened its new showroom on East 4th Street in Salem.

Members of the community and the Chamber of Commerce joined owners, Bob and Rose Wills to celebrate the grand opening this week.

Clark Nexsen's New Office LEED Certified

Clark Nexsen's Roanoke lobby.^

Main work area at the renovated Clark Nexsen.^

The office renovation at Clark Nexsen, an architecture, engineering, interior design, planning, and landscape architecture firm in Roanoke has earned LEED-CI Certification through the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

The project combined the existing Clark Nexsen office with two adjacent office suites, creating a single space for the growing Roanoke office. Up-fitting space in a 1970’s-era high-rise posed several challenges, including working with dated HVAC and electrical systems. To achieve LEED Certification the project team used several design strategies to be energy efficient and environmentally responsible.

Strategies included specifying energy efficient light fixtures, providing individual task lamps at each workstation, maximizing the available natural daylight, and providing views to the outside from every workstation. EnergyStar rated appliances and office equipment where used whenever possible.

To assure high indoor air quality, the team used low-VOC construction materials including: no-VOC paints and adhesives, no added urea-formaldehyde wood products, and low-VOC carpet. The new furniture systems are cradle-to-cradle GREENGUARD certified.

To reduce the use of virgin materials in the construction of the project, the team specified recycled carpet tiles and other products with high recycled materials content. The lobby floor is a rapidly renewable bamboo product and the kitchen and support area floors are made of bio-based linoleum.

Of the many sustainable strategies, maintaining the location of the office in the heart of downtown Roanoke, was the most popular and fruitful. Its location provides ready access to public transportation and abundant amenities within easy walking distance.

Lora J. Katz is director of architecture for Clark Nexsen’s Roanoke office. Benjamin F. McCreary Nicole G. Hall were the leaders of the design team.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tech, GM To Create Tire Test Facility

Virginia Tech and General Motors will team up to create the the National Tire Research Center (NTRC), an advanced tire research and test facility in Southside Virginia.

The facility has a number of partners including Tech’s Transportation Institute, GM, Mechanical Engineering in Tech’s College of Engineering, the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research,the Southside Virginia community, and the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Relations Revitalization Commission.

Funding for the center will total $14 million with $5 million provided by GM, $5 million from the Tobacco Commission and $4 million from Virginia Tech. The NTRC will generate more than $12 million in testing and research expenditures within five years and create up to 183 new jobs in the local economy by 2020.

The NTRC will generate substantial new research and teaching opportunities for Virginia Tech faculty. The center will be located adjacent to Virginia International Raceway (VIR) in Halifax County, and will be used to supplement tire testing and development.

Says Virginia Tech President Charles Steger, “We believe that this national research center will enhance and expand areas of automotive research, and create tremendous economic activity in Southside Virginia. It will also develop new products that can save energy and improve the safety of motorists around the world."

Southside Virginia has an economy traditionally based in furniture and clothing manufacturing, tobacco farming and motorsports. Although the manufacturing and tobacco farming sectors have dramatically declined in recent years, motorsports and its associated automotive technologies have grown and there is opportunity for additional expansion.

The NTRC will be managed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute under the direction of Tom Dingus, director of the institute with Virginia Tech’s Department of Mechanical Engineering leading the technical effort and IALR providing additional local support.

FRONT Cover Story on Public Radio

Valley Business FRONT editor Dan Smith and writer writer Susan Ayers, who teamed up on the August cover story that features an in-depth look at residential and commercial real estate, were featured Tuesday on WVTF Public Radio in Roanoke in an interview with Beverly Amsler.

The wide-ranging conversation covered a number of real estate topics and gave some insight into how real estate professionals are changing their game from, as one suggested, "from a business to an artform."

You can hear the entire 15-minute interview here.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cover Story--Commercial Real Estate: Best of a Bad Situation

Stuart Meredith: “It appears that the economy has turned the corner."

Bob Copty: “Long term, our industry will experience some systematic changes as a result of this recession."

Dennis Cronk: "With the gradual loosening of credit and the obvious increase in inquires, we are gearing up for a bright future.”

Mike Waldvogel (above): "... Seeing enough sustained business that they can project out for more than a couple of months at a time.”

Ben Harris (right)

Story, Photos by DAN SMITH

The optimism is almost palpable. It is based on hard evidence: leases, sales, renewals, incoming calls. Commercial real estate’s rainy days appear to have moved into the sunshine.

Mike Waldvogel of Waldvogel Commercial in Roanoke puts it this way: "Business property is very attractive right now. We’re seeing small business owners taking the leap and leasing space or purchasing property; this is a change from very tentative one-year lease renewals that have marked our market for the past 18 months.

"In many cases, these business owners—like the sole practicing attorney or the plumber—are seeing enough sustained business that they can project out for more than a couple of months at a time.”

Those are brassy words for the middle of an economic hangover, but Waldvogel is hardly alone in his sentiment. This region has but a few full-time commercial real estate firms, so getting a pulse is relatively easy, and the pulse here is registering like a romantic heartthrob has just walked into the room.

Stuart Meredith of Hall Associates says, “It appears that the economy has turned the corner. We cannot predict the speed of the recovery time, but are looking for increased commercial inquiries later this year.”

Dennis Cronk, president and CEO of Poe & Cronk, puts it this way: “We are seeing signs of improvement. With the gradual loosening of credit and the obvious increase in inquires, we are gearing up for a bright future.”

Ben Harris, who covers the New River Valley for Poe & Cronk, sees pretty much the same basic scenario in the NRV, where there “has seen a decrease in sales volume, commercial sales and leasing rates have remained fairly consistent compared to larger markets around the country.

Bob Copty of Thalhimer/Cushman & Wakefield Alliance in Roanoke sees some permanent change as a result of economic conditions. He says, “Long term, our industry will experience some systematic changes as a result of this recession. Competent advice, holistic property management, and transactional excellence will be at a premium. Risk will be avoided. The days of unregulated growth, easy money for commercial development, and low capitalization are over for a while.”

None of this came about without effort. Commercial real estate professionals tend not to sit in the office and wait for something to happen. In the Roanoke and New River Valleys, they have been busy changing to evolving into the realities. Hall Associates set up a new division, a direct result of the economic challenges.

Stuart Meredith says, “Our establishment of an Asset Management Division [headed by Boyd Johnson, came about in order] to meet the needs of the commercial real estate community … Holders of commercial real estate under economic stress, foreclosure or in estates are [served] in a manner that reflects current business conditions and the impending changes in the tax codes.”

That mean s a lot of individual attention. Waldvogel sounds like a football coach regrouping after a loss: “The current economy has reinforced the importance of focusing on the basics and keeping our clients informed about changing conditions in the real estate and lending markets. Communication is key, as is establishing reasonable expectations up front. We’ve found that while transactions are overall taking longer to complete, the sale or lease can be achieved if it’s well-structured from the beginning and if all parties know what to expect.”

For Cronk, it’s about client education and agent training: “The current environment makes it very important to educate our sellers and landlords on pricing and preparing their properties for sale or lease. In order to meet this challenge, we are focusing on training our agents on improving their marketing skills and increasing their knowledge of financing techniques so they may fully assist their clients.”

Even the downside has its attractions, says Cronk: “The weakest parts of the business are in the areas of raw land for development and local retail leasing. On the industrial side of the business we are seeing opportunities for acquisitions with rental rates remaining stagnant. Leasing of office space continues relatively strong despite the limited availability of quality office space, especially in the Central Business District, where we find occupancy rates better than the national average.”

There’s almost no new office construction, but rental rates are moving south in most areas, Cronk says.

Says Meredith, “The economic climate has made us look at unique ways to market properties and focus on specific sales, leasing and management needs. E-mail marketing software and social media sites have increased targeted marketing and enhanced technology.”

It all takes work and thought, insists Copty: “Thalhimer and the Roanoke office have developed an expertise in areas such as troubled asset sales and leasing for lenders, short term asset management, and construction management. Retail sales/leasing and property management have been growth areas for our company and by adjusting our approach to processing that work, we have had great success for our clients and our brokers.

“The traditional brokerage business, sales and leasing, have been the hardest hit. We have plenty of work; the challenge is getting to closing. We have stressed collaboration between buyers, sellers and lenders to identify an acceptable result. Three years ago we asked ‘how fast can we get this done?’ Now we are asking ‘can we get this done at all?’”

Clients are catching on, says Harris: “The public is more educated and cautious due to these economic times; therefore, we are seeing more risk adverse buyers looking for better returns on their invested capital. In many cases, some investors are still waiting to see if values will come down before they buy or lease. Others with capital tucked away in securities, may find that now is the time to evaluate other forms of investments, such as real-estate.”

The positives are clear, says Meredith: “The types of commercial properties that have been most attractive are investment, multifamily, and office properties. Activity on land for development, unoccupied industrial and warehouse use, and retail have been the slowest movers. This is typical of the economic cycle. This may change as the jobs market improves in 2010 and 2011.”

Small business is leading the charge to recovery, says Waldvogel. “We believe that speculative development will be stunted for quite a while still and that business owners purchasing property for their small businesses will continue to lead the upswing.”